The launch of Ping, Apple’s new Facebook-meets-iTunes service, has once again underlined the somewhat novel idea that people want to chat and interact to a greater degree about the music they like. If it succeeds, it will be because people don’t just want access to music: they want to belong to a music community.
In making predictions, it’s wise to look to the past. The tendency towards community isn’t surprising to anybody who has watched file-sharing evolve over the past decade.
A (very) brief history of file-sharing
The first wave of file-sharing, Napster, was a lonely affair: users searched and downloaded music through the central hub with as much social interaction as a simple Google search - i.e. none. You downloaded from a computer - whether there was a person in front of it was irrelevant.