Fixing Apple’s Biggest Disaster In 2010: Ping

By James Mowery

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You’ve probably heard about Ping, right? It’s Apple’s social network for music lovers, which just so happens to be built into iTunes. Have you used it lately? I’m willing to bet that you haven’t. And if that is the case, you are not alone: I haven’t used it either. When realizing this, I thought it was weird; however, now I just accept it as it is. Ping is a huge failure.

It sounded good on paper. Apple was creating an impressive social network for music lovers. A social network that was founded on the premise of harmony and melody. As its release neared closer, the excitement grew. After all, I like keeping tabs on what my friends are listening to. So the thought that I could do this within iTunes really excited me and my friends.

In September of 2010, it finally came to be. Apple and Steve Jobs announced Ping, which integrated into the then newest version of iTunes. All of these amazing things were being said on stage: it would change how we listen and share music. So I quickly rushed to download the update and to activate Ping. I fired it up, and I was so excited — this surely had to be the Last.FM killer!

But after that initial rush, what I saw shocked me.

Disappointment Sets In

It quickly became apparent that Ping was useless. What I thought was going to be a social network for music lovers was all but disguised as one — instead, it was little more than a promotional tool to sell more music to people.

I was angered by this. I felt like I had been lied to by Apple. They didn’t create a service for me, the user. They created a service for themselves, to promote their own agenda of selling music. Sure, they have every right to do such a thing, but they also shattered my expectations. I wasn’t the only one.

So as quickly as I had signed up, added all of my friends (of which about 99% of them still have not even bothered with signing up for the service), and learned the truth about the Ping, I had quickly disregarded its existence. I no longer cared about Ping. I simply went back to Last.FM, where I realized that this is the best it is going to get for the time being.

Don’t get me wrong, every once in awhile I checked out Ping again. I looked to see if there was any activity. I never really cared about adding artists to follow — again, knowing it is more of a tool to sell us on music instead of connecting us with friends — and, therefore, I never really had any enjoyment out of it. But after numerous times of being disappointed, I simply disabled Ping altogether.

I was sure that I would never bother with it again.

A Second Chance, A Second Failure

But I was wrong again. I recently turned it back on a few weeks ago. I decided that I’d leave it on just for the hell of it. It couldn’t hurt, right? I could see if any of my friends joined and if anything would just happen. Maybe things had changed. I was going to remain optimistic!

Guess what? My optimism was quickly defeated yet again. Nothing had happened! I noticed that I could rate songs, share them, and so some other things from within iTunes, yet I had no motivation to do so. What was the point?

I mean, I know Google hasn’t had much success in the social networking department, but this was just absolutely atrocious!

What’s worse is that I don’t feel inclined to ask people on Twitter or Facebook to follow me on Ping. Every time I do I get no reception; maybe I receive one or two questions from followers asking me “what is Ping?” It’s like a ghost town, except it never had the popularity to even be referred as a town. It’s just a huge blob of disappointment. It’s an anti-social network.

We are left with a service with so much potential but so little followthrough. However, instead of complaining about it any further, I wanted to offer up a few suggestions on how to fix it — a chance for redemption, if you will.

Ping’s Redemption

The first way to go about fixing Ping is to start connecting people. Twitter integration, interestingly, won’t even work for Ping on my account. So that is already a huge detraction. However, even more importantly is that Ping connects to Facebook. Without Facebook, Ping is meaningless. So Apple needs to wheel and deal to get on Facebook’s good side to make it happen.

The next thing Apple needs to do is to make Ping about listening habits. We music lovers love to keep up with our favorite artists, but there are already many outlets to do this. What we really want to know is what our friends are listening to. From them, we can generate new ideas of what we should consider listening to. It is also fun to keep in touch, as it makes us feel more connected. After all, this is why Facebook and Twitter are so successful.

Then Apple could step it up by allowing users to share playlists. Now this is supposedly a feature that Apple recently added; however, without anyone to test it with, it is utterly useless to me. But at least Apple is headed in the right direction.

Of course, being able to share reviews is yet another important factor. This also leads into being able to recommend songs to others, which is also a good way for Apple to potentially generate more sales. Maybe Apple could encourage sharing on their own time by giving users the ability to listen to an entire song at least one time after it is recommended to them from a friend or something like that. This would be very interesting.

Finally, the most important thing Apple could do is to simply make Ping more social. It currently doesn’t feel like a social network. As I mentioned before, it feels little more than a promotional tool to sell music. If they would have created an actual social network in the first place, the popularity from the social networking portion of it could have served to sell more music on its own. However, Apple really dropped the ball and ruined a great opportunity.

Apple needs to go back to the drawing board and, above all else, keep the users in mind. Ping might be the worst idea in 2010 — there was so much promise here, but so much more disappointment than anything else.

I honestly hope that Apple can fix Ping to make it an acceptable social network for music lovers, but even though I know what needs to be done to fix it, I’m not sure if Apple has the drive to pull it off.

What do you think about Ping? Was it as big of a disappointment for you as it was for me? Sound off in the comments!

About James Mowery
James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist, entrepreneur, and Apple enthusiast who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable, Techi, and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.

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