iTunes has been around for just over 14 years, and has seen its share of improvements, enhancements, and added features. But some of the features added to iTunes don’t last. I took a look at iTunes’ history to find those marquee features that were added to the app, but that didn’t last very long. Some lasted for many years, other just a couple, but these features were considered to be big deals when they were introduced. And now they are gone.
iMix: Added to iTunes in version 4.5 (April, 2004), iMixes were playlists that users could publish on blogs or websites. They were limited, however, to music available on the iTunes Store, which made them useless, given the amount of music available on the iTunes Store at the time. There was also a 100-track limit. iMixes were phased out in iTunes 11.
Party Shuffle: Also added to iTunes with version 4.5, the feature allowed users to have a permanent queue of songs, and add music to it whenever they wanted. Party Shuffle could pick all songs at random, or users could add songs to it as they wished. Other users could also add music to the Party Shuffle using Apple’s Remote app on iOS devices.This was supplanted when Apple brought out Up Next, in iTunes 11, which not only does not offer the same flexibility as Party Shuffle, but can also be a bit confusing to use. Apple later changed the name of this feature to iTunes DJ. I, and many other iTunes users, miss the Party Shuffle / iTunes DJ feature.
Smart Shuffle: I don’t know if you remember this, but there was a lot of speculation back in the day about iTunes’ and the iPod’s shuffle feature not being completely random. In iTunes 5, released in September, 2005, Apple added Smart Shuffle, which let you adjust the randomness of shuffled playback. A slider let you choose whether you wanted iTunes to be “more likely” or “less likely” to play songs by the same artist or from the same album sequentially. This was removed in iTunes 8, in September, 2008.
The iTunes MiniStore: iTunes 6.0.2, released in January, 2006, added the iTunes MiniStore, which was a pane in the iTunes app that give you permanent access to the iTunes Store. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, when it was discovered that the MiniStore sent user information to Apple, such as your Apple ID, non-encrypted, as well as to a tracking company. I couldn’t find exactly when this was retired, but I think it was gone when iTunes 7 come out later in the year.
Cover Flow view: Added to iTunes 7 in September, 2006, Cover Flow, which is still available in the Finder, is a way of viewing your content in a combination list and carrousel. You scroll horizontally and see album covers, then you choose something from the list below the cover display. It’s not a great way to browse an iTunes library if you have a lot of content; I don’t find it very useful in the Finder, but it’s still there. It was removed in iTunes 11.
Genius Sidebar: Apple’s Genius features were added in iTunes 8, in September, 2008, but one part of the Genius feature – the Genius Sidebar – didn’t last long. This bar displayed at the right of the iTunes window, and its goal was essentially to get you to buy music from the iTunes Store. It was intrusive, and pretty useless. It morphed into…
Ping: Ah, Ping, we hardly remember you. This “social network for music” was one of Apple’s biggest failures with iTunes. It was added in September, 2010, to iTunes 10, and was pretty much universally derided. The Ping sidebar replaced the Genius sidebar, which had been added to iTunes two years earlier. I wrote about why it failed, in June, 2012, shortly before it was killed off, which occurred in September of that year. As I said then, the reason it failed was because “Ping was designed to be nothing more than a marketing tool, and it was wrapped within a proprietary application: iTunes on the Mac and iOS.”
Multiple Windows: For as long as I can remember, iTunes allowed you to open multiple windows. You could have one with your music library, another with a playlist, and another with the iTunes Store. This feature was very practical. It made it easy to create a complex playlist, dragging tracks from one window to another, and it allowed you to switch to the iTunes Store without losing your place in your library. When iTunes 11 was released, in late 2012, this ability to open more than one window disappeared.
The Sidebar: One of the biggest missing features is the sidebar, that used to display at the left of the iTunes window, and that gave you quick access to all your media libraries (Music, Movies, Podcasts, etc.) and all your playlists. This was removed in iTunes 12. You can bring it back, but it’s not quite the same.
What’s next? The core iTunes features will be around for a long time. However, iTunes Match is problematic for many users, and I wonder if it will last very long. iTunes Radio, which is only available in a couple of countries, will probably not get extended worldwide, as Apple is most likely planning to morph the Beats Music streaming service into iTunes, though probably not branded as such. Aside from those two features, I can’t imagine any other features of iTunes that would be scrapped.
Can you, dear reader, think of any features that I’ve missed? Feel free to post comments if you can.