Ping Pongs: What They’re Saying About iTunes’ Social Upgrade

Ping, the social network Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) announced on Wednesday it’s injecting in to iTunes, is rudimentary, buggy in parts and is deterring many first-time users by recommending they listen to Apple’s hand-picked selection of mainstream chart-toppers.

iTunes 9 does not recognize the upgraded version 10 is available, meaning users must manually download the new one. When installed, many people are reporting errors whilst uploading a profile picture, and they’re complaining that Apple’s “Artists We Recommend You Follow” section suggests Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and U2.

It’s understandable that Apple has pre-populated the network, on its first day, with suggested artists to follow. But that’s the first piece of real estate users are going to see, and undermines the “social network” proposition a little, particularly for indie music snobs. It also makes total sense why Apple would show taste-makers like KCRW DJ Jason Bentley under a “People We Recommend You Follow” section; Bentley was the first person I followed.

But it’s these artists and tastemakers Ping seems geared toward, in the same way that Twitter thinks many newbies will immediately seek out celebs or its Who To Follow section. The “social network” proposition in Ping that would connect users is more muted.

The main social expressions – “liking” and “posting” about favored music – must be executed from within iTunes Store, rather than from Ping itself or from your iTunes Library, where you will naturally already have music that you like. Apple could have done so much better by integrating these functions more closely with the library. But then, the aim here is getting people to buy more music.

So Ping still could mean a small sales hike in track sales, which can be made right from friends’ expressions of love for a song. But any big-time potential looks likely to be necessary through iteration, rather than in the immediate term.