iTunes, iPod…iLike?

Another day, another social music discovery service. iLike, which we’ve covered before, will tomorrow open its private beta. The real measure of these services is how well they find new music for you, but if we had to judge on looks and ease of use alone we’d pick iLike.

The company is changing its name and focus, from “Garageband” and indie musicians to “iLike” and music listeners. A nice carryover from the previous project is hundreds of thousands of free indie MP3s the company has access to. Like other music recommendation tools, iLike is hamstrung by record labels and has to send users elsewhere to buy music — but in some cases, it may just have the perfect obscure tune on hand.

iLike, in name, appearance, and functionality, is extremely well-integrated into iTunes and iPods. A downloadable plug-in sits as a drawer in iTunes, picking up your listening history, telling you what your friends are playing, and giving you on-the-fly recommendations for music related to what you’re playing.

On the Windows version (and on the Mac in the next couple months), there’s also a playlist compiler that acts like competitors’ streaming radio options, but instead of streaming, it auto-creates playlists of similar songs from your own library. You can even set up an RSS feed to download a new related song every week. I’d really love to see this plug into the large library I have access to with my eMusic subscription.

The iLike web interface is nice and simple, especially in that most everything goes on in a single page, even music samples and messaging. If you want to take your music info onto other sites there’s a nice widget for MySpace and other profiles.

I had a good time chatting with Ali and Hadi Partovi, the twin brothers behind iLike. Funnily enough, though this product is basically an ode to Apple, most of the team came from Microsoft (though the brothers were careful not to have just-departed Microsoft employees, including Hadi, interview job applicants. Instead, they got sent to Ali, his identical twin!). The 25-person company is now jointly operated out of Seattle and San Francisco. It has $2.5 million in funding from Vinod Khosla (a rare Internet startup investment on his part), Bob Pittman, and other angels.

As an aside, we’ve been covering quite a few social web startups formed by ex-Microsofties in the last month. Wallop, Twango, now iLike… there’s a lot in common here.

As for differentiation from the competition, it’s minimal. iLike,, Pandora, Qloud (which we covered recently), MyStrands, and MOG do just about the same thing. iLike just has a simpler, more efficient user experience. None of these companies are out-of-the-park hits on the level of MySpace or YouTube. We recently asked a MyStrands rep how many members it has signed up; he replied the company is focused on its technology, and “increasing user base is not where we devote resources.”

The bigger problem is, in order to get new music from legit stores we’re still required to hand over a chunk of money and personal information to someone else. iLike may be elegant, but it’s not sturdy yet.

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