Ten years ago this month, at WWDC 2005, Apple brought podcasting to iTunes.
The feature launched on June 28, 2005, three weeks after the keynote. Here’s the Apple PR Machine:
Apple today announced it is taking Podcasting mainstream by building everything users need to discover, subscribe, manage and listen to Podcasts right into iTunes 4.9, the latest version of its award winning digital music software and online music store. iTunes users can now easily subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.
“Apple is taking Podcasting mainstream by building it right into iTunes,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Podcasting is the next generation of radio, and users can now subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.”
It’s hard to read Jobs’ personal excitement about the medium, but he says, “We see it as the hottest thing going in radio. Hotter than anything else in radio.” He clarified that this content wasn’t just by amateurs, but that major companies were in the mix as well.
The subscribing and auto-downloading of new content is what made podcasting the “TiVo for radio,” Jobs said, highlighting iTunes’ ability to do just that — and sync the files over a cable to iPods, making podcasts portable.
He closed his presentation on the feature saying, “We think it’s going to basically take podcasting mainstream, to where anyone can do it. We’re bringing innovation to the market.”
Turns out, Apple did just that.
It took just two days for the iTunes directory to see one million subscriptions, but the library itself wasn’t all that large compared to today. 3,000 podcasts doesn’t seem like a lot of shows anymore, and in June 2013, Apple hit a major milestone with their directory, as reported by Lex Friedman:
Apple on Monday announced that the iTunes Store eclipsed 1 billion podcast subscriptions. That’s a whole lot of talking. A special promotion appeared in the iTunes Podcasts directory to commemorate the big number.
Apple says that those billion subscriptions are spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.
Today, the iTunes directory is home to over 500,000 discrete podcasts, but it isn’t the only directory out there. Apps like Overcast, <a href=”https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-casts/id414834813?mt=8&uo=6&at=11lt96″”>Pocket Casts and more maintain their own, separate directories with unique curation and search features.
For many types of shows, these third-party clients have eclipsed iTunes as the primary way people consume podcasts, putting Apple in a position of power, but not dominance, in some parts of the market. There are still a lot of people who use iTunes — and its extension on iOS, Podcasts, to listen to shows.
While WWDC 2005 has gone down in history for some bigger news, I’ll always remember it fondly.