Thursday, September 9, 2010

Second Look At Apple Ping: Not Really Social Enough

Since iTunes 10 release and Ping announcement last week, my 'social network' Google Alerts have been filled with Ping reviews. Knowing Apple's ingenious marketing team, it would not surprise me good part of these hypes are created by Apple -- especially reaching 1 million in first 48 hours. Then it got me thinking, maybe I'm getting suckered by Apple's ploy. Maybe Ping is not really a Social Network, except in Apple marketing team's list of SEO keywords to go after.

Today I had a chance to take a closer look at Ping. Ok, I open my browser, type, and ... Oh, wait. Ping is only available on iTune 10. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who got fooled as Alexa report shows +730% jump on hit in last 7 days (I have a couple of things to say about that, but I'll save it for later). But why? Why would Apple choose the name that's so easy to remember as if it would be domain name, but decided not to make it available on browser?

Before we speculate, let's dig in a little deeper. Another odd thing about Ping is the way you interact with Ping. As an ordinary user, that is anyone without million-dollar record label and without invitation from Apple to join as artist, you can only publish things in reference to artist's work. Either you like an artist, an album, a song, make a comment on promotional music video clip, or comment on someone else's following of an artist/album/song. Ping has stripped down all social interaction capability that we've grown accustomed to with Facebook and Twitter, and left bare minimum that involves artist, artists that Apple has chosen.

Now it starts to make sense a little more. Ping isn't really another social networking platform. It's not even social networking music platform where people can share music, playlist, and discover a new burgeoning artist. Instead it is a closed music shop where list of artists are picked by Apple where all activities on iTune is shared for other potential shoppers to reference.

Clearly Apple is focusing on existing iTune users (the reason for not expanding it out to browser). Apple wants to leverage social networking trends, yet does not want to jump into going head-to-head with Facebook and other music recommendation sites, such as Pandora,, and the likes. Because that would mean jumping into ad-serving business, and that's not Apple's core business. At least, not yet. Apple wants to stay in paid contents service business, operative word being 'paid'.

It will be interesting how much sustained popularity will be on Ping. The fact that it's being labeled as Social Network, I think it will have negative impact on Ping in long run unless Apple figures out a way to make it more open, such as allowing new artists to join voluntarily and letting users to recommend non-Ping-listed artists. At the moment I don't expect Ping to release API and getting mired into privacy issues.

Who's the clear winner out of all these? Of course,


  1. I don't think it's Apple's intention to create a full blown social network, or even a music niche social network. The sole reason for Ping's existence is to drive iTunes sales. I wouldn't be surprised if it expanded in the future to cover app, movies, etc. -- anything that's sold or rented via iTunes.

  2. *Nod in agreement*

    I'm impressed with Apple's marketing team to frame their new iTune feature Ping as new social network. They are getting lot of buzz in the press and blogosphere. One amusing article I saw was comparing Ping to Zune's Social feature. Well done, Apple marketing team.

  3. Hey, jhkdes, haven't seen that name in ages. I don't think Apple handpicks their artists. Pretty much anyone can upload their songs to iTunes. I haven't done it myself but I hear it's fairly easy and there are services that does the iTunes submission for you (and Rhapsody, CDBaby, etc.)

  4. jhkdes got dusted off, and it's back in business. :-)

    Yes, I think you are right in that Apple doesn't handpick artists. But it's not as open as Facebook where you can declare yourself as admin of a product. According to, you have to go through distributor to authenticate your identity. Certainly not as easy as click here to become an artist.