Steve Jobs, SUP-er GEN-ius...
September 26, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Is there a downside to iTunes' Genius feature?

iTunes recently forced me to update it, and now there is this Genius business -- a feature that apparently compares your library and playlists with those of other users to find which songs are most often found together. With this information, it will suggest playlists of music you already own, and -- of course -- songs available for purchase on iTunes.

Is there a catch? What if, just say for example, a person had a truly vast collection of unlicensed music? Is there a downside to this that you can see?
posted by Methylviolet to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"The information sent to Apple includes details about the media in your iTunes library such as track names, play counts, and ratings. This information will be stored with an anonymous Genius ID and not linked to your iTunes Account. When using the iTunes Store or Genius sidebar, Apple will also use your purchase history to give you better recommendations." -- Apple's iTunes Genius description

It may work like this: Apple logs your iTunes library, attaches to it a totally arbitrary ID (for example, "8489274"), and updates the log as your iTunes library changes. It's a separate realm than your iTunes purchase history.

In any event, there's no way for your iTunes application, nevermind Apple (which is getting the info from your iTunes application) to know whether the music you're listening to was acquired legitimately or not.
posted by ardgedee at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2008

I'm guessing (I don't use iTunes), but it sounds like it'll make iTunes even more bloated than it already is. If you're using a computer without a lot of RAM, or without a lot of processing power, this might be a downside.
posted by box at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2008

iTunes Genius requires voluntary setup by the user. So if you don't turn it on, Apple gets no data. If you have it turned on, you can turn it off.

Similarly, Genius updates have to be performed manually by the user.
posted by ardgedee at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2008

Apple has no way of knowing whether the music in your iTunes is "unlicensed."
posted by rhizome at 10:07 AM on September 26, 2008

Is there a catch?

A few weeks ago I made a Genius playlist based on Hall and Oates "Out of Touch" and I got RickRolled - "Never Gonna Give You Up" was in the Genius results. It's my own fault for having Rick in my library to begin with, though.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

To me the downside is having tons of "Buy this track for $0.99" icons in your sidebar, especially if someone sits down at your computer and starts clicking while your account is authorized.
posted by mattbucher at 11:14 AM on September 26, 2008

Catch: it's built for impulse buying. Zero of your specific copyright infringement is being used.
posted by filmgeek at 11:43 AM on September 26, 2008

It does bog down the whole music system a bit, but I've gotten a few good lists out of it. I'll put it this way: if you get a list of 25 songs, about 15 will be REALLY good. The rest will be throwaway. To be fair, I've also made a few lists that are completely throwaway. It's a "neat" feature... I'm glad I turned it on for a bit, but I will probably just end up turning it off sooner rather than later. Bloat was a good word. Interesting, but not *that* interesting. Plus: I do remain somewhat paranoid about the data transmission.
posted by indiebass at 11:46 AM on September 26, 2008

You can turn off the sidebar that suggests songs to buy. So you don't have to worry about the impulse-buying problem.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:51 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Turning off the sidebar is key. I like it for playlists because I may be in the mood for songs with a particular feel- fast, slow, acoustic, harsh vocals vs. pretty, etc. - and Genius does a pretty good job of making playlists based on that.
posted by MadamM at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2008

Yeah, I turned off the sidebar. As a person who has a HUGE music collection, I have found the Genius feature to be excellent in remembering old music and finding out some interesting new music that I have but haven't really listened to much.
posted by hazyspring at 1:11 PM on September 26, 2008

it sounds like it'll make iTunes even more bloated than it already is. If you're using a computer without a lot of RAM, or without a lot of processing power, this might be a downside

Naw. You have to remember, the whole bit about loading the entire program into memory when it starts up went out the window in 1991, when Apple introduced System 7, the first Mac OS version to have virtual memory. The program's executable code is only loaded as it is needed. The fact that a program appears to take up a lot of memory does not mean it is actually using that much of your hard-earned RAM; the memory is all virtual, i.e., disk.
posted by kindall at 3:49 PM on September 26, 2008

Response by poster: OK, thanks.
It still seems vaguely sinister to me, but it does appear they want to collect their $200 more than they want to send me to jail.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:29 PM on September 26, 2008

Also, on the Mac, if you want to turn off those pointy-arrow-linky things to the iTunes Store here's how.
(in previous versions you could turn them off via iTunes preferences, but that option was removed in version 8)
posted by blueberry at 8:32 PM on September 26, 2008

The other 'downside' to Genius - If the iTunes store doesn't know your music it can;t find anything to go with it, and wont suggest those songs either. In other words, if Apple's not selling the song Genius doesn't know what it is - at least for now. Supposedly it'll get better as more and more folks share their info with Apple.
posted by pupdog at 9:28 AM on September 27, 2008

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