One of my favourite things about Skype is an option that let’s you set your mood message to display instead what is currently playing in your iTunes library. It’s laughably simply, but it has been a conversation starter more times than I care to remember and a source of some great musical discoveries. Naturally, when Apple announced Ping, its’ music themed social network, I was excited merely for the potential.
Today, 8 months into the service’s existance, I tweeted this:
iTunes, can you drop Ping already?
It was a hasty judgement, written out of both frustration and disappointment at what Ping is today. Perhaps a better statement would have been:
iTunes, can Ping stop being Facebook already?
iTunes, make me WANT to use Ping already.
The idea of Ping is a good one. So here are some things I’d like to see more of, and less of, from iTunes “social network”.
More Than Just Music
Ping needs to be more than just music. If your sitting in front of your Apple TV, why not be able to see what movies your friends have seen? Forgot the title of the book your supposed to read for class? No worries. Fire up the iBooks store, browse to your Ping section and figure out what book your classmates are currently reading they all mysteriously purchased around the same time. Wondering what weather app Ben Brooks is using currently? Why not check out his recommendations directly from the App Store?
Music is as good a place to start as any, but Ping could really take off if it were to be integrated into everything sold though the iTunes and App store ecosystem. While you might not care for the musical tastes of some of the people you follow, you might however prefer to know what apps they use for writing, or what is currently on their digital nightstand.
It could all be seamless, from whatever Apple device you’re using. An Apple TV would show you only the Ping messages related to movies and TV shows, for example. Same for books and apps. Simple
Apple is probably hard at work on this. It’s an obvious way to boost sales. For the user, it’s the ultimate mixtape club. Hopefully, we’ll see this arrive sooner rather than later.
Less of Everything Else
Unfortunately, Ping’s current implementation is overreaching. It tries too hard to be an actual social network. Here is a brief list of the essential functionality Ping needs:
1. Show you what your friends bought, listened to or liked.
Everything else needs to go, including(but not limited to):
1.The ability to make comments.
2. Your entire profile page within the iTunes store.
3. Artist Pages littered with show dates, obtuse PR messages and lots and lots of spam.
If you want to keep up with the adventures of your favourite bands, or make clever comments about your friends’ preference for Dave Matthews Band, that’s what Facebook is for. Or Myspace. Or Twitter. What Ping wants to be is something a ton of other services are already providing in bigger and better ways. It’s extra work that almost assuredly turns people off immediately. It’s just not something Apple should be pursuing.
So What Does Less Look Like?
Integration across the entire Apple product line and iTunes ecosystem. Remove the profile page and everything that comes along with it. Replace it with a preference pane in the iTunes store that let’s you set what you want Ping to broadcast to followers and make a list of recommendations for media and apps. When browsing the iTunes or App store, the Ping category should just show your friends’ recent activity and things they liked, within the context of what you’re browsing. Clicking on a link from this list takes you to the appropriate page to make a purchase. Clicking on your friends’ picture icon opens a new page, showing their recommendations for the appropriate media.
Nothing Else. Simple like the Skype display. Infinitely more useful.