Apple joins podcast fray

One of the least community friendly companies around, Apple (yes Apple) screws up what could have been an amazing opportunity.

Yesterday they launched iTunes 4.9. In this latest version, podcasting is supported.

Apple is allowing podcasters to add their podcasts into iTunes Music Store (for free, of course). It’s all a great idea, but they’ve dropped the ball in a big big way in a couple of ways:

  • Their initial specifications document is a HORRID pdf document, set with tiny text, unclear detail, and apparently some mistakes.
  • Along the lines of the first point, there’s apparently a mistake in the horrid spec document. Apple has been 100% silent on clarifying whether <itunes:link> is correct or if it’s <itunes:image>. How hard would it be to simply say "We saw there is some question – here’s the answer"?
  • The specifications document, as well as any details about how the specifications are used has been cobbled together by the community, rather than being shared at all by Apple
  • The extensions they’ve had to add to RSS 2.0 had basically no input from the tech community, the podcast community, and with zero discussion… consequences of their (poor) decisions is yet to be fully understood, but it’s very likely to be negative for RSS overall, and is likely to lead to another "browser war" among competing specs.
  • A total lack of clarity about what the review/approval process is with the submission of podcasts to iTMS. How are podcasters supposed to promote their shows, if they don’t know when they’ll actually show up in iTunes. And how are podcasters supposed to understand what will be accepted and what won’t in order to improve our feeds?

Everyone raves about how Apple is this great community minded company. In reality, Apple has created a certain formula that they don’t often sway from – create such cool goods that people will deal with your bullshit.

I can certainly understand that it’s as much up to a company to understand what not to do as much as what to do. Fans want more and more and more, that’s what they do. They’re never happy, and that’s just what you have to accept.

The Apple community has reached that critical mass point where the community will live on no matter how much of an asshole Apple is. But that doesn’t make it kosher to be an asshole.

The sad part of all of this is that with less than one day of one person’s time, they could have had a huge victory, rather than a pathetic launch.