On Friday afternoon, social media erupted after Bloomberg News reported that Apple was set to announce the end of its iTunes store, which transformed the music business when it was launched in 2003.
Apple will hold its annual developer conference Monday, and among the slate of expected announcements is a reconfiguration that will divide iTunes' offerings into three newly developed applications for music, TV and podcasts, according to Bloomberg. Apple representatives did not respond to requests for comment on the report.
If true, it will mark the end of a 16-year run that kick-started the digital commerce revolution. For better or worse, without Apple's experiment, the ways in which culture consumes entertainment wouldn't be the same.
Apple's Steve Jobs set his sights on music before moving into movies and podcasts. In introducing the store in 2003, he told Billboard that Apple hoped to help the music business navigate out of the Napster-driven file-sharing free-for-all that devastated companies' bottom lines.
"The record companies are in a difficult situation because people want to buy their music online, but there's no real way to do it, so they steal it," Jobs said. "The users are in a bad situation because most of them don't want to steal music online, but there's no other way to get it that's any good." Jobs proposed iTunes as "a middle way, a middle path out of this."
At its peak in the late '00s, iTunes had evolved into an indispensable application for virtually every consumer of contemporary music. Listeners imported millions of compact discs onto hard drives. With MP3s gathered from music blogs, thumb drives, MegaUpload links and Limewire, the iTunes platform allowed for organised collection with little concern to a file's origin.
Over the years iTunes evolved in typical Jobs fashion -- by killing features that he and his team deemed obsolete and experimenting with initiatives. The platform toyed with Facebook-style social sharing and with Twitter-style newsfeeds.
Spotify's rise upended Apple's domination, part of a technological shift toward streaming.
The specifics of iTunes' reported demise haven't been made public, but music fans will probably be able to access all offerings, including download purchases, through the Apple Music app.