Despite all the hardware Apple introduced at its press event Wednesday, the most radical news was Ping, a social network for music that's launching as a feature of iTunes 10. I've taken a brief test drive of Ping to see what it's about, but even before updating iTunes, I knew Apple's new social network was not for me. Here are five reasons I won't be using Ping:
Song Samples, Not Songs
Some people have heralded Ping as MySpace's undoing, but MySpace still does one thing extremely well: it lets you listen to a handful of the artist's best or latest songs, in their entirety. Ping does not. Apple says Ping is all about finding new music, but it's also about selling you more iTunes songs. That's a hard sell when you can only listen to 30 seconds of any track.
It Runs in iTunes
At least on my PC, iTunes is an abomination. I will avoid opening it when possible because of how long it takes to load and how chunky it feels to operate, and that's not going to change because of a social network. Also, people whose work computers don't have iTunes installed won't be able to use Ping for the great American pastime of slacking off at work.
It Doesn't Run on the Web
Social networks belong on the Web, simple as that. You click on someone's Twitter account from another Web page, and you're there. You visit an outbound link from someone's status update by popping open a new tab. One step -- pressing a bookmark button or typing a URL -- is all it takes to get to the social network of your choice. All of these actions get a lot sloppier when you add another layer of software, especially the painful iTunes. Also, the lack of Web access shuts out users of Android, BlackBerry and other non-iOS smartphones. That's lame.
I Don't Care What You Like
Even among my best friends, there are only a few people whose musical tastes overlap my own. This presents a dilemma for using Ping: Ostensibly, it's a network for music discovery, so do I shut out the friends whose music I don't like, or follow everyone and try to filter out the awful stuff? This, of course, assumes my friends will even use Ping, which they won't.
More Versatile Social Networks Are Better
Steve Jobs once said that multipurpose devices will always win the day over single-purpose ones, because people don't want to pay for something that only has one function. I think the same is true of social networks. Even though people don't pay money to use Facebook or Twitter, they invest time in cultivating an online presence. Ping is another potential investment, but it's only meant for sharing music. I'd rather stick with social networks that offer much more.