We used to define schadenfreude in technology circles as the warm and fuzzy feeling you got when something bad happened to Microsoft. Now I get the same feeling when something bad happens to Apple. True, they often make it difficult to hate, particularly when they come out with some beautiful technology. But as I have stated often in these pages, one can love their designs and hate the philosophy behind it.
This week we saw the deployment of the tenth version of iTunes to correspond with the launch of a new line of iPods. The most important addition to iTunes has been the creation of a social network that lives within the Apple store called Ping (I will refrain from commenting on the fact that the Silly Names Department has taken over Apple). I turned the feature on just out of curiosity, and when I saw that they recommended Lady Gaga, I turned it back off (apparently, it recommended Lady Gaga to everyone!)
From a marketing perspective, Ping is a work of genius. Users can follow their favourite artists, and located one click away is the iTunes Store, where they can download music from their artists at the same time as they follow their updates and latest news. This joins both the immediacy one experiences through Twitter, and the social interaction and community attained by old MySpace band pages.
From a regulatory perspective, Ping is yet another example of Apple’s walled garden model, where the iTunes store acts as the filter through which you perceive the Internet. The walled garden also acts like a forbidden city, it is intended to keep out the rabble and all unsavoury content (Jobs’ now infamous line “freedom from porn“). Apple is the ultimate censor because they know better than you. If you like their shiny products (and be honest, who doesn’t?), then you will also trust them to make other decisions for you, such as the type of content you want to consume. They will give you the Internet, but it is a scrubbed-clean version, sanitised, inoculated, smut-free Internet, with no porn, no gays, and no dirty content. At the same time that they were advertising Lady Gaga through Ping, they were also filtering out controversial subjects from her news stream, such as gay marriage. You cannot have a clean, family-friendly social network that mentions dem gays, can you?
Another small wave of schadenfreude hit me when I read that one of the first things that happened to Ping was that it started filling up with spam. Let this be a lesson for you Steve, you may want to keep out the rabble, but they will win in the end. Just like zombies, they keep coming at you until you run out of ammo.