THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Boom 3D

Enjoy Immersive Audio on Your Mac


Ping: Apple’s Naive Social Demo

Last night I wrote about iTunes 10, and Apple’s problem with its flagship media management application becoming a bloat. Feature-creep, that is. The app wasn’t available yet, so I couldn’t give you my thoughts about Ping, Apple’s new attempt at social networking inside iTunes, although I already had some doubts about it. I installed iTunes 10 as it went live and immediately signed up to Ping.

Just like I expected, it’s useless.

I don’t want to discuss iTunes 10’s UI changes here, even though I really like them. Overall, I think the design team did a good job (except for those vertical buttons). More on this in another post. What I want to focus on here is Ping: it’s useless and incomplete. As it stands now, it looks like Apple tried to copy Facebook and Twitter’s best features (the stream and the following system), blend them together with some usual Cupertino awesomeness, put some typical Last.fm stuff in the mix and pretend that we wouldn’t be disappointed at all. I am disappointed by the first version of Ping. It lacks a purpose, and it doesn’t really add anything to iTunes besides another tab in the toolbar. Looks like a demo to me.

Ping lets you follow people and be followed to share your music tastes with friends. You can comment on other people’s likes and posts, you can post links to albums and songs with a brief comment. That’s it. What’s even worse is that Ping lacks any kind of notification system: I somehow managed to get 134 followers last night, many of them commented on my stuff (or at least, my attempt to post stuff) and I don’t know anything about it. I commented on some people’s “updates”, and they probably don’t know. There’s no navigation: you either open your profile or search for usernames and open other profiles. If you want to check out a posted item you’re brought to the iTunes Store.

I have the feeling Apple did this as a “nice way” to put to use their 160 million iTunes accounts and credit card data. Ping is not a social network at all: it’s a layer above Apple’s purchase system. You just comment on likes and posts, but that’s a trick: actually, you’re playing Apple’s game. You’re commenting on links to iTunes Store items, and if you’re into this thing enough you’re also gonna buy some stuff thanks to Ping. In the end, it’s about the money.

Sure, everything in the end is about the money. Every corporation wants to monetize its efforts and creations to move forward. But at least Facebook is giving us a proper structure and social graph, and Twitter is giving us realtime. You might argue this is Apple’s first attempt at social networking, so I’m not allowed to criticize. Please remember that neither Facebook or Twitter started with a 160 million userbase, and yet they both provided systems way more capable and flexible than Ping. Ping is useless right now and it looks like another lame way to grab some money from the iTunes Store.

I keep saying “is useless right now” because I’m pretty confident Apple is going to improve Ping. I mean, of course they’re going to introduce new features and improve the system. They’ll bring notifications, API and a more complex social graph to Ping. I’m just wondering: how long are users willing to wait for a better Ping to show up?

This might be Apple’s first and last attempt at social networking. Be careful, Steve.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.