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Is Ping Apple’s 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 (s goog) 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 and other similar services offer essentially the same features, but without the commerce-driven restrictions imposed by Apple (s aapl) 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

18 Responses to “Is Ping Apple’s Google Wave?”

  1. Should give it time, but it’s hard to take the product seriously when they name it Ping. That isn’t as bad as Microsoft selling a Zune. Dell naming a product the Streak was inviting verbal abuse.

    Maybe they should call it FacePing.

  2. chris Stevens

    it is a massive fail, not only do i not care what my friends listen to, the last thing i want is my wife friending me and seeing how much music i buy, what a totally rubbish idea.

  3. Apple should stop the dilly-dally and provide what so many millions of iTunes users want: some native integration of Maybe comparing Ping to Google Wave is premature and a little unfair, but it all seems quite unnecessary when is already established, popular, very decent, and links music to the iTunes Store anyway.

    Anyone still unfamiliar with should take a look, it seems to already provide everything Ping offers with regards to music and more. Lots of other free music/media players have native integration, so surely it can’t be a question of some big money deal that puts the iTunes team off. Perhaps Apple is just trying to capitalise on the popularity of such communities in an attempt to boost its own sales…

  4. Wave is a desperately needed product, and something nearly all of us have wanted at some time or another. The reason it failed wasn’t that people didn’t see the need for it; the reason it failed was that it *wasn’t very good* at meeting that need.

    It has some excellent features and is technically very impressive, but being able to type letter by letter in real time is less important than the basic organisation of information.

    For example, if I have an IM with someone, I can close the IM, come back tomorrow and the window will be largely clean, with perhaps a small part of the prior discussion and some sort of link or menu somewhere I can click on to see yesterday’s conversation.

    If I Wave that person instead, the past discussion never goes away. It just grows, and grows, and grows. Large waves take minutes to load.

    A web forum would divide up a long thread of posts into pages to save on loading time.

    A wiki would divide up information in a random-access, searchable fashion.

    My old Usenet client would show me the messages in collapsed form and let me click through one at a time.

    Wave failed because it didn’t do the job, not because there was no job to do.

    Currently Wave is perfect for one thing: Organising days out with friends. The problem is, nobody uses it, and you can’t organise time with friends without friends.

  5. Props for being the first to make the comparison. But I agree with Mark Hernandez. Give Apple a few months to figure out how to swim with the sharks in these waters. It could end up being a fail if they don’t respond quickly enough. But I don’t think it’s a candidate for “Is This Anything?” quite yet. Apple has a less-than-perfect-but-still-relatively-good track record at using customer feedback to refine products and services. If they learn fast enough, Ping could yet turn out to be a way for songs to go viral the way videos can on Youtube. As a musician, I’m really really really hoping so. :)

  6. This article is pretty silly. Ping has been out just 8 days now. New artists and users are joining everyday. I’ve discovered 2 new artists since using ping for the past few days. For something that just launched, it’s not bad.

    Does anyone here remember facebook back when it was just a social network predominately used on college campuses? I do. Look at what it’s become.

    I don’t think Ping will be the next facebook. I’m pretty sure that’s not what I was meant to be. However, let’s give Ping time before we start passing judgment.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. Curmudgeon Geographer

    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.

  11. Mark Hernandez

    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.