iTunes Ping

iTunes Ping, or simply Ping, was a software-based, music-oriented social networking and recommender system service developed and operated by Apple Inc. It was announced and launched on September 1, 2010, as part of the tenth major release of iTunes. The service launched with 1 million members in 23 countries. The service allowed users to follow artists and see short, timely postings by both friends and artists. Ping was also accessible via iTunes for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Apple officially closed the service on September 30, 2012, and replaced it with Facebook and Twitter integration in iTunes.

After Ping’s official announcement on September 1, 2010, Karsten Manufacturing, the parent company of PING, a golfing equipment manufacturer, released a statement regarding the name of Apple’s social network, stating that Karsten Manufacturing had entered into an agreement with Apple under which Apple will use the “Ping” trademark in connection with its iTunes application. The name has also caused minor confusion as the term “to ping”, which was being used by users of Ping, is already a commonly used but unrelated computer term used in conjunction with Ping networking utility.

Ping was announced by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs as being “sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes,” but stating that “Ping is not Facebook” and “it is not Twitter,” instead describing it as “something else … all about music.” Many have speculated that Ping was meant to compete directly with the declining MySpace, which is still holding on to its existence through music.

The announcement was endorsed by both Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, who closed the event by performing “Viva La Vida” and “Yellow”, as well as an unreleased song titled “Wedding Bells”, and Lady Gaga who introduced the social network in a recorded video message that was played as part of the practical demo of the service. Lady Gaga’s pro-LGBT posts were censored from promo shots by Apple.

During Apple’s announcement of Ping, chief executive Steve Jobs gave a demo of the service in which he demonstrated the basic functionality of the service, including Facebook integration. However, shortly after Ping was released to the public, users began to report that Facebook’s social integration had been removed. Kara Swisher, technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, reported that after speaking to Steve Jobs regarding the matter, he had revealed that Facebook and Apple had failed to reach an agreement. Jobs further reported that Facebook wanted “onerous terms that [Apple] could not agree to.” However, Apple launched Ping with Facebook integration without authorization, and that subsequently, Facebook implemented a block, denying Ping access to the application programming interface (API), necessary in “linking” Facebook with Ping. The result was the inability to search for an iTunes user’s friends on Facebook who were also connected to Ping. To provide Facebook integration in Ping, Apple had to retrieve users’ information using Facebook’s API instead. Facebook provides its APIs for third parties to use for free, but “high-volume” services such as Ping that are expected to make more than 100 million information requests per 24-hour period, are required to negotiate terms of use with Facebook, in accordance to Facebook’s Developer Principles and Policies.

Twenty-four hours after the launch of Ping to the public, reports on the service flooded with spam were published. Fraudsters would create an iTunes profile and post links to a number of online scams, including those that promised “free iPhones” or “free iPads” in exchange for completing online surveys. For the most part, these suspicious links were posted in commentary sections of popular Ping artists, such as Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and U2, which were among the recommended accounts on Ping’s homepage. Security Solution Provider Sophos disagreed that Apple would not have spam or URL filtering in Ping, leaving the service open to spam. MacRumors reported that the “first wave of free iPhone spam” remained active for four hours before being disabled. PC World noted that if Sophos’s claims were correct, it would be very “surprising … since Apple seems to filter profile photos”.

On September 2, 2010, singer-songwriter Ben Folds reported via Twitter that an account had been created in his name, continuing to mention that he did not know who created it. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said he was “used to … scams like this spreading to sites like Facebook, but clearly the lack of filtering on Ping makes it a new playground. for [crooks] to operate. ”

The service was initially available in 23 countries where users have full access to the iTunes Store. As a result, users in countries with limited or no access to the iTunes Store, such as Chile, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania and India, were unable to access Ping .

Apple closed the service on September 30, 2012 and replaced it in iTunes by integrating Facebook and Twitter. Ping failed to gain much traction with the users. The social network has remained operational until iTunes 10.6.3.

Ping users could see what music their friends buy and review. Users have also received a personalized list of “charts” that showcase what other people with a similar taste in music are listening to via iTunes. In addition, users were notified of concerts their friends attended and were able to purchase tickets accordingly.

There are favorable critics of Ping. Business Insider reported that he was “impressed” and “could see using [the service] regularly.” Wired gave a favorable opinion to the service, saying that “Ping has significant advantages over other social networks focused on GigaOM wrote that it envisions Ping as “the future of social commerce.” ReadWriteWeb concluded that the service is “OK,” indicating that it has “potential.” MacTech has listed several complaints expressed by Early adopters (like Ping’s lack of podcast and iOS application integration), but ultimately concluded that the service could eventually become “a very useful social network for music junkies.” The Guardian criticized the lack of integration of existing social networks, and NowPublic continued to criticize the absence of major artists and users unable to perform “basic” social network interactions, such as updates from CNN ranked Ping as one of the top ten technological “failures” of 2010. In the same list of “top 10”, there is Apple’s iPhone 4 Antennagate, Google Buzz and Digg relaunch.

* An “active member” is defined by Apple as a user who has registered a valid payment method with its Apple ID, ie a credit or debit card.

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