Since Apple's Wednesday announcement of the social network for music, Ping, the service has been called a MySpace killer. At the core of the Apple fan boy or girl, is an ethos that Apple can and will continuously do it better than the next guy. This ethos has been built on the back of the company's ability to blow away the smartphone marketplace with one swift punch to the balls called the iPhone. As I sit with my iPhone parked next to me and my MacBook Pro at my fingertips, I certainly classify as an Apple fan girl. In Ping's case, the assumption that Apple always draws shotgun would be a mistake. In its current configuration, Ping is not and will not be a MySpace killer. Until some major problems are fixed, it will continue to live in the shadow cast by powerhouses like Pandora and MySpace.
If the principle challenge with the MySpace platform is hyper-personalization turning the site into the bedroom of an over-eager teenage girl, the problem with Ping is the insistence on an overly simple user interface. I may not need the many bells and whistles thrown at me on MySpace daily but I do need more features than Ping is offering.
Here are a few reasons why Ping won't crush my MySpace usage anytime soon:
1) What Do I Care About Most?
Photo Credit: Micki Krimmel
It's the Music Stupid.
Ping seems to think the answer to this question is the sharing of music. In actuality, I care most about the music itself. I sit writing this while listening to Arcade Fire's new album on MySpace. Currently, this band doesn't even exist on Ping. While I sit listening to The Suburbs in full, the band gets a "No Results" on Ping. Yes, yes. I know the service is still too new to accommodate the likes of indie rock but perhaps more should have been done to draw bands into the service before it was launched to the public. Mashable posted an interesting article on the challenges bands face in entering the Ping world vs. the ease at which bands enter their MySpace communities and post at will. The Ping user needs more of their favorite bands and the bands need an easier way to access the new platform.
Above the selection of bands, what I really want on a music page is...in short, music. I want to listen to full-length songs like I can on MySpace music. I can't even find any music to listen to on Lady GaGa's Ping page until I click over to the iTunes store. As we all know in the online world, and for those who don't know, shortening the click-thru stream is necessary for lazy audiences everywhere to engage with your platform. Don't make it more difficult for me to get to what I really want: the music. And once I'm finally there, I get a 30 second nugget rather than what I really want: the full song. Let's see a side-by-side Ping to MySpace comparison:
Sir Steve Jobs attracted me to the platform with his promise that 160MM global iTunes users would be there waiting for me. I fire up the upgrade, click on the attractive Ping logo with the chat bubbles and find Lady GaGa, Katy Perry, and Rick Rubin staring back at me. Now, I love the GaGa as much as the next girl, but what about my actual friends? Where are they?
Apple promised a Facebook Connect feature allowing me to easily search for my Facebook friends. Not so much... If you haven't seen the most recent press, Apple played a bit aggressively with Facebook and was denied access to the API. On Kara Swisher's blog, All Things D, she spoke to Steve Jobs moments after the Apple announcements and was told by Jobs that Facebook wanted "onerous terms that we could not agree to." In essence, when Facebook's API is called upon with over 100 million requests a day, Facebook requires a monetary agreement to handle the overload on their systems. Apple and Facebook could not come to an agreement on this and hence no Facebook for Ping.
Until this is resolved, I can only find my friends by entering in their email address one by one until I find someone. Suffice to say, this is the real "onerous" process and simply unmanageable by anyone who has a job. Yesterday, my friend from Berlin tracked me down so I officially have one real Ping friend. This is only one hiccup with the service but the most sizeable one. Until this one issue is resolved, Ping will have problems truly being a "social network for music" without connecting its 160MM worldwide users together.
3) What Type of Music Defines Me?
On the initial fire of the Ping community, you're asked to pick a collection of music which will be used on your profile to define you to your friends. I don't take this process lightly at all. Being someone who previously worked in the music industry, I take my collection and particular music taste very seriously. The user has the choice between a manual selection of music or an automatically pre-selected one chosen by an Apple algorithm. Being that this was an Apple interface, my expectation was that Apple would choose my taste better than I could possibly define my own. Yup, not the case.
Instead of looking at my music library, which would be the obvious choice, Ping seems to favor my purchased iTunes items, surfacing selections which may not be something I'd like to define my musical taste by. Selfish selection by Apple really. Imagine you buy Justin Bieber for your 12-year-old niece and all of a sudden it surfaces as your favorite music. Bieber fail. Manual entry is certainly a requirement.
**Please note: This would never happen on this MacBook of course. I wouldn't allow this sort of download on my machine. Just sayin...
4) Sharing Begins & Ends in iTunes
Hey Apple, just want to let you know about these fantastic social networks known as Facebook and Twitter. You may have heard about them? Only about 500 MM users use the first one. Just thought I'd let you know, as you seem to care not for the likes of those little guys. You may have 160 MM worldwide users but before you get on that soapbox, Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook dominion holds down 500 MM globally. When I go to "like" something in Ping, I share that like with the Ping community alone. There are currently no sharing features with Facebook, Twitter or MySpace and with that list being the three primary social networks, seems Ping is lacking a little in the "social" department. Apple seems to be acting like a possessive boyfriend with this product rather than truly building a social experience for music.
5) News Feed Overload
After seeing a recommendation from Alexandra Petsavas, my favorite music supervisor who brilliantly filled an entire episode of The O.C. with Beck B sides, I decided to download a few tracks from the Canadian band, The Acorn. Now, my entire feed is filled with my love for The Acorn even though I downloaded a few tracks off of one album. I wish there could be more control in terms of what is surfaced and what isn't. I don't need every song purchase listed in my feed especially around the holidays when I decide that The Time Life Christmas CD's are a must-have.
So is Ping the MySpace Killer? If you enjoy sitting in enclosed spaces talking to yourself about your favorite music, then yes, Ping wins.
Alright, I'm off. MySpace just threw me an "Are You Still Listening?" curve ball and I need to change this song.
We're sorry, the number you have reached is not in service at this time. Please check the number or try your call again. Telephone Lady GaGa