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jueves, 2 de septiembre de 2010

Apple’s ‘Ping’ Social Network Is Already Too Big to Fail

Apple audaciously seems to think the world actually needs another social network — one that you even need special software to be part of, to boot. With the introduction Wednesday of ‘Ping,” a music-centered community that exists only within iTunes, they are probably right — and then some.
Ping could easily be the opening gambit in a bid to create a wider network around the other premium creative content available through iTunes — movies, TV shows, books and other print media.

At Apple’s annual music event in San Francisco CEO Steve Jobs described “Ping,” part of the iTunes 10 upgrade coming soon, as “sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes.”

Even the occasionally hyperbolic Jobs may be selling it short. Sight unseen, we’d say Ping — a computer term for making contact — will be more like “Twitter meets Facebook at’s and Rdio’s shared apartment to plan MySpace’s funeral.”

Jobs is correct to compare Ping to Facebook and Twitter, because its settings for deciding who can follow you borrow from both of those well-established networks. You can choose to approve followers and post listening habits to a limited “circle of friends,” the way Facebook lets you, or you can permit anyone at all to follow you, as in Twitter.

But unlike the wide-open spaces of Facebook and Twitter, Ping’s single-minded purpose is to create conversations (and commerce) around music. It watches what you play within iTunes or on your iPhone/iPod Touch, the better to create a profile of your tastes — precisely as has done for years with its audioscrobbler plug-in. And in addition to offering customized social music charts that show each user what their friends are listening to (and buying the most) Ping presents that activity to others in a news stream — exactly as Rdio does for music.

If Ping tells you that all your friends are buying and listening to the new Ceelo single (NSFW audio, text), you might be more likely to snap it up yourself. And when you do, you’ll probably use iTunes’ 1-click purchasing feature, because you already have the program open — and it likely already has your credit card billing information, due to a previous purchase.

As for the MySpace part of our equation? That site is still quite useful for listening to obscure bands but has been largely been replaced by Twitter as a tool for artists to communicate with their fans — something Jobs hopes they will start doing with Ping. They will, if they know what’s good for their pocketbooks: Anywhere a track is mentioned, there is a way to buy it from iTunes. If the main conversation between artist and fan takes place within the iTunes store, a lot more music will probably be discovered and sold in what amounts to a gigantic point-of-sale emporium.

MySpace has been on life support for years, and Ping could finally deliver the coup de grace.

At the outset, Ping will lack a location component — currently the hot topic in social networking because it lets friends track each other in real space and helps advertisers target them more specifically. But location could be coming to Ping, which also runs on the location-aware iPhone. In addition, iTunes 10 alerts you when the artists you listen to the most are set to play a concert in your area. And as NYU’s Dave Winer pointed out, it’s likely that Apple Stores will have Ping profiles, so that you can follow them the way you would Lady Gaga, forming another cornerstone of an eventual Ping location feature.

Ping has significant advantages against other music-oriented social networks, such as Rdio and, which must fight desperately to make an impression on users who already have Facebook and Twitter accounts. And because iTunes is already built around commerce, Ping launches with access to the 160 million-plus credit card numbers already stored there from people who have already bought something — something that Twitter and Facebook lack.

Ping could easily be the opening gambit in a bid to create a wider network around the other premium creative content available through iTunes — movies, TV shows, books and other print media. After all, the iPod started out music-only as well, and now its high-end model does almost everything an iPhone does.

What is the potential upside? Apple recently counted over 150 million active customers of its iTunes store, which Jobs said Wednesday has sold downloaded 11.7 billion songs, 450 million television shows, 100 million movies, and 35 million books. So far.

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