So Long, Genius Sidebar

In a rather odd move, Apple released a software update for iTunes 10 this morning. Why is that odd? It’s Saturday. The release of iTunes 10.0.1 brought several needed bug fixes and replaced the Genius sidebar with the Ping sidebar.

Now, I expect bug fixes in a maintenance level update, but I have to say removing the Genius sidebar was a mistake. Apple’s Genius algorithm is darn near magic at how well it matches songs up for playlists and how well it was at suggesting similar music to what I like. Now, Genius playlists are still around (thankfully), but the sidebar, the part that recommended new music to me, is history.

Since I don’t listen to the radio often, Genius was pretty much the only way I discovered new music. Apple’s hope is that Ping will drive more music discovery (and sales). The catch is, I really don’t share a lot of musical taste as most of my friends. Heck, hardly anyone I am connected with on Ping is using it. All in all, Ping, as a social network, kind of sucks.

For years, I have wishing each September for a better iTunes – a rewritten, rethought iTunes. Sadly, each year it just piles on more cruft on legacy design. iTunes 10, as a whole, seems a bit more optimized than iTunes 9 was. And in all my years of using iTunes, never has a maintenance update actually made the overall value of the app worse.

As much as I still hope for a complete overhaul of iTunes, in the short term I will hope for iTunes 10.0.2 to give users a preference to toggle whether they want Genius or Ping to reside in the sidebar. If you agree, let Apple know.