Is Apple Cloaking Their iTunes Content, With Google Looking The Other Way?

Aug 22, 2008 • 9:13 am | comments (8) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Cloaking / IP Delivery
 

Over the past few weeks, my brother and I have been working on a side project at RustyBrick on building out iPhone Apps. During this process, I took detailed notice to how iTunes works, how their API functions, and how Google indexes that content and it has raised some questions in my mind.

Let me step back and take you through this. We build an iPhone or iPod Touch application for the Jewish community. It is called Siddur, which is a Jewish prayer book. In short, it has Jewish prayers and tools to aid in those prayers. The community loves it, so I wanted to share the "reviews" that are on the iTunes Store with everyone, so we looked into using the API or XML from the iTunes store. As you can see on the iPhone Siddur, we added customer reviews pulled dynamically from the XML. How did I find the XML?

When we were looking at some Google search results, I discovered this result. If you click on the link, it actually will open up iTunes on your computer but if you click on the cache link, it shows you the content you would find in the iTunes application.

Screen Shot Search Result: Google and iTunes

Screen Shot of iTunes App in Store: Google and iTunes

Screen Shot of Google Cache: Google and iTunes

So I did some forum research, to find an old WebmasterWorld thread. The thread talks about Apple's relationship with Google but then interestingly enough has a link. The link is http://google.com/itunes, which then links to http://services.google.com/marketing/links/itunes. Now, that is interesting, but I can speculate on it or it can be something that is 100% unbiased and not "evil." Update: It appears that the Google iTunes link in this paragraph no longer redirect to Google AdWords. They did last night and they did in 2005. Update 2: Matt Cutts of Google explained below that the google.com/itunes link was an old promotion for music labels. Basically, Music Labels received a promo to sign up with Google AdWords to promote their music. The promo is no longer valid, so Google dropped the link. So it seems totally unrelated to this story.

So why am I uncomfortable with this? Well, not everyone has iTunes on their computer. By listing the content of what is found in iTunes, in Google, as if it was a document accessible on the web... Well, that seems not so useful. Why not label these results as "iTunes" is required, or something like that? Why not let other developers build this into Google through Sitemaps?

Yes, I know Apple provides these iTunes hyperlinks so people can easily send the link to friends to download music, movies or apps - but again, these are not real "web documents." Or maybe, I am just being too picky?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Comments:

Thomas

08/22/2008 01:48 pm

Is it me or is http://www.google.com/itunes not working? Or am I being dumb?

Michael Jensen

08/22/2008 02:26 pm

Barry, looks like Google took down the iTunes link, did you happen to save a copy of it?

Barry Schwartz

08/22/2008 02:27 pm

All the /itunes link did was redirect to http://services.google.com/marketing/links/itunes

Barry Schwartz

08/22/2008 02:28 pm

Hmm, that services.google.com link then use to redirect to AdWords login, and then go to the AdWords overview page. It now doesn't do that.

Matt Cutts

08/22/2008 05:36 pm

I checked into what google.com/itunes was. Sounds like there was some sort of ad campaign or promotion back in 2005. Check out http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-143914.html which says "Apple and Google currently have an arrangement (http://www.apple.com/itunes/musicmarketing/) whereby iTunes-signed labels receive discounts on Google's Adwords service (https://adwords.google.com/)." And http://www.neowin.net/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t361165.html also talks about it: "http://www.apple.com/itunes/musicmarketing/ Check out the part about Google. It should also fill you in as to the redirection. All this has been covered by various news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and Slashdot for atleast a couple of weeks." I found those pages by searching for [www.google.com/itunes] to see if the url had been mentioned online before. It looks like Apple took down the link to google.com/itunes a while ago, which meant that the redirect was obsolete, so we went ahead and removed it. So nothing new, just a promotion/campaign from 2005 that was obsolete and that we've cleaned up now.

Barry Schwartz

08/22/2008 05:40 pm

That makes sense, thanks for commenting on the redirect. Ill update my post to clarify that. Any comment on the itunes content in Google?

Jonah stein

08/26/2008 12:25 am

Barry Its nothing that mystical or related so some Google/Apple deal and it is certainly not cloaking (perhaps even Anti-Cloaking). Itunes media links have a javascript redirect the spider can't follow along with some very basic information about the file. Try to launch the link with JavaScript disabled and you will see the same thing that is in the Google Cache.

Gregory

10/06/2008 05:00 pm

Boy, are you thorough, Barry! Everyone, here's a link to a live Google result featuring the iTunes App Phobos link: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en-us&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=urbanspoon&spell=1 Look for the "Urbanspoon" results, and I believe this type of result, for an iTunes app, IS new, if anyone can find another one I'd love to see it, of course!

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