It shows promise, but currently it’s awful. After using Apple’s Ping for a while now (mostly while grinding my teeth and wanting to really like it) I think that if Apple were to change course slightly and put some more development efforts behind it, it could really be something fun and useful.
Currently being accessible from within iTunes only is a severe hinderance. Most people do live in iTunes while at work, etc. when listening to their music and that which is available on a network. I have access to a world of music at work because of all of the Shared Libraries available to me. iTunes is the application open most on my desktop (except for perhaps Xcode or FlashBuilder). However I don’t want to use Ping within iTunes, I am only doing that out of necessity. It’s confining. It’s stuffy. It’s humid.
Ping really “feels” like an afterthought which has been shoehorned into the iTunes application.
“What’s the fastest way to get this service out there?”
“We could add an item in the Store grouping in iTunes and just slap the content in the pane.”
“But it looks terrible. I suppose it has to do with the Store because you can only like media that comes from there, so that kind of works. My kids are playing soccer in twenty minutes, I have to scoot. Go ahead and do that then. We’ll throw it up and see if it sticks.”
I think that I would rather have it a separate application with hooks to my own iTunes via a scripting bridge. It needs a new, usable interface. If I am in Ping and want to change the music I am listening to, why do I need to leave Ping to do so? Granted, once Ping loads it’s a quick switch between information panes, but I think Ping should enhance our experience, not be laid on top of it forcing a modal feel to it.
There is a lot of wasted white space in Ping, it doesn’t feel coherent or solid. If you want to look at laid-out content in an interface (data), it looks like swiss cheese that’s been attacked with buckshot. Over the course of a week. Unless I fullscreen iTunes on my seriously bad-boy monitors, it’s not very usable. It needs a redesign at least.
Allow others to build on the foundation. Ping would be pretty cool if it had public APIs that designers and developers could leverage in their own applications. I think this move would be most welcome and would bring a new level of use and interaction to the service. Just doing this might solve a lot of the problems people have with Ping. If Ping could integrate with other true social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) would go a long, long way in driving huge adoption. Oh, and are these “bands” validated via Apple to be the real bands?
What are my friends listening to right now? I’d love to know. Those not on the same network as me. It’s a little intrusive so an opt-in would be good. Maybe I like what they are listening to and I can like it or comment on it.
Summation. I believe that public APIs could really help Ping. Apple likes to keep certain things close to the vest however and maintains their brand in a very strong manner. Releasing public APIs might result in terrible and buggy applications… some even written in… Flash.
If Apple released iOS classes to support Ping applications, that might be easier for Apple to consider. And they could control the applications coming through the App Store. You know… I’m sure someone in some room in Cupertino has asked about this very thing. Whether or not it happens is another thing altogether. I’d like to like Ping, but at this point I just can’t. I am a fanboy, but currently not a fan of Ping.