A Disconcerting Gift

Last week was a big one for Apple. They announced a new direction for the iPhone and launched iOS 8. But they also inadvertently taught themselves a valuable lesson, and reminded everybody who’s in charge.

An iTunes library is a very personal place for people, it’s a place to collect all the music and content you truly love, including those guilty pleasures nobody knows about. In an age where streaming services try to expose your music listening habits iTunes remains fairly private.

U2’s new album added to 500 million accounts.

Above: Image taken from Apple.com

On September 19th Apple used their master key and automatically added U2’s new album into every iTunes account in existence, all 500 million of them. It could not be removed and automatically downloaded itself, you could compare it to malware. A few days later, in a rare move Apple released a tool to remove the album, after presumably coming under a considerable amount of pressure.

Feeling Powerless

I must admit it felt intrusive and it felt insulting to have this record forced into my library. I found that I could not delete it and that it may always be there. This is an example of bad user experience, feeling powerless is not good – the lack of simple ‘delete’ or ‘remove’ button made the feeling worse.

A good interface should make using it effortless and pleasant, you should not have to tweak or hunt through an interface to make it function well. You certainly should not have to use an external tool to perform a simple function. Something that should have been positive experience was for some, a negative one.

This could be turned into a wider debate that questions the true ownership of digital files and DRM, or the amount of power companies like Apple have – or even whether or not it’s fair for a single artist to have so much ‘free’ exposure. But I think it should serve as a lesson in simple user experience, sometimes the simplest gestures (or lack thereof) can make people lose faith.

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