Since the beginning of the home computer revolution, I have used thousands of programs (apps, for the kids out there). Some have been good, some have been bad, some have been amazing. But, in all that time, only one of them can be crowned "Worst Software of All Time."
And it's Apple's iTunes.
No joke... iTunes is the single biggest pile of shit I have ever encountered.
It started as a music player called SoundJam back in 1998, and I was a huge fan. When it came to playing your digital music collection, it was easily the best solution out there. Apple knew this too, which is why they bought out the program and self-branded it iTunes to fit with the whole "i-esthetic" they had going on at the time. And, for a while there, all was good. Apple changed a few things and made it look a prettier, but it was still the SoundJam I enjoyed.
But then everything changed. No longer merely a music player and cataloger, iTunes quickly became Apple's "hub" for digital media thanks to the release of the iPod. It wasn't too bad at first... sometimes I had a hell of a time syncing my music but, for the most part it worked well. It was also around that time we got handy additional features, like "Smart Playlists," that were a welcome additions to the program.
The honeymoon wouldn't last.
As more and more "features" (aka "crap") were added to iTunes, it grew into a massive pile of bloatware that was complicated, confusing, and bug-ridden. iTunes wasn't exclusively for playing music any more, it was a storefront for the iTunes Music Store. Movies and TV shows were added. And ringtones. And podcasts. And apps. And internet radio. And books. Very quickly iTunes was suffering an identity crisis, and Apple struggled (and failed badly) to come up with a user interface that made sense across all the shit it was supposed to be managing.
Then, just when you thought it couldn't possibly get worse, Apple Music was crammed into the mix.
And suddenly I was longing for the days that iTunes was merely complicated, confusing, and bug-ridden. Apple's streaming music solution, which I could give a fuck about, further pushed iTunes into utter ruin. The program is so fucked up now that you don't use it... you tolerate it. And even that's too much to ask sometimes.
Take for instance video streaming.
I have been ranting for years about how fucking stupid it is that Apple forces you to download your movie and television purchases so you can watch them. Never mind that every other digital content provider on earth allows streaming video, Apple did not unless you wanted to watch on an AppleTV. But, surprise surprise, video streaming was added along with Apple Music. No more being forced to clutter valuable hard drive space with a download when you want to watch The Matrix for the hundredth time... now you just start playing.
Except when you can't. Which is often.
I can't tell you how many times I've tried to watch a movie only to have it stutter, drop out, go out of sync, or even crash. This evening I wanted to watch Edge of Tomorrow and found it impossible. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Stutter. Stutter. Stutter. At first I wanted to blame my internet connection. But streaming from Netflix was fine. Streaming from Amazon was fine. Streaming from YouTube was fine. It's just Apple's piece of shit service that doesn't fucking work. So I have to wait 20 minutes for the movie to download before I can watch it. Used to be you could watch a movie while it's downloading, but the stuttering was worse than when I tried streaming. It's absolute bullshit that Apple has BILLIONS of dollars at their disposal and can't get this shit figured out when literally everybody else has.
And what about music?
Apple added a subscription service called iTunes Match back in 2011 which allows you to put your music in "the cloud" so it's accessible anywhere. And not just your music purchased from Apple... all your music, no matter where it came from. And it was too good to be true. All that music I ripped from my CDs at a low bitrate because I didn't want it taking up hard disk space? Well, if Apple sells it, they automatically match it and upgrade the file to the best quality they have available. And since it's in the cloud, it's taking up -zero- megabytes on your drive! Brilliant!
Except when it isn't. Which is often.
The biggest problem is not really Apple's fault. If a music publisher all of a sudden decides to withdraw their music from iTunes, you lose it. This goes for every last song you purchase from Apple. Unless you've downloaded a backup it's gone. And since this scenario is in the licensing agreement you sign off on, you have no recourse. So... always have a backup of your music. This is critical.
While the concept of iTunes Match is good, it's not utopia. Sometimes music you own won't match for some reason... even though Apple sells the song. Other times Apple will match the wrong tracks. I bought The Beatles collection in mono... the way it was meant to be heard. Apple matched everything to the stereo version. And of course there's no way to fix this in the system. Annoying, but not a deal breaker.
Other problems arise when the iTunes service is down. Or Apple's streaming servers are overloaded and streaming badly. Unless you have local copies of your music (defeating the whole purpose of the cloud), all your music is inaccessible. That should be a deal breaker.
And it gets worse. iTunes is such a massive pile of crap that sometimes you can't access your music even when Apple's streaming service is working flawlessly. I have 30 "albums" by Depeche Mode. When viewing my library as "Songs," everything not purchase through iTunes disappears (even if you have "SHOW ALL MY MUSIC" checked). Change to "Artists" view and suddenly they're back. The program is so hideously complex that little problems like this are everywhere.
Topped off by the fact that iTunes is FOREVER asking you to type in your fucking password. Most of the time for no damn reason.
It's to the point now where I regret having purchased any of my digital content from Apple. Especially movies and TV shows. Far better to have purchased my digital content from a company that actually gives a flying fuck about providing a workable solution to their customers.
And Apple is absolutely not that company.
Probably isn't going to be any time soon.
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Oh man, I’ve always hated iTunes. I used to use Winamp to listen to music on my iPod years ago until it kept corrupting the library and making it seem like all my music had disappeared. I’ve had corrupted libraries in iTunes too. But the thing I hate the most about iTunes is how it names music files when you rip CDs – you can’t find shit on your hard drive; you have to go through the iTunes interface which sucks. So I rip all my CDs with Windows Media Player and organize it the way I want so I can find stuff, and then I drop it into iTunes manually because unlike every other music management program out there, you can’t have it watch folders and just automatically add new stuff to your library. I, like you, merely tolerate iTunes as a way to sync music to my iPhone. I don’t use it otherwise. I like Google Play for storing and listening to music in the cloud.
OMG iTunes drives me INSANE!!!
I only use it because occasionally I want to put music on my phone or backup my phone sometimes. But the pain I have to go through each and every time I have to use it nearly kills me. It’s completely unintuitive to my brain, right-click context menus don’t make sense or don’t do the things I want to do. And don’t get me started on how hard it is to get non-apple audio books onto my phone. If I didn’t have an iPhone there’s no way in hell I’d ever use iTunes.
While I’ve not experienced all of the craptastic fun you’ve had with iTunes, there are many things you’ve listed above that regularly irritate me like the “Songs” and “Artists” and the regular password prompts (which actually I get more on the iCloud side than I do on the iTunes side).
I would love for Apple Music to become it’s own app. Hey, they removed iBooks from iTunes and made it into a separate app. An Apple fan can dream, right?
I remember when I got my first iPod (a first gen Nano!) and had to switch over to iTunes as my music player as a result — I was pretty bummed about having to move on from WinAmp, which I loved for all its user-created plug-ins and skins and just its general usability, and had been using for years.
Still kinda miss it sometimes — even as a Mac guy!
I’ve used iTunes ever since I got my first iPod all those years ago. I think I must be the only person on this earth who actually likes it. I still use it just as I always have, play music from my hard drive. Which it still does very very well. I don’t stream or use iCloud for anything and still insist on having the files on disk. Guess I’m a dying breed. But because Apple is notoriously bad at web services, by avoiding all that, I’m still quite happy with my iTunes setup.
Oh, and +1 for also liking WinAmp back in the day when I was a Windows user in the late 90s. Really whipped the llama’s ass.