IW 50 Best: Apple's Ping Attracts Users and Critics

Sept. 8, 2010
More than 1 million users join network in less than 48 hours but not without questions from the tech community.

Apple Inc. boasted on Sept. 3 that more than 1 million users joined its Ping social network for music within 48 hours of its launch. Ping allows users to follow artists' and friends' pages where they can post pictures, videos, tour dates, comments and other relevant information.

"One-third of the people who have downloaded iTunes 10 have joined Ping," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet Services in a Sept. 3 statement. "As many more people download iTunes 10 in the coming weeks, we expect the Ping community to continue growing."

Despite the optimism, many tech bloggers and reporters say Ping has several flaws, including a bias toward major label acts, issues with spammers and poor compatibility with users' iTunes collections.

"What's the biggest problem with ping? It is fundamentally flawed because it doesn't interact with your iTunes music collection," writes Business Insider's Jay Yarrow. "It only plays nice with the limited selection of music obtained through Apple's store."

Yarrow notes that users' friends only know what they're listening to if they indicate that they "like" a particular song.

"Without the ability to actually tell our friends what we're listening to, Ping is a pretty useless service," he writes. "Without the ability to listen to all our music through Ping, like we once did with Lala, the service is decidedly weak."

Blogger Jonny Evans writes that Apple ignores independent acts and artists whose music is not for sale on iTunes, such as The Beatles.

"Apple has created a hierarchical system in which major labels sit at the top of the tree, with independents included as an afterthought, and end users like you and me (music fans) at the bottom of the pile with little in the way of posting rights," wrote Evans for Computerworld's Apple Holic blog.

CNET blogger Matt Rosoff said he was "underwhelmed" by Ping when he first accessed the site, calling it "rushed and half-finished." Like Evans, he takes Apple to task for limited music selection to iTunes.

"When you sign up for Ping, it asks you to create a profile and by default selects 10 favorite songs to display there," Rosoff writes. "But Ping doesn't gather these songs based on your ratings or frequency of playback. Instead, it sticks to songs that you've downloaded from iTunes."

Bloggers also complained that Ping was overrun by spam, but according to reports Apple has removed spam from the network.

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