Late Dec. 10, Apple introduced new playlist features for Ping, the social music network it introduced as part of iTunes 10. Ping users can now share iTunes playlists on your profile, and let friends collaborate on those playlists by adding songs. The features have already been pushed out to all Ping users, and don’t require a software update.
The new Ping playlist feature plugs right into the existing method of creating playlists in iTunes. You can use your existing lists, or create a new one using the File>New Playlist (⌘N) command. Once you’ve dragged and dropped the tracks you want on the playlist from your library, click the little arrow icon next to the playlist name on the right and a dialog box (shown below) opens up asking whether you want to gift it or publish it on the iTunes Store. Once you choose to publish a playlist, iTunes gives you a chance to choose its name and description, and to reorder songs. Finally, A checkbox allows you to determine whether or not to let other Ping users who follow you to add to the playlist.
You can also create a brand new playlist from within the iTunes Store browser, which could include items not found in your library. The link for this is found on your Ping profile page, under “My Ping Playlists” on the right. You’ll get to choose a title and a description, and add songs by searching the iTunes Store. Again, you can choose whether or not to allow others to contribute to your list.
There are a couple of limitations to the new playlist creation tools. First, if a track on your playlist isn’t available through the iTunes Store, it automatically gets removed before sharing. Just a friendly reminder from Apple that first and foremost, Ping is a sales tool. Second, you can only have up to 100 songs on a playlist. That might seem like a lot, but if you’re collaborating on an all-time “best of” list with many others, you could hit that limit quickly.
The introduction of these features is the latest in a series of indications that Apple isn’t about to just let Ping fall quietly away into obscurity and disuse. Despite the limitations I just mentioned, playlists are a nice addition to Ping that really add to its potential as a genuinely social tool. Allowing users to essentially create mixtapes will allow people to feel personally invested in how Ping is representing their musical tastes. It shows that Apple is paying close attention to what’s wrong with Ping, and devoting resources to correcting those mistakes.
Apple’s introduction of Twitter integration on Nov. 11 helped diminish Ping’s initial sense of isolation from the web and other social services, something Google Wave suffered from. And now you can search your email address books from various services to find contacts, too, making it still more likely that the average Ping user’s network will actually be a network, instead of an island with four or five residents.
Ping seemed like a total disaster when it launched, and an early fight with Facebook over service integration didn’t help that outlook. Apple may not be following my advice for how to fix Ping, but it’s doing a good job of beginning to address its shortcomings. If the company continues to focus on improvement and features that emphasize the social rather than the sales side of Ping, I think we’ll see user interest climb steadily in the new year.
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