Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Steve Jobs on Why Facebook Is Not Part of Apple's New Ping Music Social Network: "Onerous Terms"

Yesterday, at the Apple music event in San Francisco, I had a short chat with Apple CEO Steve Jobs as he strolled through the demo room for the media, just after he had announced various updates for the iPod, Apple TV and iTunes onstage.

One of the those was the introduction of a new social network for music called Ping that Apple (AAPL) has integrated within iTunes 10 and which looks an awful lot like the experience you get on Facebook.

Essentially, it is a vertical version–in this case for music–of the powerful social networking site.

Facebook has noodled for years about creating its own social music offering, including doing a partnership with Lala, which was bought by Apple last year and shuttered in June.

But its efforts have largely gone nowhere.

And Facebook is nowhere on Ping, either. Currently, there is no linking, sharing or participation of any kind with Facebook–or Twitter or MySpace–on Ping, which will work only on the iTunes software on computers, iPhones and iPods.

When I asked Jobs about that, he said Apple had indeed held talks with Facebook about a variety of unspecified partnerships related to Ping, but the discussions went nowhere.

The reason, according to Jobs: Facebook wanted “onerous terms that we could not agree to,” related to connecting with Facebook friends on Ping.

For those who are struck by the word, the definition of onerous, according to an online dictionary: “Involving an amount of effort and difficulty that is oppressively burdensome; Involving heavy obligations.”

Jobs did not elaborate on those troublesome terms and also would not say if Ping would incorporate connecting with Facebook or even using Facebook Connect–which would make it much easier to find friends to share music with.

“We could, I guess,” he shrugged.

And when I asked how to find friends, Jobs offered, noting iTunes had 160 million users across the globe: “You can type their names into search or send them emails inviting them to join.”

Okay, although being more open would work too!

As MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka noted:

“Maybe Apple plans on joining the rest of the Web, via an open API that will let Facebook, Twitter et al–maybe even the to-be-launched Google (GOOG) music service–play nicely with Ping. We’ll see.”

Facebook–including some execs who are definitely irked about how closely Ping resembles Facebook, right down to the blue color scheme–hopes so.

Consider the statement issued by Facebook to me–after attempts to get it verbally failed, due ironically to several dropped connections on the iPhone of the exec I spoke to:

“Facebook believes in connecting people with their interests and we’ve partnered with innovative developers around the world who share this vision. Facebook and Apple have cooperated successfully in the past to offer people great social experiences and we look forward to doing so in the future.”

In other words: Zing, Ping.

UPDATE: Oddly enough, a Facebook connection feature appeared to be in Ping when some signed up–not for me–as noted by Cult of Mac. And Silicon Alley Insider’s Dan Frommer even spotted the wording in Jobs’s stage presentation. I have an email into Apple PR asking for a comment on the change.

In any case, at the Apple event, Jobs told me he had great hopes for the social music service, adding that Ping could be the most significant thing to come out of yesterday’s announcements.

But soon enough he moved right on to the new iPods, declaring enthusiastically: “Isn’t the nano amazing?”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald