Rest In Peace, Ping
June 14, 2012

Rest In Peace, Ping

Michael Harper for

Sadly, the most memorable thing about Ping, Apple´s (pretty terrible) foray into social will be the fact that it´s one of Apple´s very few failures. It´s often we remember things that are purely and truly terrible, (Big Trouble In Little China, St. Anger, RIM´s PlayBook) but it always stings when something is remembered for being such a magnificent and forgotten failure. Ironic, no?

And now, as Apple has been brushing up each of their products and services in preparation for something, they came across an old and dusty Ping, looked it over briefly, and have decided to chunk the thing. Good riddance.

Launched in 2010, Ping was supposed to be Apple´s entrance into the social space. The basic idea behind Ping sounded great: Share the music you love on iTunes with your friends.

Steve Jobs called it “sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes,” yet “Ping is not Facebook” and “it is not Twitter.” So what was it?

As it turns out, Ping ended up being more of a way to get iTunes users to sell music for Apple without compensation. You could “like” your music and talk about your music, but when it came time to share or recommend, your friends had to pony up the money to buy it for themselves. Not to mention Ping was built into the already crowded iTunes software and never really saw any improvements from Apple. In fact, they rarely mentioned it after the unveiling, an odd way for Apple to behave when they roll out new services.

Now, as a follow-up to Tim Cook´s statements late last month, All Things D is reporting Apple plans to remove the service altogether when it releases the newest version of iTunes this fall, likely in correspondence with iOS 6 and the new iPhone.

“We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said, 'This isn´t something that I want to put a lot of energy into," said Cook during his All Things D interview.

When asked if Ping was dead, Cook responded, “We´ll look into it.”

Suffice to say, Cook´s acknowledgement and mention of Ping was likely the first time many Ping users had even thought about the service in a year or more. Apple isn´t completely kissing off social, however. They´ve recently made announcements that they´ve partnered with Facebook and Twitter, integrating these social solutions into iOS 6 and Mountain Lion alike.

This approach to social seems like the way Apple would have approached it in the beginning. After all, they´re famous for saying things like “We think others can do it better.”

It´s interesting, then, to wonder what Jobs and Crew expected to achieve with Ping.

Only a handful of artists created – or even maintained – pages over at Ping, one feature which was supposed to bring artist and listener together. In looking at Ping now, many artists are simply forwarding their tweets to Ping rather than using it as a stand-alone service.

Plus, many music lovers have a special subset of artists known as “guilty pleasures.” Ping, on the other hand, acted like that annoying friend, quick to point out your faults and cover you in your own shame. You couldn´t simply buy a song or album in confidence from an artist you would never admit to listening to. If you bought the newest Nickelback album, there it was for all your friends to see.

On the other hand, not very many people used Ping, so perhaps your dirty little secret was safe all along.