Apple just released a new version of iTunes for Mac and PC that makes some much-needed changes to how the company integrates its social network Ping into the application. Until now, not only was Ping somewhat hidden in iTunes, but you could also only really interact with it from within the iTunes store and not from within your iTunes library. Unless your friends are compulsive music shoppers, chances are that few of them ever went through the store to mark their favorite songs. Now, however, in the new version of iTunes (10.0.1), you can very easily like songs right from within your music library and you can choose to see a sidebar with the latest activity from your Ping friends while browsing your library. Chances are that this will raise the activity level on Ping, though it remains to be seen if this will be a dramatic change.
In an ideal world – where Apple was following the Lala model it acquired not too long ago – you would be able to not just see what your friends like, but also play those songs in full once or twice. As of now, seeing your friends’ likes is great, but you can’t really do much with that knowledge unless you buy the song or album. For the most part, Ping is still too closely linked to iTunes to be genuinely useful.
For the time being, Ping is also still a completely isolated network without a connection to Facebook and Twitter. Not only is it still too hard to find your friends on Ping (due to Apple’s inability to come to an agreement with Facebook).
With this update, Apple has addressed one of the major grievances that most early users had with Ping (the inability to like items from the music library). Is that enough to breathe new life into Ping? Probably not. Until Ping is connected to other social networks, it remains a silo where you can put information in but can’t get any of it out to the rest of your friends.