Apple's Ping tops 1M users in two days, but it's no Google Buzz

Apple announced just a few hours ago that its new music-centered social network Ping has surpassed 1 million users in a mere two days.

While the announcement may seem impressive, if you consider that iTunes has over 160 million accounts tied to credit cards (and certainly a lot more if you include accounts without cards), I’m honestly surprised Apple didn’t hit the 1 million line in 24 hours.

According to Apple, one-third of people who downloaded iTunes 10 have signed up for Ping. If we’re counting 1 million users out of 3 million, Ping definitely appears to be more of a success. But it remains to be seen if that momentum will carry through as more users upgrade.

As a somewhat related comparison, Google’s Buzz social network for Gmail — which had around 170 million users at the time of Buzz’s release — saw tens of millions of users in two days. Before you accuse me of fanboyism, let me note the following: Yes, it was certainly easier for users to sign up for Buzz since it didn’t require downloading and installing new software, as well as going through a registration process. Buzz is also in no way a success for Google.

But at the same time, Buzz and Ping shared the same problem many budding social networks do — nobody knew what to do with them when they launched. Buzz was clearly a stab at Twitter-meets-Friendfeed conversations in Gmail, but aside from importing users’ current social network contributions into the service, I didn’t see many conversations actually taking place on Buzz. It was one of many services I’ve signed up for but was never motivated to continue using.

Ping suffers the same “What now?” problem. It’s easy enough to sign up for it, but afterwards you’re faced with searching for your friends, and manually finding artists that you like. Once you’re following people, you’re mainly seeing artists recommend their albums — something that fans don’t really need help with. Artists can also post photos and cute messages, but again, at this point that’s something they can do better on MySpace or Facebook.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the users who’ve signed up for Ping don’t know with what to do with it. Apple needs to get its Facebook friend importing up and running again, and clearly define what people can do with Ping if it’s going to become a thriving social network.

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