SharePlay arrives, TikTok and Snap face Congress
originally published on 10/30/21
Apple SharePlay Arrives
Apple’s new FaceTime feature SharePlay wasn’t immediately available with the iOS 15 launch, as it needed a bit more polish. But with this week’s release of iOS 15.1, SharePlay — and a number of mobile app updates ready to support it — have finally arrived. The feature makes using Apple’s video calling platform more interactive and could help to potentially lock in users to Apple’s ecosystem.
As with many Apple features, SharePlay is easy to use despite the complicated technology powering the new system that runs under the hood. With the tap of a button on FaceTime’s controls, you can start sharing your device’s screen on your call or you can just switch over to the app you want to co-watch with a friend — the app alerts you upon arrival that it supports SharePlay as well as how to get started.
While screen sharing, you can view your screen or other apps together. However, you won’t have a good experience trying to co-watch videos this way due to lags. Apple also smartly blocks other viewers from seeing your incoming notifications or any kind of application pop-ups or dialogs, as they may contain sensitive information. And everything is end-to-end encrypted, so you can feel comfortable screen sharing in a business setting, not just a personal one. (And this will be further improved when SharePlay arrives on macOS Monterey later this fall.)
If anything, the biggest obstacle to using SharePlay at launch is simply availability.
Apple has a robust lineup of launch partners for the new addition — but unless you’ve happened across the App Store’s editorial round-up of SharePlay-enabled apps (do a search for “shareplay” to find it), you may not know if your favorite app is “SharePlay ready” as of yet.
Initially, SharePlay is rolling out to apps, including Apple TV+, Apple Fitness, TikTok, NBA: Live Games & Scores, Paramount+, Showtime, Kahoot!, Cameo, SmartGym, Flow, Moon FM, MUBI, Digital Concert Hall, Piano with Friends, Relax Melodies, LookUp, Heads Up!, CARROT Weather, Apollo, Night Sky and others. Disney+ will soon support SharePlay, as will ESPN, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Twitch, Pluto TV and more.
While that’s pretty decent right out of the gate, it is missing one key player: Netflix.
You have to wonder what’s going there — is it in the works? Being held back as a negotiating tactic? Is Netflix…just not interested? As you might recall, Netflix was one of the few streamers that didn’t add a native co-watching feature (or at least officially partner with another software maker) during the pandemic, while everyone else was busy building remote social experiences. Competitors like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Plex, HBO and others rolled out co-viewing experiences. But Netflix sat out the trend, despite the growing popularity of third-party co-viewing apps like Netflix Party. With Netflix’s more recent slower growth following the pandemic’s peak, you would think the company would see SharePlay as a potential source of new user acquisition.
After all, SharePlay can be used to offer a free user without an account a way to co-watch with a paid subscriber, if that’s what the developer wants. This, in turn, could then be used to push the free user to buy a subscription after some time has passed — like after they got hooked on some exclusive shows, perhaps. It seems like a no-brainer to offer support for this sort of thing — but perhaps Netflix is building out its own version where it can collect more data as a first-party experience. Time will tell.
In the meantime, the SharePlay feature could appeal to younger people who already use FaceTime the way older people use the Phone app, and who are comfortable multi-tasking on their devices…
This week, reps from TikTok, Snap and YouTube faced Congress to talk about how their apps are addressing kids and online safety as the U.S. considers legislation that would require tech companies to offer a safer environment for kids online. One of the highlights from the hearing was listening to senators try to get the companies on the record as to whether or not they support specific legislation, like the upcoming COPPA revamp, which only TikTok fully said “yes” to. When asked about the KIDS Act, which would prevent manipulative marketing (like undisclosed influencer marketing), there was less support. Companies said they would be happy to “look” at the details as if the Act was new, and not something that had already been around for a while.