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Will Google Music Go Social?

Google is said to be following in the footsteps of Apple and Facebook by linking music listening to social networking.

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Google is reportedly preparing to launch an online store for music downloads that may be operational within weeks. The store will augment Google Music Beta, the online music storage and streaming service that Google began operating in May, and will be integrated with Google+, the social network that Google introduced over the summer.

The Wall Street Journal says that the service will be integrated with Google+ and will allow subscribers with Google Music and Google+ accounts to recommend songs in their online libraries to Google+ contacts. Songs thus recommended will be available to be played once for free.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Whether any of the four major music companies will offer their songs for sale in this new Google store remains unclear as deals are still being finalized. According to The Wall Street Journal, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group do not intend to participate initially.

During Google's recent Q3 2011 earnings call, CEO Larry Page made it clear that Google+ will be used to add social features to Google's other products and services.

"Our ultimate ambition is to transform the overall Google experience, making it beautifully simple, almost automagical because we understand what you want and can deliver it instantly," he said. "This means baking identity and sharing into all of our products so that we build a real relationship with our users. Sharing on the Web will be like sharing in real-life across all your stuff."

Google+ has over 40 million users, according to Page.

[ For additional details about what Google executives said, read Google Revenue Surge Sets Record. ]

Google's move into social music comes a year after Apple launched Ping, a social network tied to iTunes, and after Facebook last month integrated several music services--MOG, Spotify, Turntable.fm, and Vevo--into its 800-million-person social network.

Facebook's revised sharing process makes it possible to automatically share songs and to recommend songs to friends.

But making music listening a public act hasn't been without problems: User backlash over the exposure of listening habits recently prompted Spotify to add a "private listening mode." Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has likened private music listening to private browsing, as if privacy represented a concession to aberrant behavior rather than the norm or a legitimate social right. "We're rolling out a new client as we speak where you can temporarily hide your guilty pleasures," he said in a tweet late last month. "It works like a browser's private mode."

Whether Google's mixture of social networking and music listening will prompt privacy problems remains to be seen. The most controversial aspect of Google+ is about to be resolved: Google, after initially disallowing pseudonyms on Google+, says it will soon allow them.

But privacy concerns for Google may matter less than whether music companies will get behind Google's offering. Google isn't paying music companies for storing and streaming users' music. Apple on the other hand charges users for music it stores on its servers, if the songs were not initially purchased from iTunes, and shares the revenue with music companies.

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