RIP Ping: September 2010-fall 2012 | Bleader

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

RIP Ping: September 2010-fall 2012

Posted By on 06.13.12 at 03:45 PM

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This morning my MacBook's software update alerted me to the existence of iTunes 10.6.3. Reading through the list of changes, I saw that most were to make iTunes compatible with Apple's new Mountain Lion OSX and iOS 6 for iPhones and iPads, both of which were unveiled yesterday at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference; there were also a couple of minor bug fixes. I was about to tweet something about an imaginary update to iTunes ("Fixes problem where no one gives a shit about Ping"), but I decided the joke was too obvious. Then I read that this is the last version that will include Apple's misguided, terribly implemented attempt at music-based social networking, and suddenly I felt like I'd been contemplating kicking a puppy. Poor Ping, doomed as it was from the start, is now just hanging around iTunes waiting to be killed off.

While Ping was badly executed—the decision to keep it as a feature in iTunes rather than letting it out onto other platforms like Facebook was especially damaging—the idea behind it is sound. People love music and love social networking, so wouldn't everybody want a social network based on music?

The problem is that without free, full-song listening, the answer seems to be "no."

For instance, about a year ago a clever little smartphone app called SoundTracking launched, and at the beginning it looked like it could have been the Instagram of music. It would take either the info from what you were playing through your phone's music app or the results of a Shazam-like analysis of what was coming through any speakers nearby, then post it to a Twitter-like SoundTracking timeline as well as to Twitter itself. Anyone curious about one of your selections could click a link and listen to a sample—or not, depending on availability—and then click again to visit iTunes where they could buy the whole track. And of course no one wants to actually buy music, especially if more than one or two steps are involved. My SoundTracking timeline is a ghost town of abandoned accounts, a large percentage never even used to make a post.

I think there's a model for an "Instagram of music" out there waiting to be discovered, and I suspect a lot of Silicon Valley venture capitalists are hearing the words "Instagram of music" these days. But unless they can tie it to a whole bunch of free, legally kosher music—say, the Spotify catalog—I doubt they'll fare any better than Ping.

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