It’s a good move by Apple to kill something that just isn’t working out. And they have the guts to admit when they screw up.
Whatever the reasons for Apple & Facebook not working out a suitable framework to integrate their ecosystems for useful social community, it’s clear that managing another profile independent from the myriad of services already available would fall into the “big fail whale” or “Johnny Come Lately” bucket.
Ping profiles (see above) looked barren, had limited engagement (above: since September 17, 2010) and offered little in terms of engagement.
Oddly, today was the first time I noticed anything related to PING within iTunes after I authorized another MacOSX laptop to access my iTunes music from iCloud. When I searched for some ambient music, I saw search results for “People” which, in all honesty, I had never seen before.
In essence, iTunes/PING was serving up “People” profiles relevant to my musical interests. Does this work, though? Yes, I can connect with REAL friends over music but random profiles? Maybe. I do realize there are some wildly popular fan clubs for bands and such but I don’t think this kind of community spawns that quickly unless it starts with friends and your social circle.
The lack of connectivity to other services and Apple’s inability to get Facebook on board, simply mean that PING was dead on arrival. In PING’s current form, the mobile features only offer an option to comment on someone’s purchase. Big deal. Boring.
Beyond editing my profile, offering reviews, finding folks with similar interests and creating PING playlists, there simply wasn’t enough to spend time in PING’s universe. A random walk through artist profile pages showed limited engagement from the artist’s too!
A single Eminem update from December 2010 isn’t going to keep fans coming back to PING.
On the other hand, Paul Hardcastle (a personal favourite!) is very active with other social platforms. He has a vibrant fan base on Facebook, shares upcoming mix edits via SoundCloud, releases “lost” mixes (the 19 mix that got him the big kahuna is way cool!) and provides twitter updates when he feels like it. No doubt, you feel more connected to the artist this way but have to follow their presence across many platforms.
Imagine if all of this could be curated within the iTunes ecosystem:
- Soundcloud mixes
- Podcasts (interviews) when available
- Live streams (interviews, concerts)
- Integrated Facebook and Twitter status messages
- Tagged photo uploads from recent concerts (a fan’s personal cloud for video, photos) from their iPhone, Instragram etc etc.
- Crowdsourced fan-generated YouTube video uploads
- Integrated live chat supporting live chat between fans
- Google Alerts-style news aggregation about the artist
- and so on..
I am sure that much of this exists in some form with other services but it didn’t exist within PING and as such, it looked like a barren wasteland. With no active artist or user participation and community content (whether artist-driven or community-driven), why would anyone spend time to add random comments about someone’s recently purchased song. Yes, I might “discover” some new music but if I have no reason to follow people and engage with them, music discovery isn’t the top priority. ;-)
Even worse, if you don’t find your friends on a service and it’s considerable work to connect with them to engage over music, that’s an uphill battle. Plus, by only offering the ability to find friends through twitter vs. the myriad of other services (non-music and music-focused), things just weren’t going to scale.
Sorry Apple. This one sucked. The best option would be to offer deep integration to the ecosystems that already have scale or you run the risk of looking like Google+. I logged into Google+ a few days ago and have seen absolutely little other than a barren wasteland with little engagement — that spells disaster to me. Especially after not logging in for more than a month. Ouch.
Oddly, one comment regarding PING’s death suggests that the service failed because it did not offer an option to be anonymous. Or to offer privacy options. This may be a valid argument…for a social community. Afterall, you may not want all your purchases (audiobooks) displayed to the community. If you’re a Harlequin audiobook listener, everyone doesn’t need to know that so giving users some options to control this would make sense. Not very well thought out Apple.
Better luck next time.
- WSJ: Apple working on streaming music, custom ‘stations’ (ipodnn.com)
- iTunes 11: What’s New (mashable.com)
- Apple To Kill Off Ping Once And For All September 30th (cultofmac.com)
- What’s New in iTunes 11, and Does it Still Suck? (gizmodo.co.uk)
- Apple officially killing Ping social network on Sept. 30 (gigaom.com)
- R.I.P. Ping (September 2010-September 2012) (allthingsd.com)