Apple Ping Is Barely Half-Baked

After fighting it since the announcement, curiosity got the best of me and I turned on Ping in the new iTunes v10. I only did so after confirming that there is an easy way to turn it off, so I figure I don’t have anything to lose. After trying to use Nokia’s various Ovi services for a few years, I firmly believed that no one could release a service that was as half-baked as those, until I tried Ping.

In case you’re not technically inclined (but somehow reading my blog), Ping is billed as a social community built around music. I’ve used something similar – called Last.FM – for years. It’s really quite brilliant – you simply listen to music as you normally would, and automatically share your listening habits with your friends. They can see what you’re listening to, you can see what they’re listening to, and you can each comment on each others’ stuff. If you listen to a ton of music like I do, it’s really quite brilliant, and definitely helps me find new music when I want to.

So….Ping, then. Getting started is pretty easy – you login with your Apple iTunes account, setup a super-basic profile, including a photo, your location, a short description of yourself, and then you choose 3 of your favorite genres to start things off. Shortly thereafter, you’re taken to the recommendations screen, which for me, looked like this:

pingSo, there are 2 major things wrong with this screen:

1. Nothing in my library indicates that I should follow 50 Cent, Daddy Yankee, or Lloyd Banks. I’ve never even heard of the latter two. Out of the 1,586 artists in my iTunes library, Ping only found 37 to recommend?

2. The only ways I see to connect with my friends are by searching for them by name or by inviting them via email.

So, I have fully established contact lists on Twitter, Facebook, and Google, at the least. I’ve spent a while building these, curating these along the years. Regardless, Apple hasn’t offered me the ability to search these contact lists for other people I may know using Ping. This would be forgivable if there was an easy ‘share my profile with my friends’ link that I could post to Facebook or Twitter – no such luck.

There is a dedicated link to my Ping profile that I can share with others – mine’s here – but I had to dig around a bit for it. I can assure you my parents wouldn’t have found it, nor would most of my ‘normob’ friends – the ones interested in Ping.

Another one of the major ‘features’ of Ping is the ability to follow your favorite artist, to see what they’re up to. I can’t really think of a good reason I would want to do this, but for the sake of the experience, I’m following a few of my favorites. How do I find my favorite artists? The same way I don’t find my friends, apparently – searching one-by-one. Amazingly, Apple hasn’t built a way for me to let iTunes analyze my library to see which of my 1,586 artists have the most playcounts and then see if they’re on Ping yet.

I’m not going to give up on Ping just yet – I’ll give it a fair chance, but the first impression is pretty pathetic. It definitely feels half-baked, which is odd for Apple. I’m definitely going to keep using Last.FM – the service is too valuable for me to pretend Ping can replace it. Have you tried Ping on iTunes? What are your thoughts?

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