Apple users have different opinions about different topics, but everyone seems to agree on one thing: Ping sucks. The iTunes-based social media effort that’s intended to create conversation among music lovers feels like trying to start a fire with wet newspaper. Where the success of social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter are now legendary in their scope, Ping has mostly failed to capture the attention or interest of the average Joe, which, for social media, is the equivalent of death by starvation. Jim Dalrymple of The Loop said it best: “I don’t think Apple knows what to do with Ping. That seems clear because users don’t know what to do with it either.”
Apple’s efforts to jump in on the social media phenomenon failed to get traction, unlike their entrance to the MP3 and mobile markets. Why? Because the inflexible, controlled, manicured experience that makes devices and interfaces a joy to use can’t be overlaid onto social media. People have to be allowed to discuss freely and personalize their experience. Though Apple allows users to enjoy modest customization such as their own friend list, Ping doesn’t offer the freedom to do much beyond saying “I bought a song and it is being enjoyed.” What’s more, celebrities and pop music artists have used Ping almost entirely as a colorless marketing system while, conversely, their Twitter presence is vibrant and personal.
Adam Haworth wrote up a pretty good manifesto of how Apple could potentially save Ping. While under no misconceptions about the service (“We all know Ping is kind of shit. Well, not kind of. It is shit.”), Haworth postulates some thought-provoking and sometimes excellent ideas about how to kickstart the sagging, sterile social media ghost town that is Ping:
[quote]The first of these amazing methods for resuscitating Ping is to integrate it. Bring something different into the concept – and that’s to open Ping up to other services. It’s generally known that Apple likes closed (sorry, Steve, it’s true, no matter how much you tried to say it wasn’t). Ping is a closed network – and unless you’re a service like Path, this won’t work. Ping is already integrated in that it spams your Twitter followers when you “like” Katy Perry, but it needs more. Let me interact with Twitter through it – not just spam my followers. It’s not interaction as such, but being able to Tweet what song I’m listening to right from Music.app would be marvellous.[/quote]
It’s a little surprising that Ping has endured as long as it has, as Apple has a history of quickly killing products and services that don’t catch on quickly, such as the G4 Cube, iTools, and numerous others (whereas Microsoft tends to hammer a crappy product mercilessly until it starts to behave, even if it takes decades). As Ping is still here, it suggests Apple may still have plans. Perhaps they’ll be listening to Adam Haworth.