Apple’s Ping is a social disaster

Apple have made the jump into social networking in an unusual way. Ping is only accessible through the iTunes Store, and while Steve Jobs described it as being like Twitter and Facebook, it is in reality massively different, and in my opinion critically flawed.

Here’s what’s wrong with Ping:

Let’s start with the profile page. You can describe yourself, choose up to three musical genres you like, and add a photo. That’s it. No status updates! What’s bizarre and aggravating about that is how Katy Perry and Lady Gaga apparently can leave status updates, and have a Twitter like feed. ‘Normals’ like me can only comment on their updates. Users are second class citizens in Ping.

Ping’s next problem is that it’s such a closed system it feels claustrophobic, and this for me renders Ping utterly broken. Ping is only cares about what you’ve bought or might buy in the iTunes Store.

That’s all!

If you import a CD or MP3 you’ve bought elsewhere, Ping isn’t interested. Facebook and Twitter let me share what I want with my friends, and that’s why they work. Everything in Ping is about buying stuff in the Store.

I wouldn’t mind sharing my purchases and ratings with friends, but in a social network for music, there has to be more. I want to share what I’m listening to sometimes, as that’s more important than what I buy. Having Ping stuffed in the iTunes store and being so limited just make it look and feel like tragic marketing. I can like something in the store, but not in my library. Why not? Why can’t I choose what language Ping is in? Even clunky old MySpace lets you do that.

I love the iTunes library, I really do. As a music manager it’s unbeatable, but Ping is an absolutely terrible addition. I already have the Last.fm scrobbler, where I can share what I’m listening to, and on their site concerts and events can be created and shared by anyone. It’s a great system, and the community led, open atmosphere exposes everything that’s wrong about Ping. Ping feels led by marketers, not by its users.

Of course Apple want to make money, that’s fine. But while the high margin model works for their excellent hardware, successful social networks all have to feel free, and as if the users are number one. Apple shouldn’t let financial aims get in the way of what the community wants.

Ping is the first social network I’ve ever used that doesn’t feel social. Social networks don’t fit with the Apple ideology, because users need too much control, and control is something Steve Jobs doesn’t like to give away. With Apple, you do things their way, or not at all. For iPhones this is wonderful, but not social tools. Mark Zuckerberg certainly won’t be losing any sleep over Ping.

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