When Apple announced its music social networking system, Ping, I was initially intrigued. So I gave it a try. Needless to say, I was not impressed. The promise of sharing music with friends was a failed one.
The idea of cataloguing and tracking my favorite artists sounded good. If I could “favorite” my favorite bands and get updates every time they released a new album or track, that might be reason enough to engage in the service. Getting a notification of a new Mark Knofpler album or new score from one of my favorite movie composers would have been helpful.
But from the start, Ping did not even list the most famous of artists to follow, and not even Steve Job’s much-loved Bob Dylan was listed. The reasons for this are unclear. Why wouldn’t Apple simply set up pages for all artists listed in the iTunes store automatically? I could only find a dozen or so artists, and I didn’t want to follow any of them.
Further, I wasn’t able to find my friends on Ping—linking my friends list with Facebook or Twitter followers would have been a good start—but instead I had to add them one by one, and most of the time they weren’t on the service yet. To date, I’ve followed only three or four people and, worse yet, gotten absolutely nothing out of it.
Having to access Ping through iTunes rather than the Web was also bizarre. In sum, the service had almost no content to engage with, with no artists I wanted to follow, few friends to find, and all with limited accessibility.
But I was willing to give Apple some time to develop their social network and see what happened over time. After all, Facebook and Twitter took some time to ramp up their systems to become as ubiquitous as they are today, and I could grant them some leeway. It wouldn’t cost me anything to do this, either, so no harm done.
No harm, that is, until Apple released version 10 of their iTunes software, which added a Ping sidebar to iTunes streaming a bunch of content I didn’t care about, and seemingly no way to turn it off. Now Ping was invading my screen, getting in the way of the already clunky iTunes software. I just want to find my music and play it, and here was Ping shouting at me, “Use me! Use me! Use me!” and yet, with nothing to use.
So I deleted my Ping account, and all the noise—including the sidebar—went away. I imagine others are doing the same.
Ping is a huge misfire for Apple, and to say their attempt to enter the social networking space is amateur is putting it nicely. Instead of building value, Apple is trying to muscle their users into using their system, and that will no doubt backfire, as it has with me. Without content, there is nothing to consume, and continually shoving an empty plate in front of people will only hunger them to satisfy their appetites elsewhere.
This marks an opportunity for Amazon’s MP3 store, Microsoft and others to capitalize on Apple’s misfire. I imagine integrating Amazon music purchases with Facebook is in the works. The ideas inspired by integrating a music store with social networking are intriguing and lucrative, and door remains wide open for someone to come in and execute such an innovation with success. But for now, at least for me, Ping is dead.