Should Apple Create a Social Network?

on April 9, 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Recently, Tim Cook gave multiple interviews on Apple’s commitment to protecting their privacy. This is part of their DNA that Steve Jobs instilled in Apple’s leadership since he came back in 1987.

Here are two key things Cook stated in his interviews on this subject:

On Apple’s recent emphasis on customer privacy

“We do think that people want us to help them keep their lives private. We see that privacy is a fundamental human right that people have. We are going to do everything that we can to help maintain that trust. …

Our view on this comes from a values point of view, not from a commercial interest point of view. Our values are that we do think that people have a right to privacy. And that our customers are not our products. We don’t collect a lot of your data and understand every detail of your life. That’s just not the business that we are in.”

On how customer purchasing history is used
“Let me be clear. If you buy something from the App Store, we do know what you bought from the App Store, obviously. We think customers are fine with that. Many customers want us to recommend an app. But what they don’t want to do, they don’t want your email to be read, and then to pick up on keywords in your email and then to use that information to then market you things on a different application that you’re using. …

If you’re in our News app, and you’re reading something, we don’t think that in the News app that we should know what you did with us on the Music app — not to trade information from app to app to app to app.”

As one who has covered Apple for decades, this privacy issue has been up front and center for Steve Jobs and Apple since Jobs returned in 1997.

Because of Apple’s business model, which focuses on products like the Mac, iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch, they are not reliant on ads to grow their business. This allows them to deliver a highly secure and private experience to those who buy and use their products and services.

Given the problems that Facebook is having and how it, Twitter and Google can only make money through ads, perhaps it is time for Apple to create their own secure private social network. Apple already has the backend infrastructure in place to support this and could charge a nominal monthly fee of perhaps $1.99 to $2.99 a month to cover adding additional back-end network infrastructure to support adding hundreds of millions of social networks users to their service/system.

I see Apple and potential users benefiting from an Apple-hosted secure private network in many ways:

  • First, a secure private social network from Apple would give anyone that uses it an ad-free, highly private social network that would allow them to interact with their friends unfettered by ads of any type. Without ads, Apple is not scraping their data, and people would be free to share things between each other without any fear of Apple or anyone else ever seeing anything posted other than the people a user allows to view their site through a friend confirmation.
  • Second, Apple already has over 1.2 billion customers around the world, and of those, 800 million have given Apple their credit card to use to pay for additional services. That is a very large base to tap into if Apple should decide to do a secure, ad-free social network of their own.
  • Third, this could entice many folks out side of the Apple eco system to join Apple’s social network just for the privacy alone and ditch Facebook completely.
    When asked what he would do if he were currently faced with the problems confronting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Cook said: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Tim Cook believes that an ad-free social network is the only way one could provide a truly secure social network. Of course, Mark Zuckerberg disagreed with Cook and called his comments “glib”. Zuckerberg thinks he can create a secure social network that he can keep free supported by ads. The Jury is still out on that one, but Apple’s main business model is selling products. They could offer a very low cost secure private social network rather easily should they see this as a real opportunity to keep people in the Apple eco-system and entice others who are not in Apple’s services and product network to join.

Will Apple do this? I would not bet against it. I have to believe that at the very least Apple’s exec’s have been discussing this. They are the only one who could deliver a private, secure social network that does not need ads to support it. And Tim Cook’s comments show he understands that value of a social network that does not use ads to support it.