Starting this fall, the decade-long spat between Apple and Facebook will start a new chapter. And this part of the story has Apple encroaching on Facebook’s territory in ways it never has before.
On Monday, Apple revealed several new social features that will come to iPhones and iPads with the launch of iOS 15 this fall.
Soon, iPhone users will be able to hold FaceTime video calls with Android and Windows users for the first time. They will also be able to use a new feature called SharePlay, which lets you hold a FaceTime call and watch a streaming movie, listen to music, or share your screen with your contacts. IMessage is getting a boost as well, with new features that make it easier to share web links, photos, Apple Music tracks and Apple News articles with your contacts.
In short, Apple is laying the groundwork for a suite of social features designed to let you do a lot of what you would normally do on Instagram and Facebook, only with more emphasis on privacy. Think of it as a watered-down social network without all the bloat and annoying stuff you find in other apps.
It’s the kind of stuff that will drive Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg absolutely crazy.
Zuckerberg has already said he considers Apple a major competitor, largely because of apps like FaceTime and iMessage that come preinstalled on the more than 1 billion Apple gadgets in use around the world.
On top of that, Facebook late last year started an anti-Apple PR and advertising blitz over a new iOS privacy feature that limits how companies like Facebook can use your personal data to send you targeted ads. (Facebook makes most of its money from ads, and needs that targeting data for its ads to be effective.)
It’s no coincidence Zuckerberg took a swipe at the 30% fee Apple collects from many app makers on the iPhone just hours before Apple’s big event on Monday.
Apple’s new social features in iOS 15 are also coming well before Zuckerberg can complete Facebook’s pivot to privacy, which he announced more than two years ago. In Zuckerberg’s view, there will be two types of social sharing on the internet in the future: private communication, such as messaging in Facebook apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, and public communication, like posts on Instagram or the core Facebook service.
Apple’s announcements on Monday proved you don’t need Facebook for a lot of the stuff you already do on Facebook. Why log into Facebook or Instagram and give up personal data when you can just as easily share photos, messages, and videos right there in iOS 15?
If Zuckerberg was right and there will be a large swath of communication that takes place on a “privacy-focused” version of the internet, Apple has largely beaten Facebook to that future.