Apple's foray into social networks, Ping, doesn't seem quite ready for the big leagues -- especially not given the resources that Apple has and the possibilities of making something really amazing. For one, Ping's integration into the iTunes store, which has something like 160 million users, should have made it a quick starter, even if there's an opt-in requirement (and bravo for Apple for not making the Google mistake of automatically opting everyone in as Google did when they released Buzz for Gmail users). Two, a social network that centers around music has some built-in ease--people love to share info on songs and artists that they love.
But there's problems. I had some early trouble finding where to even sign on to Ping after downloading the new iTunes (it doesn't show up in the left menu until after you opt-in). Apple's now running an ad in the store, but that seems counter-intuitive, as you expect an ad to be for something you will need to pay for. After signing in, Ping tried to pick the music that I wanted to share on my profile, and could only find two things (I am truly an eclectic listener, it seems). I decided to manually add this, and discovered that I could only add what is in the iTunes store. Oh, snap. There's much more music out there than is contained in your store, Apple. Then, as for as artists and people Ping suggested I follow, I can't even remember what it showed me, but the only one I picked was producer Rick Rubin. The latter issue I'll chalk up to being an early adopter (like getting on Facebook when it was still organized just to connect university classmates).
Since then, some people have started to show up, but it's been slow. Some of that is the problem with any new social network--people are unsure of going to a party if no one else is going to be there, especially no one else that they want to talk to. I finally added another "artist" to follow today, producer Mark Ronson. (Hmm, what does it say about me that I don't follow "musicians," but I follow producers?) I've been able to find a couple of early-adopter friends, too.
But the biggest problem I'm having with Ping is contained in the iTunes software itself. I thought I would copy over some of the reviews I have written in other places into the iTunes store/Ping, so that my slow growing group of friends and acquaintances would have something to read if they clicked on my profile. Unfortunately, 80% of the time when I go to an album and click on the "write a review," iTunes hangs and doesn't actually present me the empty form field to add the review. When it does, I've discovered that there's a character limit, which at least one of the reviews I tried to copy was more than (I sometimes have logorrhea when I post, I realize--I hope it makes up for the relative infrequency of my updates).
These factors are not things that you want in a new social network. It's better to start smaller and grow the features, but every feature you implement should be rock solid and bug-free.
Google's Buzz is still there, although it hasn't been the Facebook killer people at the time thought it might be. Ping, right now, isn't even in Buzz's league.
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