Apple's iTunes Abandoning Ping, Source Confirms

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Apple is shutting down Ping, its social network and music recommendation service in the next iTunes update, according to multiple media reports and confirmed to by a source close to the situation. The attempt at a social network by the tech-giant-turned-music-distributor first debuted in September 2010, but the service fell flat and Apple has since changed its social-music strategy.

Ping still exists today in iTunes 10.6.3, but will reportedly be gone in the next release scheduled for this fall. Ping was iTunes' answer to the on-going social music dialog. The service allowed users to follow and receive updates from artists and friends, but with no Facebook authorization and an over-emphasis on driving purchases, Ping failed to inspire users to generate the activity and community required to build a successful social network. 

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In a story last January on why Ping was lagging behind Facebook, Billboard's Glenn Peoples gave three reasons why Apple's social-music initiative wasn't catching on: "For one it encompasses only a sliver of what a typical social network offers. You can't share a wide variety of items on Ping like you can on Facebook. Second, iTunes added in a social layer without fundamentally changing iTunes to be more social. iTunes users are still within a walled garden (even though they can invite their Facebook friends to join Ping). Thus, it misses what has made Facebook so successful: it's where everybody goes to hang out. Third, Ping captures only part of the online word of mouth involved with digital music. People like to share links to videos, web pages and webcaster channels -- none of which need involve iTunes.

Two weeks ago while being interviewed at D10, Apple CEO Tim Cook first hinted at the demise of Ping, saying "We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said, 'this isn't something that I want to put a lot of energy into.'" 

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Yet Cook still confirmed that Apple has not chosen to ignore social altogether. The new iOS' deep Facebook and Twitter integration, announced at Apple's WWDC conference on June 11 shows that Apple is instead choosing to partner with more established players in the social space. 

With Facebook and Twitter now an integral part of the iPhone operating system, it appears the direction Apple has chosen for social is to finally cut their losses with Ping in favor of establishing meaningful partnerships with the social networks where their users are already active. 

The story was first reported by AllThingsD.

Twitter: @wgruger