Will Apple's Ping go boom or bust?
Ping! It's the sound of the microwave announcing your Netto meal-for-one is heated through, apart from the bit in the middle. Ping! It's the ying to pong's yang. Ping! It's the new social network from Apple that nobody seems to like.
When Steve Jobs announced Ping at Apple's keynote on Wednesday, the emphasis was on unifying a social network that already existed. Specifically, Ping is built on top of iTunes, and iTunes has 160 million users. Of course the two statements don't equate to the same thing; Ping doesn't have 160 million users, and judging by the tepid response from the tech media and users, it's unlikely to anytime soon.
The execution has already stalled; Apple has removed existing social features such as Facebook Connect from iTunes, making it more difficult to find existing contacts. It certainly seems to be Facebook that Apple are gunning for; Jobs endlessly reiterated that iTunes had 160 million active users, an attempt to muscle in on Facebook's limelight and its 500 million global users.
Peer recommendation is a powerful sales tool, and that's the reason Apple wants to give social structure to iTunes. But iTunes customers use it for very functional behaviour; managing content, sometimes playing content and occasionally buying content. Many don't don't spend hours inside iTunes, and they don't necessarily care about anyone's musical tastes other than their own; Ping isn't a community that has been grown by individuals with a common interest, it's just there, expecting you to be part of it.
For example, compare Ping to the likes of Share My Playlists, a third party website that allows Spotify users to share playlists and engage one another. It's the users that have organically grown the community because they care to - a point well made by the site today:
So all there's that, and the fact that Ping is already filling up with spam and scams according to Web User magazine.
Will Ping ever be popular? Of course it will; it's bound to find hundreds of thousands of user simply by existing - but simply bolting on social tools to a functional piece of software feels like a massive mis-step by Apple.