Opinion: Welcome to widget world, Apple. What took you so long?

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stu-col.jpgStuart Dredge writes…

Hurrah for Apple! No, this isn’t another paen to the iPhone posted from Steve Jobs’ lower colon. I’m just excited about the fact that Apple has thrown its hat into the Web 2.0 bandwagon (gotta love them mixed metaphors) with the launch of My iTunes.

As we explained earlier, My iTunes is a collection of three flash-based widgets that can be embedded into your website, blog or social networking profile. They show your recent iTunes Store purchases, an artist tag cloud (again based on purchases), and music you’ve reviewed on iTunes.

Apple gets justifiably knocked for its closed systems (i.e. don’t try playing any of those paid-for downloads on anything other than an iPod), so it’s worth celebrating the company’s decision to throw open its doors to the Web 2.0 world. Sort of.

In truth, My iTunes is just a start. It’s based on purchases rather than the tracks you’ve imported into iTunes from your CDs, and it’s a bit fiddly to set up, making you go to the iTunes Store, click through to your Account page and enable it from there, before sending you back to a webpage to configure your widget and get the HTML code.

It looks good once you’re done though: here’s my recent purchased items:

For Apple, it’s a case of better late than never. You only have to look at Facebook applications like iLike, or the many widgets available for MySpace (with or without the approval of site owner News Corporation) to see that us punters love to share our music tastes with friends. If only to show off our supercool tastes.

But I’d like to see Apple go further with this widget malarkey. I’d like a good Facebook application that pulls in info from my iTunes application for starters (NOT just the Store). I’d like a Firefox iTunes widget that detects when I’m on a webpage mentioning music and provides me with links to buy stuff based on bands mentioned there.

And I’d like the ability to turn my actual iTunes playlists into widgets to embed on my blog and allow visitors to scroll past them grimacing listen to 30-second previews and marvel at my taste.

Oh, and if people click my widget to buy songs, shouldn’t I be getting some kind of commission? Okay, that’s frankly unlikely given the small margin Apple makes from iTunes sales already.

But it’s an issue that won’t go away – if us music fans are acting as a virtual salesforce for digital music stores by embedding widgets on our personal webspaces, shouldn’t we be paid in some way? If iTunes won’t do it, there are plenty of rivals who might. For example, Amazon’s launching its own digital music store soon: what price an Amazon Associates widget…

Stuart Dredge is editor-in-chief of Tech Digest, and bought that Joss Stone live album in a weak moment. Really.

Stuart Dredge

2 comments

  • Interesting column Stu, and I think you are right with a lot of those ideas. I personally wouldn’t be interested in using their widget until they at least incorporate the feature you suggested, which is similar to what Last.fm do, where it imports your 10 or so last played tracks on iTunes. I don’t buy music from iTunes – never have, not once – so wouldn’t be interested in it in the slightest until the supported actual playlist imports.

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