Ping: The Next Big Thing?

Joe Johnson

Apple’s keynote speeches have reached almost a cult level of following, murmurings surrounding what announcements will be made by Steve Jobs at each upcoming conference reach fever pitch generating rumors about new Apple products and services that spread across the blogosphere like wildfire. Last week’s conference was no exception and the not-so revolutionary news about updates for the iPod Nano and Touch was joined by the unveiling of Apple’s new social network, Ping. The buzz surrounding Ping at present is immense and just like every other new social network that comes along, it is billed to be the ‘next big thing’.

The key difference between Ping and other current social networks of choice, Facebook and Twitter, is that Ping is only available through the Apple iTunes program and requires an iTunes account to sign up. Being part of the growing iTunes empire, Ping is also by definition, a niche network based around music, similar applications are available that allow you to build a profile around your musical preferences (Last FM) but Ping looks to build on the social aspect of this by offering a Twitter-esque follow system that enables you to keep in touch with your friends and favourite artists.

While Ping may be a godsend to music-loving networkers, it has already been receiving some criticism from detractors about being a blatant money spinner for Apple. The Facebook-style ‘news feed’ is updated whenever users purchase items from the iTunes store, leading to the inevitable conclusion that that network is simply a vehicle for Apple to drive more revenue through its iTunes store. This warrants a comparison to MySpace, which has long been an effective medium for people to explore new music and for independent artists to get themselves recognized.

So how popular will Ping be and where does it fall in the social media landscape? The popularity question has already been answered, it was reported on Monday that Ping surpassed the one million user mark just days after its debut, a promising start but Apple has some way to go to equal the 500 million user benchmark set by Facebook. Thinking of Ping as a rival for the major networks may prove to be naïve, it is much more likely that it will be used in conjunction with the established giants rather than challenge them owing to its music orientated nature. Accessibility is another issue to consider as Ping is only usable within the confines of iTunes, there is currently no mobile version.








Have you used Ping yet? Do you think it has a bright future or will it fall by the wayside like the abandoned Google Wave project?

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