The Jolly Teapot

Freshly brewed links, served by Nicolas Magand

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Thank you iTunes, I owe you so much

Fourteen years ago, I installed iTunes on my Windows PC, and my look on software changed forever. As Apple renames and simplifies the app, I thought it was time for a quick hommage.1 

In 2005, I was a Marine Biology student living in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had left my French little hometown to live on my own for the first time. I was the fresh owner of my first real modern computer, and I — most importantly — had unlimited access to the internet.

Finally.

While my previous computers were second-hand pieces of junk, and we had no internet access at home at the time, I still was — and mostly considered myself — a nerd.2  At first on campus, I was using the PCs from the dorms computer room. My online activities then consisted of a lot of Windows Live Messenger, signing up for that brand new beta email service from Google, browsing the web in search of funny videos,3  and listening to new songs from my favourite artists.4 

In Search Of...

For listening to music at the time, I had a Sony Discman, a collection of CDs brought along with me abroad, a few others acquired with my student money,5  and the good old Koss Porta Pro headphones. Back then, managing my music collection could be summarised by putting back discs into their associated crystal case and wondering if I should order them alphabetically, or by genre, or by colour, or by year…

Meanwhile, most of my friends already had huge MP3 collections on their laptops. I was always very curious of how they were organising and managing the songs, albums, playlists, and tracks as unbearable amounts of folders and files were displayed on their computer screens.

When I finally got my own laptop,6  I too had to decide on how I wanted to play the MP3 game. Genre folders? Artist folders? Year folders? It felt like a crucial question at the time. If I have never been a big consumer of illegal-download services à la Limewire, I had still collected a few hard-to find tracks,7  and the few gigabytes of MP3s coming from my ripped CDs, were also begging to be to organised. And yes, as I am very meticulous with my music's metadata, for every song and album, the release year had to be exact, the word "featuring" had to be shortened always the same way, this sort of things…

I successively tried Winamp, RealPlayer, Musicmatch, JetAudio, and none of them really worked for me. Musicmatch was the closest to succeed, but its premium price was hard to accept for a young broke student like me. Then Apple released iTunes for Windows.

Seeing Sounds

The first thing I remember was telling myself that I had to commit to the software: its language, its interface, the philosophy behind its jukebox system. It was solving my main gripes with a big MP3-file collection. It was just great to see your library organised like this. I embraced iTunes, and I loved it right away. I like to believe that it loved me back too. We definitely had a thing. Every new update, I was immediately looking for the changes and improvements, and finding them right away. Sometimes it was a small UI thing, sometimes a new feature. I was a true iTunes genius.

The relationship was strong and we shared so many great memories: the first generation iPod Shuffle, the first purchases on the iTunes Music Store, the first – and last – use of Cover Flow, iTunes Match, the free songs-of-the-week, the last CD I ripped on it.

Simple, happy times.

Then one day your realise that iTunes is not your main music player any more.

Most of your music listening activities happen on the go. When you are home, you tend to use your phone anyway, because that is where your playlists and new albums reside. The number one personal computer in your life is not your PC anymore, your shiny new smartphone is. When your use your PC, Soundcloud or YouTube are the main source of music in your browser. Then Spotify, Deezer, or Tidal, have their icon ready in your dock or Start menu.

After a while, you realise that all the music you added patiently on these streaming platforms does not appear in your iTunes library. If you used Apple Music from the beggining, you notice how much it messed it up.

One day, iTunes is basically irrelevant.

No One Ever Really Dies

Therefore, I believe it makes a lot of sense for iTunes to retire. It just makes more sense for users to find what they look for in an app named after its content. "iTunes" as a word doesn't mean much nowadays. "Music" does, and the good old library will live there.

Who would have thought, twenty years ago, that software could trigger such nostalgia?

Nevertheless, I got a lot more from iTunes than music management delights.

So much more.

It opened me up to Apple and its famous design language. It encouraged me to use Safari.8  It drove me to buy an iPod. It pushed me to buy a Mac. And last but not least, it introduced me to podcasts.

Leo Laporte's This Week In Tech, CNET's Buzz Out Loud, Revision 3's Tekzilla, etc. Back in 2007 or 2008, podcasts improved my English. Podcasts extended my knowledge and enthusiasm for tech news. All of it eventually pushed me to study again,9  to open a Twitter account, and eventually to turn to a new career in marketing/media.

iTunes was never just about music and spending hours making playlists. iTunes was a way to solve problems.

Its name may retire, but its legacy will remain. Without iTunes in my life, I would simply live as an unemployed marine biologist.


  1. I started writing this before I saw all the great articles about iTunes that have the same spirit; Kevin Roose wrote a fantastic piece on the New York Times: A Farewell for iTunes, highly recommended. ↩︎︎
  2. Even if I only became familiar with the word a few years later. ↩︎
  3. A few months later, YouTube was born. ↩︎︎
  4. I remember the Snoop Dogg website to promote Drop It Like it's Hot, and how crazy innovative the Neptunes' sound was. ↩︎︎
  5. Special mention to the second-hand Sophie Ellis-bextor album bought in Glasgow. ↩︎︎
  6. Something close to the ASUS M2400 series from 2004. ↩︎︎
  7. Electric Intercourse by Prince to name one. ↩︎︎
  8. I downloaded Safari for Windows on the first day. The very first version of the app crashed immediately when opened. ↩︎︎
  9. Went for SEO, web marketing and web editing. ↩︎︎