Hyped overnight as a Google 'Music Service', what we see instead is set to be the most underwhelming launch in a long history of label-backed music flops. It's barely a 'service' - merely a sorry widget that yokes a DRM-crippled version of LaLa's already unpopular streaming offering with unsold Adwords inventory.
Instead of a text ad, a search for a music related keyword will show a widget. This allows you to listen to the song, according to Business Week - but only once. After that you pay to hear the stream at 10c a play. (You can also buy the song.)
Don't all rush at once.
Yet the mere presence of Facebook alongside Google as a partner for LaLa's sorry widget has been enough to generate lots of uncritical press. Streaming services are everywhere - with Microsoft's own would-be Spotify killer imminent.
So the Google/Facebook service amounts to something you didn't ask for, in a restricted format, which costs you money for something you can otherwise get it for free, powered by a proven market failure. All surrounded by some Wikicruft, which Google calls a 'OneBox' container.
And you thought Vista's popups were annoying?
You can get a vast catalogue of ad-supported music streams from We7, which also offers a lively community and playlists, and of course Spotify. Neat enclosed "containers" might appeal to librarians, but not music fans.
But there are also concerns for the artist or their manager, label or publisher. The widget offers nothing to build up a relationship with fans. It also raises anti-competitive questions - it sets the precedent of plays without pays. This is something the Performing Rights Agencies may view as 'piracy'. PRS For Music recently lost its Chief Executive Steve Porter because of members' unhappiness with the closed-doors deal with Google.
Apparently none of this has stopped the major labels backing The Goobook Widget. The cynical amongst you may even venture that doing an end run around managers, independents and collecting rights societies makes it more attractive to a major. We couldn't possibly comment.
TechCrunch, which only two weeks ago was lamenting the proliferation of streaming services, offered slurpy noises of approval in exchange for a leaked screenshot of the widget. Business Week also left its brains behind on the table, tipping it to be a success in a battlefield of the "walking wounded".
Music listeners are pretty sophisticated now - years of skipping between here today, gone tomorrow unlicensed services have made sure of that - and they're demanding too. But most pundits forget that they're capable of making autonomous choices.
Trying to forcefeed punters a lousy service is a bad idea, amplified by the assumption that if Facebook and Google are the feeding tube, we'll suck it up. ®
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