Apple's Ping is missing something

Unfair though it may be to kick a week old service, kick I shall and suggest that Apple’s Ping, the iTunes social networking service in iTunes 10 and on some iOS devices, is in its infant form, unfulfilling.

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Unfair though it may be to kick a week old service, kick I shall and suggest that Apple’s Ping, the iTunes social networking service in iTunes 10 and on some iOS devices, is in its infant form, unfulfilling. Like so:

No clear home base. When you click the Ping icon in iTunes’ Source list, where should you first go? Recent Activity? My Profile? People? Featured? It’s unclear.

Difficult to audition others. If I want to find out if users are worth following I first have to find them (know their names or find them because they follow me) and then decide whether they have anything to offer me. The only way to tell is to click through to their pages and glance at the 10 albums/tracks each likes. That’s more work than I’m willing to go through.

Cluttered pages with too little information. Regardless of which Ping area you visit, the page you view is cluttered with a lot of stuff you don’t care about. For example, when I click Recent Activity I see Apple’s Artists We Recommend You Follow, which I have no interest in as none of these artists have any relationship to the music I like. The Recent Activity area below is packed with names of people my followers are following. In most cases, this matters very little to me as well. And the thumbnail-heavy design means that information that I’d find useful is too often hidden behind a link.

No iMix support. iTunes includes the iMix feature, which lets you create a playlist and share that playlist with the world. Yet there’s no option for sharing that playlist with your Ping followers. I can think of few better ways to learn about someone’s musical tastes than to look at a list of his or her 25 favorite tracks.

No unconnected comments. I occasionally like to talk generally about musical subjects, yet Ping requires that any comments I post be linked to a song or album. I think I understand why Apple does this, it’s far too easy to jump off topic if you can post any old comment, and open comments would require some stern moderation because some people just can’t keep it civil. Still, a Report button that alerts moderators to inappropriate comments and a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy should keep things relatively clean.

No comment alerts. I have no way of knowing if someone’s posted a comment on my Ping page unless I launch iTunes and go to that page. Even then, it’s possibly buried in a place that can be revealed only when I click a Show Details link.

Tethered to iTunes. Much as I’d like to recommend King Crimson’s Red, I can’t, because King Crimson’s work isn’t available on the iTunes Store. I understand that the main mission of Ping is to encourage you to purchase more music from the Store, but limiting recommendations to the iTunes Store undercuts some of the idea behind a social network. I don’t want Apple to limit the ways in which I can be musically social.

“Easy enough for you to criticise, big boy,” I hear you saying. “What would you do differently?”

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