- Apple is working on enhancements to iMessage that will help it compete with the more robust social networking features in Facebook's products, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
- The news comes amid increasing tensions between Apple and Facebook, with Mark Zuckerberg saying he increasingly views Apple as a major competitor.
Even though Bloomberg's report didn't specify what changes are coming to iMessage or when they're expected to launch, there are serious implications here as tensions between Apple and Facebook continue to heat up.
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already highlighted Apple's iMessage as a key example of how the two companies are increasingly becoming bitter rivals.
"iMessage is a key linchpin of their ecosystem," Zuckerberg said of Apple on Facebook's earnings call in January. "It comes pre-installed on every iPhone and they preference it with private APIs and permissions, which is why iMessage is the most used messaging service in the U.S."
So you can bet the report on those iMessage enhancements are sending the folks at Facebook into a tizzy Thursday morning.
Facebook has been focused on encrypted messaging through WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger as it looks to private communication to fuel a new wave of growth for the company. Zuckerberg announced the company's pivot to privacy in 2019, saying "I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services."
In the meantime, Apple continues to launch more privacy features on the iPhone, requiring app makers like Facebook to disclose the kind of data they collect in "nutrition labels" on each app's page in the App Store. And next week, Apple will enforce a new rule in iOS 14 that will require companies like Facebook to ask permission to track you for targeted ads. According to Apple, iMessage doesn't collect any of the data that Facebook's apps do. In Facebook's view, Apple's privacy changes are designed to favor its own privacy-focused digital services and discourage people from using apps like Facebook that slurp up your data.
In the months leading up to the iPhone change, Facebook has gone into full panic mode, waging a PR offensive against Apple's privacy policies. Facebook claims the changes will damage small businesses that rely on targeted ads to offer free services. Apple has said the change is designed to give its customers a clearer view of how apps use their personal data.
But the fact that Apple could be planning to expand iMessage's features after those privacy changes take effect is likely to spur more cries of foul play from Zuckerberg and company. And Apple will certainly pitch the new social features in iMessage as a private way to share updates, photos and videos with close friends and family.
(For what it's worth, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts over two years ago over privacy concerns and the stream of horrible content the News Feed kept showing me every day. It turns out you don't need to be part of the Facebook ecosystem to share stuff with the people you care about. Apple's iMessage is already great for that.)
And beyond that, both companies are hard at work developing the next wave of computing through augmented reality headsets and glasses that could one day eliminate the need to carry around a phone, tablet or any other gadget with a screen.
Today, the Apple and Facebook fight is all about privacy. But over the next few years, it'll be more like computing platform battles we saw in the PC versus Mac and Android versus iPhone eras. Relations between the two tech giants are only going to get more intense.