Apple announced a massive new service today called Ping. It appears to be a direct replacement of iLike, and it combines many of the technologies developed by Facebook, combined with Last.fm and Twitter. Most significant is that it doesn’t have any Facebook integration yet. As far as I’m concerned, Apple has also just become a direct Facebook competitor. While they don’t have the user base of Facebook, they are a force to be reckoned with and they have a platform which has already taken developers away from Facebook.
While Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and every other social competitor can claim that this isn’t a competitor, users can post photos, videos, events, and simultaneously share their music, thanks to all of their agreements that are in place. Steve Jobs called it a “social network that’s all about music”. While Facebook is not the music social network, Apple already has physical platforms (iPhone, iPods, Apple TV, and Macs) that they own which enable social interactions anywhere in the world.
I’ve written extensively about the threat that Apple presents to Facebook, including the threat against Facebook Credits. The most significant thing about Apple’s platform is that they already have payments, premium content, and 160 million users. The one thing that doesn’t exist yet is the ability to build applications that integrate with Apple’s new social network, however this is a first step and we believe this could become a much greater threat.
Granted, there are plenty of people in the world who don’t have access to Apples’ technology. However in the attention economy, the most valuable consumers will rapidly shift their attention (voting power) to Apple’s platform. This is extremely dangerous for Facebook. In the short term I’m sure we won’t see a massive shift from Facebook, however right now users will have to choose where to post their images.
In the immediate future Facebook probably won’t be affected. Additionally, if Apple ever decides to integrate into Facebook, the center of competition will revolve around who’s most effective at filtering the feed. For the time being however, Apple has become one of Facebook’s biggest threats.