This past spring I returned to a topic I’ve often thought about in regards to Apple, iCloud and Facebook. With the rumors that Messages was getting lots of attention I started hoping that we might see a push towards a platform that might replace Facebook. I left Facebook 8 or so years ago and as time has gone on I’m convinced that was one of the best decisions of my life. That said, most in my family and friend circles are still there so I often wonder what an alternative might look like. In particular, what might Apple do with an expansion of Messages and perhaps some new iCloud service or app?
With 2021’s updates to macOS, iOS and iPadOS we’ve now got even more cross pollination between the iCloud ecosystem via the “Shared with You” feature that connects Messages, Photos, Notes, Safari, Apple News, Podcasts and Music. Messages seems to form the basis of most if not all of the sharing. The one missing feature, when compared to social media, particularly Facebook, is any kind of persistent timeline. Often times it seems a messy substitute for a timeline is the group chat. I know for a long time we’ve had a large group family chat and several smaller such chats with subsets of people. Pinning chats helps but it can still be hard to keep track of.
Creating a timeline with Apple Notes?
I’m currently experimenting with Apple Notes as a kind of group timeline. I’ve set up a shared folder that I’ve just called “Family Stories”. I’ve invited much of the extended family to that, in particular, those that I’m closest to. I’ve written a kind of “Introduction/FAQ” note to explain the purpose of the folder of notes which is, in short, a place for any family member to post a note which might be a personal experience, story, thought or photo. The sorts of things that might be posted on social media but more personal. And while technically it’s not possible to add the kinds of comments one would find on a blog it is of course possible that thoughts, questions and comments can be added free-form at the bottom of any note. That will have the added benefit of re-surfacing older notes when or if comments or questions are added to any particular note.
While Apple Notes is not likely an app that comes to mind when we think of fun social sharing, I think the updated functionality and ease of use will lend itself to this kind of group activity and that it might serve as a kind of timeline for sharing. In particular, the new Activity sidebar will make it easier than a scrolling Messages thread to notice recent activity. The question that remains is whether or not it will prove to be sticky enough that it will become a new sharing habit that will bring folks back. My impression is that it’s a fairly popular default app – perhaps that popularity will increase the likelihood of it being used in this way?