If Apple's Ping Is Social, Then Where's My Facebook Friends?

Ping Facebook

Yesterday, Steve Jobs boasted of iTunes' 160 million users when introducing Ping, Apple's new social music network. But anyone wading into the service this morning will find an empty community save a few artists (Lady Gaga, Yo-Yo Ma) and a few potential followers (Rick Rubin). Sure, early adopters are always a small crowd—but this is Apple, not some startup. Shouldn't we expect Ping to be a vibrant social network? Shouldn't there at least be some auto-integration with my other networks, namely Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter? Apple thinks so—the company even claims that iTunes 10 users can connect to Facebook. Yet that connection is nowhere to be found. Here's why.

First off, how does one find "People" on Ping? When downloading iTunes 10, Apple suggests on its website: "Find even more music fans with a quick search, by sending email invites, or by connecting to your Facebook account." But since a Facebook account can't be connected as promised, one must depend on quick search (impossible to search for friends when they are not registered on Ping) or email invites (a pretty desperate method to finding buddies). So where did that Facebook incorporation go?

Ping iTunes

Answer: Out the door because of Facebook's demands for "onerous terms," says Steve Jobs. All Things D caught up with Jobs yesterday at the press conference, and asked why Ping didn't have Facebook sharing or linking—the process of syncing friends from another social network. Jobs explained that they had held meetings with Facebook for "a variety of unspecified partnerships" but that discussions had hit a dead-end.

Though it's unclear what Jobs meant by "onerous terms," it's possible that the talks had ended over the different usership of each service. Facebook's network is all about sharing; Ping's service is aimed at buying. That is, in order to register for Facebook, one needs an email address; in order to become a member of iTunes, one needs a credit card. Ping's central purpose is to foster more song purchases through friend and artist recommendations. The question then becomes: If Facebook allowed its users to port over to Ping, would they have to add credit card information? Would Facebook have access to this data? Does Apple even want Facebook co-opting its users (and vice-versa)?

The same can be said of other networks such as Google and Twitter—but what about MySpace? It's interesting that throughout this Facebook-Ping debacle, no one has even brought up MySpace integration. The once-popular social network made a name for itself through music and music streams, but if Ping works—providing users a streamlined social network with artists and one-stop shop for music and other media—MySpace will become irrelevant (if it isn't already). Still, it's no surprise that MySpace and Facebook are popular among record labels and artists—wouldn't an incorporation with the service instantly bolster Ping's artist social network? Currently, its artist community is limited and eclectic: U2 and Katy Perry, Linkin Park and Jack Johnson, Diddy and Taylor Swift. Wouldn't iTunes want to expand that part of its social network?

Ultimately, Ping isn't focusing on Facebook or MySpace integration as much as it is focused on selling music. Ping is an inherently store-based social network—it cannot even be accessed without first going through the iTunes store. Most importantly is iTunes' huge user-base of registered credit card members—the service boasts more than even PayPal! How many could Facebook possibly have?

Thus Ping is the more exclusive of the two social networks. And until Apple opens up its borders to other social networks such as Facebook, Gmail, MySpace, and Twitter, "exclusive" will just have to remain a euphemism for "empty."

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  • Charlotte Website Design

    It's a bit of a stretch to even consider Ping a social network, and I certainly don't foresee it ever becoming vibrant network with the popularity of Facebook or Twitter. With its rigid limitations on what users can and cannot share, the way it is structured is clearly designed to serve the interests of Apple, not its users. While it's true that Apple has a built-in potential user base of 160 million existing iTunes customers, Ping's relevance is so limited that they will inevitably lose interest quickly once the novelty of the concept wears off.

    Sharon Lane
    Fame Foundry

  • Barry Blalock

    This just might be the poorest execution of a great idea...ever. C'mon, Apple? What the french?

  • Michael Feldman

    Good article. I'd also like to point out that FB Connect was available when I first signed up for Ping. Now it is gone. Strange.

  • tdemers

    I have installed iTunes 10 and setup a Ping account. My biggest complaint is the implementation of Ping inside of iTunes. "We Recommend You Follow" includes artists I have NEVER browsed or purchased. For example, I am not a Lady Gaga fan, yet they recommend I follow her. I have no way of telling that recommendation to go away, either. That is VERY annoying.
    Ping is in its infancy, for sure, but it still seems unrefined and ill-prepared for the onslaught of users who will want to take advantage of its potential.

  • Morgan Barnhart

    I was excited about Ping, and for the most part still am, but Apple really should have considered the social network aspect before releasing it.

  • Jensen_G

    boy, it's really easy to pick on how "empty" a social network is when it isn't even 24 hours from when it was launched. Your next subject should be why you haven't seen more of the new square iPod Nanos on the subway.

  • NoahRobischon

    Ping doesn't have to be empty - if Apple allowed connections with Facebook, Twitter, and Google then it would be filling up with friends already.

  • acarr

    And there were many things Apple could've done so users didn't feel like they landed in a service all by their lonesome. As far as I can tell, the service only reached out to a few famous artists, many of which were Apple-approved (Coldplay, Jack Johnson, etc.).

    But do a search for Eminem, who will likely be the biggest-selling artist of the summer, if not the year, and what do you find? No results, right? That's pretty odd. Apple easily could've asked record labels to create profiles for, say, their top 50 artists--that would've helped the service avoid feeling so empty.

    Plus, Apple has the luxury of stealing the news-cycle -- every single blog in the world had at least two posts about the company's announcements. However, when users trickle in--long after this first 24 hours of buzz--they'll still have to blindly search for friends in hopes of finding another Ping member.

    Jensen, some of your friends may be registered right now--but how will you ever know unless you stumble across them randomly? Connection with Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, etc., could've solved that issue.

    Thanks for the comment though.

  • Tyler Gray

    This is what you get when you want a social service that doesn't put the burden on you to keep a huge swath of personal information private. I hate to sound like a fanboy here, but I'm a bare-bones Facebook and Twitter user (except, of course, for the FastCompany identities); I'm considering active use of Ping, though. That it's a bit slow to populate at first is kind of comforting. How did you meat your real-life friends? In one giant speed-friending convention? Or did you hand pick them one at a time? If Ping continues to roll out at a slow-medium pace, I'll like like (lowercase) it even more.