So i downloaded iTunes 10 last night to play with the social networking component Ping. I didn't listen to the Apple Press Event yesterday so I didn't know what to think. I had this grand idea that it would integrate with all the other social networking sites that I frequent (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.). I also though that it was kind of weird since there are existing online music sites that have integrated social networking and have a very mature model, like LastFM. I also thought to myself that this could be something huge with the 100 Million worldwide users of iTunes. That's a huge user base to start with! With that being said, there is a very high bar for Ping to at least get close to. In the few hours that I've had to play with Ping I have to say, I don't get it. What is the point to Ping? Upon activating Ping to my iTunes account the options are very rudimentary. Basic stuff about you and what picture you want to use as your avatar is available to you. If you have an acccount, you've been asked this a Million times over.
You are then asked a simple set of questions to gauge your musical tastes. Strike 1: I can only choose 3 genres of music I like. I"m very eclectic with my choice in music. This does not set well with me. Strike 2: When asked what albums to represent the music I like, I'm limited to 10 items. This DOES allow me to get past the 3 genres failure, but I'm going to need more than a couple minutes to define myself with 10 albums. To some audiophiles, this is going to take more than a couple minutes.
Getting past the account creation part, I'm still confused by the use. In my opinion there aren't enough people that are registered on the site to get any value. I THINK the point is to find like minded people who are making reviews on the music they purchase via iTunes and befriend them because they have similar musical tastes as I do. Since the release last night, none of my Real Life friends are not on. I value their input 1st before some random person I met on the interwebs.
Getting past the Friend finder, I attempt to register for a couple artists that I want to follow. I start off with their suggestion for Dave Mathews Band. Hey, Under The Table Dreaming, was like the anthem to my 1995. My knee-jerk response is, this has potential. I can see some simple posts by the band about Tours, Music, and Videos from the band and comments from their fans. Honestly, most of the posts are pictures from their current tour. OK, this is starting to look like all the other social networking sites now. It even has it's own comment bombers that want to peddle their get-rich-quick schemes. I followed Jack Johnson as Ping suggested and I see several comments to his posts about how to get a free iPhone.
In my few hours of exposure to this feature of iTunes, I'm at a lose of how they are going to bring something new to the social networking environment. As I mentioned before there are several existing behemoths that do this job well. I'm reminded of LastFM and their format. They allow their users to discover new music, follow the artists tour schedules and even has a wiki like interface for fans to dump their knowledge about the band. LastFM also allows the users to listen for free. Apple, why didn't you just partner with them? There's an existing user base with lots of content?
That brings me to my point; this experiment into social networking via iTunes brings no value add for me. I've already spent the time on other sites like Facebook's Liked pages, MySpace Music, and LastFM to want to recreate in Ping. The current Ping user base is not very helpful and the artists that are using it are few. I think Ping might have some growing up to do before it becomes useful. I think I"ll let it sit for a month and come back to it and see what it's become.
iTunes Ping: http://www.apple.com/itunes/ping/
MySpace Music: http://www.myspace.com/music
Dave Mathews Band: http://www.davematthewsband.com/
Jack Johnson: http://jackjohnsonmusic.com/