In Sign of Ping Flop, Apple Pleads for Users

Apple's trying to get the word out about Ping, the iTunes-based social network that launched in September.

The outreach, according to Boy Genius Report, entails an e-mail blast to Apple customers. "Ping already has millions of users--including 2000 artists--and is growing fast," the note says. "Fast" is relative, of course, and the "millions" could include people like me, who tried Ping once and promptly forgot about it. BGR notes that Apple doesn't often send e-mails to remind users about successful products.

There are a lot of reasons I don't use Ping, but the e-mail points to the social network's biggest problem: It's isolated from the rest of the world.

To access Ping, you must use iTunes, and iTunes is a sluggish pain on a Windows PC. That's more than 90 percent of the market right there. There's an iPhone app, but no support for Android, Blackberry, or other platforms.

More importantly, Ping has no hooks on the Web.If you're on Twitter or Facebook, have you ever seen someone say, "Check out this band; here's their Ping page?" Said artist probably has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page already, so what's the point?

Even the artists who embraced Ping at launch seem to have forgotten about it. Lady Gaga, who promoted Ping during Apple's September music event, populates her homepage with Twitter posts, and I can't find a single link to her presence on Ping. Her status updates on Ping are copy-and-pasted from Twitter, but less frequently. Dave Matthews Band's last Ping post was on October 14, compared to November 3 on Twitter.

Because Ping is invisible to Web browsers, and therefore can't participate with the rest of the Internet, it's not as desirable as other social networks. And because Apple's endgame for Ping is to sell more songs on iTunes, I don't see Ping gaining traction unless a Web-based iTunes becomes reality, no matter how many e-mail blasts Apple sends.

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