Recently Apple debuted its own social networking platform built into iTunes, which it’s calling “Ping.” As per every Apple release, its devotees are hailing it as the second coming of sliced bread. Elsewhere, Ben Parr of Mashable is heralding it as the “last nail in the coffin for MySpace“.
I’m not all that excited and here’s why:
Been There: The idea of a community built into a commerce platform has been done before. Amazon.com has long had a social networking component built around the sale of movies, music and books. The lack of novelty means they have to make up for it with functionality and thus far they’re falling far short.
Censorship/Content Limitations: If your favorite band (or TV show, or movie) isn’t on iTunes (or added to Ping) – you’re S.O.L. That means fans of the Beatles, for example, will get to share … nothing (thanks to talentless whackjob and perennial buzzkill, Yoko Ono). What about fans of bands that are no longer active, but still have a library of content (like one of my favs: Audioslave).
At the time when the independent music scene is EXPLODING (and video content is on its way: how, for example would Ping allow fans of “Auto-Tune the News” to engage?), Apple is building a castle on a foundation of sand. This is all to say nothing of Steve Jobs insistence on backwards/Victorian content limitations (ie no porn despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry, and apparently no visual depictions of great Modernist literature either).
Anemic Basis for Community: Granted they’re important to our social interactions, but music, movies, TV shows and books aren’t the end-all, be-all of social interaction. In fact, music and movies have been on the way down for some time, as video games have been on the rise. That’s to say nothing of all the other content types around which people coalesce on social networking sites. Aside from reviews, there seems to be no way to contribute original content(?)
Exclusive vs. Inclusive: Part of Apple’s business model is excluding people and locking down its tech and software with proprietary limitations. In the social networking world, that’s a prescription for failure. People want to connect. Now. Ping is limited to desktop use with iTunes, or mobile use with Apple products. That means anyone with a mobile device other than an iPhone/iPad is excluded (which is the majority of the mobile device market).
#attfail: One can imagine Ping users becoming just as frustrated as Twitter users given the inability of AT&T to keep up with demand caused by iPhones and iPads – now they’re adding even more incentive to use wireless service which will further tax an already troubled network.
I tried it out earlier and here’s a few specific problems with it:
- In your profile, it only lets you choose THREE (3) genres that you like. Seriously. (Jobs is taking this censorship thing to the limit. To which I say “c’mon fhqwhgads”).
- I can’t follow some of my favorite bands. Seriously. “They Might be Giants” isn’t available. Nor is “Green Day.”
- As I write this – my profile photo is STILL in the process of being approved. I assume this is because they send every single one to Steve Jobs personally so he can make sure they’re not “indecent” or appealing to “prurient interests” or something lame like that.
- Either the search tool sucks, or the number of artists represented is pitiful. Searches for artists I know for a fact have content on iTunes come up empty. I also see no place to create content (in the way of bands to follow if indeed that’s how they’re generated).
Update: To add insult to injury, JobsBook… err Ping is already coming under fire for being full of spam.