Three years ago today: “Chris Lydon has been doing a series of audio interviews on his weblog at Harvard. There are already over 25 interviews, representing 40 separate MP3 files. The archive is nearly 300MB. It’s a perfect application for RSS enclosures.”
Today is, in a sense, the three-year anniversary of podcasting. It wasn’t called podcasting then, but all the essential elements of what would become podcasting were in place. A regular show with a theme (Chris Lydon inteviewing people he finds interesting), a feed that has those shows as enclosures. The enclosures are in MP3 format. And a small number of aggregators that could do something interesitng with all that. A step down the road that would lead to podcasting.
When this became a juggernaut, almost exactly a year after the first Lydon feed, it desperately needed a name. Danny G came up with “podcast” and we liked it, so that was it, the decision was made, a “rough consensus” formed, and from then on we called what we were doing podcasting.
Now there’s no doubt that part of the reason that podcasting took off then and not in 2003 or 2002 or 2001 is that there was an iPod and it was a juggernaut. People were interested in portable media, and the iPod had everything to do with that. So it made sense to relate this new art to the iPod, even though what Leo says is totally true, our podcasts work on things other than iPods. In fact, I wonder why Apple or someone else hasn’t invested in making a device that is GREAT for listening to podcasts on the go, but that’s another subject altogether.
Apple has a legitimate concern if you look at it from their point of view. Although I am not a lawyer, it seems to me that iPod is an excellent trademark, it’s not descriptive, it’s a made-up word, until Apple came up with it, it meant absolutely nothing. So, from the start, it was a defensible trademark. Then it went through the lifecycle that most runaway successes do, commercial interests try to take advantage of the popularity of the mark and name their products relative to Apple’s, some leading to confusion, others not.
I think podcasting may create some confusion for the podcasters but not for Apple. No one confuses a podcast with an iPod, any more than car wax is confused with a car. And it’s totally explainable that a podcast works on other hardware, by saying that the computer industry makes stuff that works together. To think that today’s iPod isn’t the leader in the market is to be in denial. So all competitors are able to play content that works on Apple’s market leader. Emphatically, this is a good thing, and I feel no pity for Apple at being forced to be open, which is what podcasting forces them to be, like it or not.
I guess my take on it is this. I like the term podcasting because it causes people to find out where innovation really comes from. Apple has been coasting on other people’s work, as well as contributing their own, but they’re not very generous when it comes to sharing the credit. I’d be inclined to work with them on this, and other things, if they would be kind to us and our creations. Instead Apple sneers at the people who gave them this innovation, and sends demand letters to members of the community.
Maybe change is something Apple should contemplate? Maybe there’s a way of working with creative people outside their own company that creates a win-win, and a foundation for further innovation?