Tuesday, Apple and U2 did what they thought was a really neat thing: They released U2’s new album for free to everyone with an iTunes account. No purchase necessary… it just shows up in your iTunes library.

What a cool thing, right? The new album from one of the biggest acts in rock, for free!

Then, this happened.

Ignoring the cool kids tripping over themselves to proclaim their dislike of U2’s music, there’s a real issue here.

Let’s think about all the cascading assumptions that go into thinking this is a good idea:

  • All 500m+ iTunes account holders know who (or what) U2 is
  • All 500m+ iTunes account holders like U2, or are at least not overtly hostile towards their music
  • All 500m+ iTunes account holders would want a new U2 album
  • All 500m+ iTunes account holders are comfortable with Apple inserting something they didn’t ask for into their iTunes library

What started of as a cool idea in a boardroom breaks down because of flawed assumptions about the wants and needs of over 500 million (!!) users.

Coupled with the prevailing concerns about data security as companies increasingly ask us to put our trust in their clouds, and you’ve got a situation ripe for blowback.

For example: MT @postscott: i thought my itunes account was comprimised because of the dumb u2 album thats free or whatever.
— Len Damico (@lendamico) September 11, 2014

The takeaway here from a user experience perspective is: Never assume.

Originally published on September 11, 2014.

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