in Misc., Tech

Why MySpace & Last.fm shouldn’t be scared of iTunes Ping, unless Apple fix it

A much debated topic in recent days has uprisen following Jobs’ announcement of iTunes 10 and its social music network dubbed Ping. When Steve took the stage September 1st 2010, I tweeted my thoughts on iTunes Ping, praising Apple for finally doing what Last.fm had been missing all these years: adding status updates a la Twitter, letting users and artists share content, hype and thoughts. I spoke too soon…

A quick download and install later, I was introduced to iTunes 10. I’ve had a week to digest the user interface of iTunes’ tenth instalment and although I was heavily disappointed by the updated grey scaled theme, I understand fully why Apple have taken such an approach, a choice they’ve made several times before (menu bars and the apple logo are all greyed out in the latest OS X releases). Colours grab one’s attention easily, so by greying out unimportant icons the user can be thought to more easily navigate the content they care about. UI dislikes aside, my biggest letdown is Apple’s take on a social music network.

So why create a social music network?  Remember, Apple already tackled the recommendations aspect in iTunes 8, allowing users to find similar songs both in their library and in the iTunes store through their Genious feature. Well, that’s only half the business. Most humans want to interact with other humans, regardless of a digital firewall. That’s where iTunes Ping should shine right? At least that’s the idea of Ping, showing you what your friends are “talking about, listening to, and downloading”. Unfortunately, it’s simply done it wrong. 

Unlike Last.fm, Ping has no way of recommending relevant people to you. Their recommended Artists and People seem to be a completely random mix of mainstream populars and staff picks. 

Unlike MySpace, Ping has very limited networking features. No importing of contacts, no direct messaging, no external API. The list goes on…

Unlike Twitter, Ping only allows artists to post any type of content, whether it be photos, pictures or text. The end user can only share albums and likes onto their stream, but even that feature is overestimated as it can only exclusively be used within the iTunes store, not with your purchased or imported music in your library.

Ping, why can’t I see what my friends are listening to? Why can’t I share a song specifically to just one user? Why can’t I share an album that’s not available in the iTunes store? Why can’t I import facebook/twitter contacts? The list of disappointments could go on endless, so I’ll quickly finish of with a few recommendations I believe could vastly improve the user experience of iTunes Ping.

  • Let me see what my friends are listening to. I thought this was the entire point of a social music network!
  • Allow status updates and other social networking features. Expand your commenting system and allow for simply features that most other social network have.
  • Recommend me people who have similar music taste, not random people I don’t care about.
  • Open up a Like and Share API. Artists can already sell iTunes music on their personal websites, so why not let users Like and Share albums straight from a bands website, rather than just through Ping?
  • Don’t focus on commerce. I know you’re running a business, but the it’s oh so obvious that your focus is on milking consumers rather than giving them a social music discovery tool

What do you think? Leave your comments below! I’m curious as to where Apple are taking this. I see a potentially huge social network, but only if they execute well.

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