18 Comments

Summary:

It’s been roughly a week since Ping’s release, and I’ve held my tongue until now. But I can hold it no longer: Ping isn’t the thing. It almost isn’t anything at all. Which brings to mind comparisons with another relatively useless web-based product: Google Wave.

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It’s been roughly a week since Ping’s release, and I’ve held my tongue until now. But I can hold it no longer: Ping isn’t the thing. Not only isn’t it the thing, it almost isn’t anything at all. Which brings to mind comparisons with another relatively useless web-based product: Google Wave.

Google Wave is and will remain one of the most shining examples of a product designed to satisfy a need which simply didn’t exist. It was an engineering feat, to be sure, and contained interesting and likely useful tech, but it wasn’t something the public needed, wanted, or even really ever figured out how to use.

Ping is a different type of product, don’t get me wrong. It’s hardly unprecedented, for one. In fact, if anything, it resembles its predecessors too closely. Many note that Last.fm and other similar services offer essentially the same features, but without the commerce-driven restrictions imposed by Apple in Ping, like the inability to “Like” music not found in the iTunes library, including The Beatles, arguably one of the most-liked artists of all time.

It also resembles Facebook, and recently encountered similar problems with spam, which it then took action to resolve. Though it resembles Facebook, the two networks very clearly don’t get along as of right now, which makes friend discovery (at least for me) very difficult. Which is a problem I also had initially with Google Wave. Not only was finding people who were using it difficult, but finding people who had similar interests, which would help the social aspect tremendously, was more difficult still.

Of my paltry few followers, I would say that there exists about a 5 percent musical taste crossover area, at best. Friends with whom I share similar tastes don’t use the service at all, and many haven’t even bothered to upgrade to iTunes 10 yet, in fact, so almost all of my Ping contacts are professional. Maybe I’m guilty of not evangelizing enough among my peer group, but I hardly think that’s my job, just like I didn’t when Google expected me to do it with Wave.

Though not complicated like Wave, Ping is just as clumsy from a user experience perspective. Not only can I not “Like” music not found in the iTunes library, I can’t “Like” anything from my library, and instead have to find it in the store. I’m not sure if this is just because it was too difficult to program into iTunes 10, or because Apple wants me to spend more time in the store, but either way it’s going to prevent anyone but the most dedicated completist from liking a decent chunk of their actual library.

I’ve already talked about the friend discovery tools, but even iTunes’ own recommendations are terrible. A bunch of fairly generic pop artists and some industry people are the only ones I’ve ever received, and those haven’t changed since I started using Ping. How long do I have to not add them before you refresh the selection and give me some other options?

In the end, Ping is not an effective social network. In a best case scenario, Ping would allow users to truly share and explore each other’s musical tastes, and provide easy ways for them to connect with one another, and not just with artists’ PR agency representatives. The natural byproduct of such a scenario would be to encourage a decent increase in iTunes commercial activity. Instead, what we get, basically, is a garish, buzzing neon sign with the word “Buy!” pointing at the iTunes store.

If Apple’s truly serious about Ping, then it’ll have to give it a major overhaul in the next release. If not, then it should take a note from Google and start preparing comments about how it fosters an environment where failure is not only accepted, but encouraged.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: With Ping, Apple Builds a Social Network Inside a Walled Garden

  1. If you approach Ping as a social network, it is a steaming pile of fail. However, if you approach it as a music store review system on steroids, it actually isn’t half bad.

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  2. Providing new ways to “Discover” books, music, apps and video is a badly needed thing now that we are overflowing with choices; so many choices that book, music and video stores have collapsed under the exponentially expanding weight of it all.

    I truly want to know what my friends are listening to, downloading, watching and reading — friends I don’t normally see in real life and talk to personally.

    Give Apple a chance to refine it. They have a history of making an internal decision in isolation to catch the competition off guard, then after releasing the product they listen to their customers and adapt. It’s only been a couple of weeks.

    Furthermore, comparing the excessive simplicity of Ping to the “I already know all about electronic collaboration and even I don’t know how to explain what Wave is to anyone else” is an unfair comparison.

    Wave is the typical thing that Google produces, throwing tons of experiments against the wall and seeing what sticks. Apple has a different approach. We gave Wave a year, give Ping a year.

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  3. Curmudgeon Geographer Friday, September 10, 2010

    Ping is being overhauled nearly as fast as Favebook gets overhauls. Already the artist recommendations have changed. I like the description of “reviews on steroids”, I’ve already bought music based on people I’m following.

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  4. Totally agree, we will se what type of changes they do make.

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  5. Bullshit post! Of course Ping isn’t perfect, its just a few days old… and Apple is new in the social world so give it the damn time to improve. I can’t believe how “professional” blogs compare Ping to Wave or even MySpace,… stop this Ping news already!

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  6. There’s new artists every day. Yo-Yo Ma isn’t anchored to the bottom anymore.

    Give them time.

    Who needs another social network? However I couldn’t be bothered with the mess that was MySpace so over time Ping might become a great service for recommending music. It just takes them time.

    Remember Facebook was only open to college students at certain universities for the first year or so.

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  7. I agree Ping is non-event. They should change the name for a start.

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  8. Ping is only a network for music, get it thru your head once and for all.

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  9. I disagree, Darrell. I’m not sure Ping was developed by Apple to be anything “big” or “game changing”. It’s simply a way for users to finally connect to one another through the ubiquitous iTunes, linking Apple & PC users together through their own application.

    Ping’s main function will ultimately be as a free, user-driven, word-of-mouth advertising tool that will help artists and record labels sell more music.

    There’s no reason to think, or hope, that it will be anything more. I for one am actually happy with Ping’s arrival. I’m not jumping out of my chair in amazement, but I can see it’s potential and think it will catch on to be a useful tool.

    Just look at the stats… over 1,000,000 signups on Ping in the first 48 hours? I’d call that a success already.

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  10. Honest to goodness, my very first question was “What the heck is Ping?”

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