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Facebook Shazams Itself

Facebook is listening. What are you watching?

Facebook will soon be listening to what you do for fun.

The company said it will soon introduce a mobile feature that can identify the music you’re listening to or TV show you’re watching while you’re posting on Facebook from your smartphone.

When you turn the option on, your smartphone will detect the sound in your environment while you’re tapping away a message or uploading pictures or videos from your iOS or Android device. So if you’re cranking Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” on your speaker system, Facebook will recognize that, and you’ll be able to include as much in your status update.

What’s more, if you choose to post the song you’re listening to on Facebook, your friends will have the option to play a 30-second preview of the track from inside the News Feed, powered by deals Facebook has made with Spotify and Rdio.

In a test of the service, the track selection appeared limited. I tried playing tracks from the indie bands Death From Above 1979 and Hot Chip, for example, and it failed to identify the songs at all. Facebook declined to specify the size of its catalogue.

It’s a similar case with television shows. If Facebook’s new feature identifies the show you’re watching, a link to the show’s Facebook page will appear in your status update. So if you’re watching Tyrion’s latest soliloquy on Game of Thrones, for example, your status update will reflect as much.

Facebook took great care to warn that the company isn’t actually recording anything you’re doing, but rather listening and translating your media audio into code that the company can use to identify what you’re watching. And of course, it’s an optional feature.

But it still creeps me out a bit to think that Facebook is listening in on what I’m doing when I post a status update. I’m sure others will feel the same.

It’s an interesting experiment for a few reasons. Obviously this is a complete lift of services offered by Shazam and Soundhound, both of which are companies in search of a long-lasting, successful business model. It calls the whole premise into question: If Facebook can quickly incorporate this into its app, is this type of service less a standalone business, and more of a feature?

It’s also worth noting that this boosts Facebook’s position as a place to talk about what you’re watching or listening to in the moment — a pitch long since made by Twitter. If Facebook can get people to use the service, it’s a more convincing argument for Facebook as a second-screen TV companion.

Expect the feature to roll out to iOS and Android devices soon.

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