Over time, we learned that direct destinations like smart playlists built from your friends were not necessarily what people were looking for. Users were not always in tune with their friend’s states.
However, they enjoyed the feeling of having them around. So instead of thinking of social as a destination, we thought of it as a layer, an underlying presence of the people you care about and their music. So that you’ll never feel alone.
Top Tracks in Your Network, Activity or Messages were features thinking about Social as a Destination, but not necessarily as a layer across the whole platform.
We knew we wanted to bring your friends to the Spotify experience. But we knew as well it needed to be subtle. People were coming here to play and enjoy music first. We wanted to build on that feeling, a never ending music party where all your friends were invited.
From Snapchat to Facebook Videos, the world was discovering the power of real time. We drew inspiration from these services to create a frictionless, discrete experience where the music never stops.
The previous activity feed was there but something core to the Spotify essence was music. A pulse. The feeling of the beat, that something was live and changing constantly. We quickly realized that the feeling of real time would become essential to the experience. The same way the catalogue would cater to every moment, the friend feed would change dramatically whether it is a quiet Tuesday afternoon or a lively Friday evening.
I led the design of the friend feed in Q4 of 2015. I worked in collaboration with a Product Manager, A Researcher, and an army of Engineers to make this real. Instead of showing users listening past activity, we would show it all the ones that are active. Inactive listeners would gently be disabled.
Every time a new user plays a new song, he would “jump” on top of the list and push the previous one lower. 2 states, the “active now” and the active recently will be displayed, with access to their profile, the song and the context of the song.
We slowly released the feature to Spotify employee, then 1% of our users. I sent a massive survey to gauge the reaction to the Friend Feed. Feedback where mostly positive, when asking what they liked, the concept of Real Time became the selling factor.
It was not that much the music discovery than the feeling that they were around that was important. The play button would act as an instant friend jukebox that would allow be in their musical world for a while. And it required absolutely no work.
The Friend Feed is not one of these performence features which success relies on specific metrics. It’s a feature that provide a feeling of live. Which ties to the core principles of Spotify. It drives users to more diversity on the profile of friends visited, create new channels to a wider spectrum of artists and playlists, and generally helps the flux discoverability of content, using an organic filter, your friends.
It has been praised by users as one of the reason they don’t use Apple Music, as all their friends feel closer to them. To the point where its mobile version is one of the most requested features from the community with more than 2000 votes and it inspires other designers to come up with the concept.
We explored various ideas such as: Rethinking messaging, anchoring to your friend’s music, creating a group listening experience. But the beauty of the Friend Feed lies in its simplicity and silence. Whenever you come, you can feel the presence of your friends and that you’re never alone.