Today in Apple history: Ping social network fails to strike a chord

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Ping iTunes
Apple's music social network starts strong but fails fast.
Photo: Apple

September 1: Today in Apple history: Apple's Ping social network fails to strike a chord September 1, 2010: Apple’s new music-focused social network, Ping, ships as part of iTunes 10. Apple says the service will let users discover new music and more easily follow their favorite artists.

Ping racks up 1 million signups in the first 48 hours. Nevertheless, Apple’s social network is doomed from the start.

Ping is poised to succeed

Apple previously dabbled in social networking (it was the first significant tech company to advertise on Facebook). But Ping was Apple’s first attempt at actually launching its own social network.

Aside from following artists, the service let users post thoughts and opinions. Anyone could share details about favorite albums and songs. Plus, they could view concert listings and tell friends about upcoming shows they planned to attend.

“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,” Steve Jobs said in a press release. “With Ping you can follow your favorite artists and friends and join a worldwide conversation with music’s most passionate fans.”

In some ways, Apple seemed perfectly poised to launch a music-focused social network. The company projected a cool, youthful image. Plus, it benefited from brand-loyal customers, wide reach, good standing in the music community and — thanks to its success with iTunes and the iPod — a history of delivering music-related tech in a way that other companies failed to do.

Ping never gained traction

Early on, Apple experienced significant success with Ping. However, things went downhill after Apple crowed about the 1 million users who signed up in the first 48 hours.

To start with, Ping did not exemplify Apple design at its best. It proved too fiddly to use, and felt less like a true social network than an attempt to sell music by adding a veneer of interaction on top of the iTunes Music Store.

Plus, Ping lacked Facebook integration due to a (never entirely explained) breakdown in negotiations between the two companies.

Ultimately, it became another failed attempt by Apple to enter the internet services space (following its failed MobileMe experiment).

The writing was on the wall for Ping from early 2012, when Tim Cook discussed the service’s lack of traction at the All Things Digital conference. “We tried Ping and the customer voted and said, ‘This isn’t something I want to put a lot of energy into,'” he said. “Some customers love it, but there’s not a huge number that do, so will we kill it? I don’t know. I’ll look at it.”

He also noted that Apple didn’t “need to have a social network.”

Apple shut down Ping on September 30, 2012.

Do you remember Ping? Leave your comments below.