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 The promo is no longer valid, so Google dropped the link.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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