Spotify is developing a new feature called Community that would allow mobile users to see what sort of music their friends are streaming in real time as well as what playlists they’ve recently updated in a dedicated place in the app. The company today offers a similar “Friend Activity” feature on the desktop but had limited users’ access to that same Friend Activity on mobile devices.
Reached for comment, Spotify confirmed the feature was in the early testing phases but declined to share more details.
The company’s roots as a social music streaming app had helped the company grow in earlier days by leveraging its Facebook integration to build out its friend graph. But, in later years, Spotify looked more toward personalization features to give it an advantage over streaming rivals. Playlists customized to the individual listener — like Spotify’s flagship Discover Weekly, for example — had been helping to attract and retain users more than seeing what friends streamed. As a result, the company’s focus on users’ personal friend networks was de-emphasized in the product.
Though some people still wanted access to their Friend Activity on mobile, the company in 2019 shot down plans to add this feature after a user request on its community forums received some 7,451 votes.
Now, it appears that Spotify may be changing course.
While not publicly surfaceable in the app at this time, mobile users can access this new Community feature by typing in “spotify:community” in the Safari browser on their iOS device. The addition was first spotted by Chris Messina, who shared a video of the feature on Twitter earlier this month amid a longer list of Spotify app updates.
In the Community hub that appears in the app, you’ll see a horizontal row of Playlist Updates at the top of the page, then a vertically scrollable list of friends and what they’re listening to now, along with timestamps as to when that listening took place.
For those who are actively listening, animated music equalizer bars appear next to their name and music selection. Otherwise, the screen will show you when your friend had listened to Spotify and what they had streamed. In an updated version of the Community tab, Spotify added timestamps to the playlist updates as well so you can view the most recent additions.
The feature doesn’t appear to be fully functional in our tests. You can currently tap on the playlists to see the song list, but tapping on a friend’s music doesn’t let you play the song, too. That will likely change when or if the feature becomes publicly available.
Although Spotify hasn’t prioritized its Friend Activity features, it continues to have a close relationship with Meta (Facebook). Spotify users’ social graphs today still rely on a Facebook integration — despite the fact that younger generations are more often now discovering new music via TikTok and many Gen Z users don’t even have a Facebook account at all. Last year, for instance, Spotify and Facebook partnered on a mini-player that would stream Spotify from the Facebook app. Facebook, however, competed with Spotify on podcasts for a brief period before discontinuing a series of audio projects to focus instead on its metaverse efforts.
The addition of a social feature on mobile would be even more exciting if it was decoupled from Facebook in some way, but the current version of the feature doesn’t indicate that’s the case.