Google appears to have ballistic missiles aimed at software giant Microsoft, but its Apple rivalry is considerably more placid. That could have something to do with the fact that Google CEO Eric Schmidt sits on Apple's board of directors (sketchy?). But before we go conspiracy hunting, let's think about how Google could actually compete with Apple's core products, like, say, its music dominance via the iTunes store and playlists. But that would be impossible, you might say, unless Google were the proprietary carrier of millions of songs ... Oh wait. So what about YouTube?


YouTube, which Google bought in 2006, carries millions of songs already -- Top 40 hits, old video classics, and absurd fare in the I-hope-you-like-this-ironically vein, like Harry Potter Puppet Pals and Chocolate Rain. Why not encourage users to build playlists of songs and funny videos and help turn YouTube into Google's own version of a streaming music station?

Well they do, in a way. You can create a playlist on YouTube by clicking on your username and scrolling down to "Playlist" (see below).  Create one and save it, and you can scour the site for songs to add. Let's say, hypothetically, that I create a playlist out of Coldplay songs. The window would look like this. The arrows are mine:

youtubeplaylist1.png
In other words, the problem is not, as WSJ suggests, that Google "hasn't dabbled...even in allowing users to create playlists of YouTube music videos." That's not true. But the playlist feature is so buried in the weeds of the site that few people know about it. Why bury such a cool feature? And why take no time to design an interface, similar to the iTunes homepage, that organizes the Top-40 music scene and viral music world to encourage users to think of YouTube as an acceptable, free, online alternative to iTunes and streaming music sites like Pandora?

The foremost objection would probably be that the song quality on YouTube often stinks. But this is no prohibitive hurdle, because many of their songs are of a perfectly decent quality. If Google added a second rating feature that asked users vote up or down on audio quality, users could identify the higher quality songs and limit their searches to those pages. I'm sure there would be other hurdles to making YouTube an ackowledged competitor in the playlist business (and I'm sure I'll hear them from commenters) but at this point, it's difficult for me to consider defensible Google's reluctance to mount any kind of challenge to iTunes while they sit on a pile of song pages.

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