When the Genius feature was introduced in iTunes 8, I have to admit, I didn’t see the immediate benefits- automatic playlist creation has been around for some time in other music software. Upon more examination and use of the feature, the true “œgenius” of the Genius feature has made itself more apparent.
Most of us, over time, have accumulated a massive amount of music- sometimes totaling upwards of 20-30GBs. What Apple has figured out, is that most of us only listen to a select few tracks over and over, while forgetting about a majority of our music simply because it’s not well organized, or has insufficient metadata for tracking. With a simply click on the Genius button, iTunes will automatically search your library for suitable matches, and hopefully return tracks that you’ve forgotten about overtime- even those that you wouldn’t otherwise think match the song(s) you’ve selected.
The only hindering factor to the feature, is how well you’ve tagged your tracks. Downloads from iTunes automatically come with the proper tagging, and ripped CD’s (the legal kind) should also come pre-tagged, but those that aren’t will make things a bit more difficult.
The true power of the Genius function is in the way it determines its matches. All Genius data is sent to the “œclouds” and is updated once a week over your broadband connection. The more people turning on Genius in iTunes 8, the more data is available for Genius to use for refining matches for everyone that uses it. The interesting part about it, is the power of knowledge that Apple could gain if it were to use this data for tracking purposes. Apple is actually gathering information about your iTunes library, so all your legally acquired songs and your listening preferences are being listed somewhere so Genius can go into the cloud of information created and retrieve matches for your choices from other people’s listings.
Mark Webster of The Independent in the UK raised some interesting arguments in an article about the Genius feature. “œOf course, all those illegally acquired songs are being listed too,” Webster states. “œApple insists the information will not be used for anything apart from generating Genius playlists, but think of the potential for this information- it would allow Apple to draw conclusions about listener preferences by area, race, religion, nationality, income, political persuasion- that is if Apple used it. It could also give Apple phenomenal leverage over record companies,” Webster added.
While this is explicitly laid out in Apple’s legal agreement, and will likely never happen- the potential is there. “œThe legality question over the contents of your library may be a non-issue anyway since the only data sent to Apple is title, artist, album, and genre- songs in your collection look the same as those ripped from CDs you bought legally, then imported into your iTunes library.” While Genius is a great feature, it could also turn out to be even more genius for Apple itself.