Blog Post

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.

14 Responses to “iTunes, iPod…iLike?”

  1. I fell in love with iLike, after using for years. But the fact that iLike doesn’t offer RSS feeds of its data, insisting we use their obnoxious orange Flash-based “widget” on our sites instead, keeps’s iScrobbler plug-in running on my computer.

    There are too many “widgets” and other fancy, blinky things showing up in blog sidebars and social network profiles these days, and one wonky service can stop your site from loading. RSS lets stuff get cached and decently formatted, making for a much less “Times Square”-like experience.

  2. The social part of is just great. I have met my girlfriend there, she is one of my neighbours and we found that the same taste in music is quite a good start (and we even live 6 time zones apart). The “explore-new-music” experience is unparalledly well delivered by Pandora and great geeks like those at have combined both (i.e. stream music off Pandora and build up a profile on at the same time).

  3. Being a big fan of the new music utility movement, I was excited to try out iLike. There are some good things in here however there are also some disappointments.

    The good: Looks nice and clean which is always a challenge. It works very fast and is easy to understand. The free music thing is, well, who wouldn’t like that. Messaging is also very easy and a great feature.

    The disappoionting: The recommendations! Recommending songs based on the artist is outdated. Beck doesn’t just belong in just the Alternative aisle now that the world has moved to single song downloads. I want some Alt Country with his “Canceled Check”! Without good recommendations the app is useless to me, and I don’t want to have to make all of my friends use this thing to see them improve. Finally, it’s not very visual. I would like to see some album covers in there.

    Has anyone tried Soundflavor DJ? It’s also pretty cool.

  4. I’m an avid user of (as well as Pandora) and one of the things that has really bothered me about is its interface and usability. It’s clunky and isn’t too pleasing to the eye, either. The service and features are nice and all, which was what kept me using it for so long.

    Trying out iLike, I’m enjoying it moreso because the web design and iTunes drawer are both well designed. They’re efficient, and easy to understand when perusing the features.

    For example, sending a message to a friend is easy and quick, all on one single page. I love that, as it encourages me to use the service more. I probably also really like iLike because iTunes is my default player, and it is specifically catered to it. has more support for other media players, though.

    They’re both great services, we’re lucky to have these choices. For now, I am really enjoying iLike. I’ve discovered a bunch of independent artists and songs I’m enjoying, and sharing them is easy.

  5. I’ve yet to check out iLike first-hand, but I have used Pandora.

    If I understand the business model correctly-that iLike uses an iTunes affiliate relationship as a revenue stream-I have to say that it sounds great to me.

    That model will be less obtrusive to customers than an ad-based model and, ideally, will integrate into iTunes seamlessly.