iLike is a social network focussed on music recommendations which launched only last month, and will inevitably draw comparisons with the much older Last.fm. And it's true, there are quite a few similarities. Just like Last.fm, in order to get the most out of the service, users are required to download and install a plugin for their desktop music player (in this case iTunes) which will monitor and send listening data back to the site. By analyzing all of this data the service is then able to recommend other music matched to a user's tastes. The second aspect to the service is a standard social network offering, whereby you can discover and add 'friends' to your social network (based on their musical preferences), and from then on in, you can keep track of what they're listening to. Again, very similar to Last.fm.
However, where iLike improves on the experience of Last.fm is that much of this information is viewable from within iTunes itself via a sidebar. This to me makes much more sense than having to leave your desktop music player in order to see what your friends are listening to, or to receive recommendations. Additionally, iLike now includes YouTube music videos on the site.
As TechCrunch notes:
Every song on iLike includes a link to play a short sample of the actual song. Now there is also a link to “play video.” Click the link and iLike searches for the video on YouTube, embeds it into the site and begins playing it. In our tests iLike found the correct music video about 2/3 of the time.
Even with these cool features, iLike has a fair way to go before it reaches the range of functionality of Last.fm (no blogging, groups, or events for example) and doesn't have anything like the size of its user-base. Because iLike (like Last.fm) relies on the wisdom (or listening habits) of crowds, with only a relatively small number of users, the recommendations are currently pretty general. Obviously, as the site grows, this should begin to improve.
Despite missing features and a lack of network effects, there is something refreshingly simple about the experience of using iLike (not least because of the iTunes integration). The User Interface is polished and uncluttered, and it's very easy to get to grips with what you can do with the service, including privacy options (such as deleting embarrassing artists from your listening history), finding and adding new friends, or simply browsing other user's musical tastes.
As Mick Jagger might say, I know it's only social software but I like it, like it, yes, I do.