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But certainly a promising service with 160 million iTunes users to tap into
On the face of it, Apple's recently-launched Ping social network is a great idea - a network for purely socializing around music.
But for now, while Ping certainly looks promising, it really just looks like iTunes meets Twitter.
Still, the newest entrant into the social scene, which was announced Wednesday at Apple's big San Francisco event, is positioned to be among the biggest social networks, right from the start.
In fact, with 160 million iTunes users to tap into, Ping may be the biggest social network around a niche: music.
“iTunes is the number one music community in the world, with over 160 million iTunes users in 23 countries, and now we’re adding social networking with Ping,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO in the official release. “With Ping you can follow your favorite artists and friends and join a worldwide conversation with music’s most passionate fans.”
It's still a long way from Facebook's current 500 million user base to be the biggest network. And, of course, not all 160 million users are on Ping automatically. First, you have to make sure you have iTunes 10, the newest version of iTunes, and you have to pro-actively join. This is a big departure from another recent social media launch from an established company. When Google launched Buzz this Feburary they created a bevy of legal issues because users privacy and the fact that they had to opt out instead of opting in.
Now once you "opt-in" to join, you're asked a number of questions, like what kind of genre you like and whether you want people to follow you or not. From a privacy standpoint, that's a nice-to-have feature.
Ping will allow users to not only follow artists that they love to hear and to connect with other fans, but also to keep musically connected with the recent activity feed in Ping.
See a list of recent updates showing what friends, artists, and celebrities are up to on iTunes. The postings in the feed are generally short and Twitter like. The site also allows you to view local concert listings and tell your friends which concerts you plan to attend, that way you can get your music live too.
Ping also allows users to see a consolidated Top 10 list of the songs and albums your friends and the artists are downloading from the iTunes store. This can be very useful for users who have tastes that do not fall into the overall popularity rankings on the top 100 lists in the iTunes store.
After trying the network for myself I can tell you that it's useful. The recommendations are a lot of fun, and often much more spot on then the genius recommendations that you currently find in the iTunes store. Just be sure not to hook up with friends with wildly different tastes from your own, unless you want to broaden your auditory horizons.
And, just be aware that you follow singers and bands at your own risk.
It will change your perceptions of them, since most of them have little of relevance to say, and several of them have posts that are truly random. Unofficial celebrity stalkers may enjoy it though. Or, you may be the type that likes watching every time Lady Gaga calls her fans her "little monsters."
The iTunes 10 software isn't just to get Ping. Other added features come with the new software, such as the AirPlay wireless music playback which allows for remote speakers in conjunction with Apple’s AirPort Express® base station to play music anywhere in range. It also allows for Apples much talked about $.99 TV show rentals from companies like ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America.
The new features are also built in to the upgrade to the iTunes store for iPhone and iPod Touch that are running at least iOS 4.1.
The iTunes store update is currently available.
(Image property of Apple Inc.)
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