Charles Arthur in the Guardian Technology section writes today about the new Genius feature in iTunes v8. As he points out, it’s already better than Amazon recommendations, because it’s based on your own music library (not your nephew’s), and it’s based on individual tracks, not whole albums.
I also think it’s better than The Filter, which just isn’t smart enough, and never seems to get any better at recommending artists, no matter how many you rate. With 5 million users, iTunes can crunch data like nothing else on earth.
There’s a third way that it’s smarter than Amazon’s system, though, and pretty much any music recommendation system you’ve ever seen. Apple is getting everyone else to do the work for it – that is, to put songs together (in their personal playlists) and offer them up. Genius, it calls it: it’s certainly clever.
It’s a classic piece of Web 2.0-style sharecropping, where we do the work and the big company that analyses the data reaps the financial benefits – getting a vast database of “what goes with what”, and also being able to sell us songs.