Recently, Spotify unceremoniously announced that it would be discontinuing their messages feature from their product through a posting on their support forum. As someone who has been actively using the product, this decision doesn’t necessarily surprise me, but it still seems strange for them to get rid of the feature.
Per from Spotify explained that the decision was that the "disparity between the use of the feature and the manpower required to maintain it doesn’t merit keeping it running." My personal engagement probably confirms this in terms of the product’s success metrics - I think I’ve averaged sending and receiving maybe a couple of Spotify messages a month since I became a user in 2013. So while engagement was never great, Spotify never really pushed messaging as a key part of the functionality.
In different versions of the application, messages were never emphasized to users - of the different navigational options, the feature wasn’t even third or fourth thing to focus on.
In this earlier version seen above, the whole menu was pretty overwhelming, with no single action standing out. For users, this means remembering locations of specific function or having to search through a long list each time. Because of the cognitive load of having to search through this list, it was always easier just to use the functions I knew, such as Discover or just scrolling down to my playlist. This precluded any chance that I would look at messages.
In a later version of Spotify pictured here, the sidebar has been cleaned up to have different categories for easier parsing. As a part of this, a ton of different functions, including “top lists,” “play queue” and “devices” were moved elsewhere. Messages was shifted to the icon in the top right corner, in a position that blends in well with the user’s oft-ignored profile.
On mobile, it was even worse (though I can’t find any screenshots). Without the screenshots, it’s hard to describe, but messages were always nested at least 2 clicks deep.
Beyond the lack of emphasis on the icon, sending music via Spotify has always been always a bit of a struggle. To get to a sharing menu, you would right click and hit Share. A pop-up would appear and default to posting to followers, with an additional click to send as a message. This is bizarre to me, since this “Post to Followers” prompt was highly ambiguous, and after using the platform for 4 years, I still can’t tell you where it actually posts to. Recently, they got rid of this as well.
The latest version of Spotify’s share button is made for sharing through different platforms, a final white flag in the messaging department. Despite the fact that Spotify’s social features keep it ahead of its competitors, messages were never the way Spotify had in mind to do that. At a time when many content-focused platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest double down on their messaging systems to keep the engagement in-app, Spotify is moving a different direction. Since Spotify users usually have the application playing in the background, the company has resigned to the fact that their users can share Spotify links through other platforms. This change definitely makes it easier to share music, since it isn’t constrained to any one platform.
Ultimately, barring the success of this request to bring it back, Spotify messages are going away. As a consumer, I already see a focus on content, as they add things like Podcasts, Video content, Spotify Sessions and a variety of constantly-changing playlists. It makes sense for them to do that, but I feel as if messages never had a real fighting chance to shine, since they were never given enough emphasis in the design of the application. In another universe, maybe they are the reason for Spotify’s success, almost creating a music social network. In this one, they are gone.