Spotify now shows which friends have recently been listening to the artist, who's page your viewing.
A while back Spotify redesigned itself from the greyish iTunes look and feel to a distinctive minimalistic dark design. This meant however that the on-screen information had to be subjected to that same drastic minimization.
So it might feel strange for some people to see small profile pictures of their friends popping up on the pages of their favorite artist. It certainly doesn't contribute to the simplicity of the page. So why do it?
To answer that question we need to look at the current state of the streaming market. While Beats Music is clearly set to only give you the most basic info you'll need to run the app, Rdio has been flirting with ways to incorporate data into their still simplistic design. You can see who have been listening to tracks & playlists on their respective pages, where most competitors only list these listening habits in activity feeds, if they communicate the data at all.
But most people are still relatively new to the streaming market and are still a bit dazzled by what it exactly is. A recent example being artists themselves not knowing how many times their tracks were played and if they were really getting so little money for it or if their labels were just not paying what they should pay. Spotify quickly responded with 'Spotify Artists', where artists could look into their play counts, and also displays the play counts on the artist's page and when you hove over the popularity bars from a track. This was a great start.
There is more data to shared though. And while labels and (some) artists might love to read through extensive analytics reports, the average consumer will likely not. But Spotify has always presented itself as more than just a way to listen to music. Spotify has always been the way to listen to music and share your taste and findings with your friends. You can follow each other's profiles and playlists and you can see what your friends are listening to in the activity feed. This allows you to listen to an artist your friend just found, even before they got a chance to share it with their followers.
Well, that's all fun and all, as it let's you explore new music, but someone at Spotify must have thought "hey, we can do this the other way around too". So now when you visit an artist profile, you get to see who of your friends has been there before. A sort of 'I beat you to it' function almost, although the joke will always be on you, as you won't get notified when someone else visits the page after you. O wait, we've got that activity feed in place for that.
In short the new feature is a cool gimmick, but fails to be more than that for the moment. In my opinion it would be far more interesting to display listeners outside of your friend-zone. The total of people listening to that artist on that exact moment for instance? That would be cool.
What this clearly shows though, is Spotify's willingness to share more of their data with us. And although it might take some time, I sincerely hope this will be a gateway to more data exploring techniques.