Ping in iTunes 10 review: The pong of failure

Ping is the new music-based social network in iTunes, but it's still empty of social butterflies and already full of spam, without any way to find the good stuff

Ping is pants. The new social network that Apple has added to iTunes 10 offers to link you up with your mates, and with musical celebs, to share and comment on your favourite tunes. So far, so good. But a social network has to be social, and Ping isn't. 

We never thought we'd ask for more Facebook 

Firstly, there's no one on it. Fair enough, Ping just came out this week , and you could argue that people haven't had a chance to sign up. But Spotify launched a similar feature in April, and it shows all the areas that Apple has gone wrong. Like iTunes, most of us here in CNET UK towers have Spotify installed. And with Spotify, we were up and running, hooked up with our mates and sharing playlists within minutes of updating to the new version of the software. How we laughed as our happy hardcore and Canadian lady-folk mingled over the Interwebs!

The special sauce that made that happen is Facebook integration. Whether you love it or loathe it, the fact is that Facebook has taken over the world, and everyone and their mother is on it . That meant that ten seconds after logging onto our Facebook accounts in Spotify, we were connected with our mates and their music.

Despite showing off the same feature in its launch demo , and still claiming it in its help pages, Apple pulled support for Facebook at the last minute. Apple says that Facebook had onerous conditions, but we wonder if Ping's very familiar-looking blue-and-white interface may have gotten Facebook's knickers in a knot.

The lack of Facebook integration means that the only way you can connect with your friends in Ping is to take a stab at searching for them, or spam them with invites over email. Twitter, another network mentioned in Apple's launch dance, is similarly absent from Ping.

Rickrolled by iTunes 

But who needs friends when you have celebrities? Apple trotted out pants-sporting Lady Gaga and adorable-but-off-key Chris Martin during its launch, suggesting that you can use Ping to follow the agent-approved antics of your favourite musicians. But there's not even enough of these self-promoters to go around. That means Ping recommends that you follow the same handful of showoffs -- so it's the aforementioned Gaga and Coldplay for you, me and everyone, whether they reflect our music selection or not.

Tumbleweeds and spam 

If you do find a musician that you want to follow, the comments are already overrun with 'free iPhone' spam. We fully accept that it takes time for social networks to warm up, but with 144,000 people following the Gagatron, there should be more than tumbleweeds and spam.

Since iTunes is a store -- not a streaming music service, like Spotify or last.fm -- even if one of your non-existent friends does recommend a song, you can only listen to a short preview of it. You'll have to open your wallet to hear the whole thing, and where's the fun in that?

Lipstick on a pig 

To top it all off, we're using iTunes 10 on a Windows PC, and it's slow as molasses in January. We wish that Apple had thrown its developers at making iTunes faster and more reliable, rather than working on Ping. 

We're not ones to whinge about Apple stuff being crap just because it lacks features. Apple has proven again and again -- most recently with the iPhone and the iPad -- that if something is fun and easy to use, as long as it does the basics, it doesn't have to have every feature in the world. But Ping isn't fun, it's just flat.

A social network based around music is a great idea, and it's nothing new -- take a bow, last.fm , MySpace , mflow, and Spotify, among others. Apple is usually good at polishing up existing ideas to make them more fun and usable. But iTunes is diabolical to start with, and Ping is a dismal addition. 

Do you agree that Ping sucks? Or are you communing with Lady Gaga as we speak? Let us know in the comments -- or ping us on Ping, if you can find us.

 

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