*Music site founder talks about how Facebook hearts iLike
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post used the word "emotional" instead of "promotional" in one of the answers in the Q&A.
Ali Partovi, one of the twin brothers behind popular online music service iLike, dropped by the press room at today's F8 conference to bask in the glow of being honored by the company that helped fuel its explosive growth over the last year: Facebook.
ILike was named one of Facebook's "great apps," meaning it embodies the principles and spirit that Facebook is looking for in the applications on its site.
Q: So how does it feel to be one of two of Facebook's "great" apps?
A: I'm really happy about the announcement today because it points in a very healthy direction for the user on Facebook and, as a result, is a great outcome for the developer ecosystem and for the overall Facebook community. The combination of the new profile design and the new set of tiers for applications is going to engender renewed trust in third party applications and renewed engagements with third party applications. That's healthy for everyone.
It aligns incentives in a way that is very healthy. Before today, it was a trade-off: You could focus on building rich features that take a long time to build, or you could focus on gimmicks that make you spread more rapidly. Now there is a set of incentives available to you if you choose the former. As a developer, I really appreciate that. We have always chosen to go after the richer features. Oftentimes, we did not get rewarded for that right away. So I was pleased to be rewarded today.
Q: Tell me about the growth of the company over the past year.
A: It's been phenomenal. And Facebook is a huge part of it. We are now about a year-and-a-half old. At this time a year ago, when we launched on Facebook, we had a total of 7.5 million registered users. Today we have ...
... 30 million. Half of those are on Facebook. The rest are a combination of our own website and other social networks.
Q: What are the accomplishments of the past year that you would point to?
A: We became one of the top drivers of sales to iTunes, the No. 1 driver of sales to Ticketmaster in its affiliate program, edging out AOL. For artists, we have opened up our user base to give them access to their fans. Hundreds of thousands of artists have taken advantage of that. They have created accounts and claimed their identity on iLike. They are actively using iLike as a channel to communicate with their fans. Nine Inch Nails, REM, 50 Cent have all unveiled exclusive content through us before anyone else, leading to record-breaking sales based on the promotional power of releasing something through iLike. (*An earlier version of this post quoted Partovi as saying record-breaking sales were based on the emotional power of releasing something through iLike. He said the sales were based on promotional power.)
Q: What innovation can we expect next from iLike?
A: Today we introduced full-song streaming on Facebook. That's a great example of how well the open platform concept works for Facebook and its users. MySpace is doing it themselves and they even have three of four labels signed up. But today they have no service. Facebook has essentially left room for third parties to build things like that. They have given the incentive to someone else to make money and build a business on top of their platform. By doing that, they have that feature a lot earlier. Facebook is the first major social network with full song streaming for all users. It's a huge accomplishment. And it's one example of how we have earned our "great" status.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: From left, iLike founders Hadi and Ali Partovi at Facebook F8 event. Credit: Brian Solis