Many of you may be aware of Apple’s nascent entry into the online social networking scene, which is known as Ping. This service, not to be confused with Southwest Airlines’ DING! software that notifies prospective customers of short-term airfare discounts, is a music-based social networking system that is somewhat reminiscent of Twitter.
As Antony Bruno wrote in the September 11, 2010, issue of Billboard, however, the new service’s chances for success are uncertain. According to Bruno, the greatest challenge to Ping is that “social networking already features entrenched giants, including Facebook, Twitter and a down-but-not-out MySpace,” whose features it duplicates to a great extent (para. 5). For example, famous musicians can already discuss their personal tastes on Facebook and Twitter, as can everyone else; MySpace offers far more extensive music promotion and concert ticketing tools than any other service. While Bruno acknowledged Ping’s utility in helping pre-existing iTunes users discover new music by analyzing their friends’ consumption patterns, its limitations in attracting new users were apparent.
I am inclined to agree with this assessment. The existence of numerous other heavily-used services for this type of interaction reduces the chance that Apple can achieve a large-scale success with it this late in the game. There are only so many hours in a day; among one’s free time available for exploration of the Internet, how much of it will go to social media?
Stephens (2007) argued that in the library context, collaborative technology must add greater degrees of trust and participation to pre-existing, typically well-achieved goals of high-quality products and excellent service. Presumably, we can apply the same idea to a music store, such as the Apple iTunes Store into which Ping integrates. For the iTunes users who elect to activate Ping, the store certainly gains an added component of participation, in that Ping allows individual customers to share their purchases and reviews with friends and acquaintances. The dimension of trust in Ping, however, seems to consist primarily of the customer trusting Apple to publish his entire iTunes purchasing history. In return, Apple only entrusts the customer with the capability to publish reviews on the music store, which has always been the case, adding only a basic profile. While the participatory element will be likely to further engage iTunes users, a greater manifestation of Apple’s trust in its customers, such as allowing users to customize their published information to a greater extent, would make it more likely to attract new customers.
Bruno, A. (2010, September). Ping them bells: Apple’s jump into social networking isn’t a slam-dunk. Billboard, 122(36), 8.
Stephens, M. (2007). The ongoing web revolution. Library Technology Reports, 43(5), 10-14.