Thursday, 2 September 2010

Does Ping Pong?



After a typically cryptic invite, and much debate in the tech and music press, Apple have launched their new music-based social network, Ping, to a suitably salivating audience of tech geeks and fanboys. I'm not one of those bloggers who like to steal a march, and pretend that they have more hours in the day to sit up and review a new network and give it the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. It's too early to say whether Ping will be successful, and I'm not going to write a stunningly deferential review or a snarky obituary just yet. I'm going to have a bit more of a play with it and let you know when I feel like I can make an informed opinion.

That said - I think that Ping will fail.

Why? It's not an authentic enough experience for me.

The whole point of social media is to provide a forum for people to share experiences, to share pictures, events and music videos. Myspace put music and self-expression at the heart of it's service, and for a while, it ruled the roost, until it was usurped in the user-experience stakes by Facebook. Facebook, being an essentially silent platform, eventually added brand pages and music to their offering, allowing artists to express themselves and connect with their fans where they feel comfortable. Comfort - now there's a nice, warm, cuddly word/feeling...

Let me ask you a question - how many of you feel comfortable just hanging out in a shop?

Well, that's what Apple are asking you to do. Facebook serve advertising, but they are not primarily an eCommerce platform. Myspace have advertising and very heavy brand sponsorship, but they are not checkout heavy.

Ping is like the free coke the estate agent gives you when you come in to chat about a mortgage. They want you to, first and foremost, buy something, or go away. Sharing will always be secondary with Ping, as it's primary function is an eCommerce store.

That's not to say that eCommerce stores can't do it properly - ASOS and Amazon do a great job of creating a community that generates it's own content. They don't pressurise you into doing so, and they are honest and upfront about the fact that they are an online store.

Apple have just repackaged the iTunes store, got a few big artists on there, and yet they expect people to just blindly start using it, without asking any big, difficult, un-cuddly questions. That is not going to happen.

I love sharing content, and I love sharing information. Any site, network or service that allows me to do that is great in my book. But please, do me a favour first - declare your interests! I don't want a personal shopper, I want to share cool stuff with my friends. That's what social media, at it's very core, is all about. I certainly wouldn't say 'buy this album now', or 'listen to this thirty-second sound file THEN BUY IT'. I just want to share.

So Ping: you have a lot of questions to answer over the coming months. So get pally!

Have you used Ping yet? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below...