If you have the ingenuity to create a wildly successful online service, you also need sufficiently steely balls to weather the backlash.
Take Spotify. Despite offering a fairly pragmatic partial-solution to the problem of illegal downloads, it has had to cope with complaints from impoverished artists and record labels who see plummeting sales graphs but no visible bogeyman to pin the problem on, so they have a pop at a company that is attempting to do something positive. Granted, Spotify's business model is far from transparent and a handful of metal labels pulled their catalogues from the service last week in protest, leaving us in the unenviable position of having to seek out Cattle Decapitation's "Cloacula, the Anthropophagic Copromantik" elsewhere.
Until recently, Spotify could rely on users such as myself to champion the service in the face of such criticism. But now we're getting cross, too – because Spotify has dared to get into bed with Facebook. From this week, if you choose to actively link the two services (you don't have to), your listening habits will appear on Facebook – which may in turn prompt your friends to click "play" and listen, too. (When this kind of thing was done by last.fm a few years ago it was cooed over excitedly; now that it's happening on Facebook it's suddenly deemed evil.) But the biggest fury has been reserved for a new policy that requires new Spotify users to have a Facebook account. For some, this has prompted relentless spleen-venting.
The angriest appear to be existing Spotify users who aren't even affected by the change. Their responses range from smugly dispensed advice – "Spotify, this is not cool" – to unhinged demands that we file the case with our "national competition authority". For some reason, we now seem to require free online services to comply with some moral code we've constructed ourselves from a bunch of unfocused bleatings on web forums.
Neither Facebook nor Spotify exists purely for our amusement. They exist to make money; achieving that without demanding payment presents a challenge. As pawns in that game, we either choose to use the services, or not.
Those who'd like to try Spotify but don't like Facebook, well, tough – you could always create a Facebook account for Spotify sign-up purposes and then not actually use it. No one's making you. Spotify, for its part, has said it will monitor user feedback – but frankly, the million sign-ups it has had as a result of the Facebook partnership vastly outweigh the few hundred going red in the face and urging a return to full-on music piracy. Your personal data has a value, chaps. If you want, you can exchange that data for a service. If you don't want to, don't.
The Los Angeles Times ran a story this week revealing plans for the use of smartphones and tablets by the US Army for intelligence and reconnaissance purposes – but in doing so it showcased the military's almost hilarious dependence on outdated technology. One helicopter pilot spoke of his frustration at having to unfold dozens of maps while flying missions in Afghanistan; I'm better equipped to navigate Streatham in my Fiat Punto. An Army spokesman talked excitedly of a new app that would allow a soldier to see where he and his units are when dropped into an unknown location on a moonless night – but I've already used that same technology to detect drunken friends in an urban environment. Please, let's bring the "hi-tech, hand-held revolution" to the armed forces – even if it is two years late. They deserve it.Reuse content