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Apple WWDC 2021: What publishers need to know

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off yesterday, with a keynote by Chief Executive Tim Cook. 

While WWDC is primarily a developer-focused event, it also provides an in-depth look at the future of Apple platforms, and indicates what developments are in store for the publishing community. 

After last year’s WWDC—when Apple introduced new privacy tools, including the dreaded AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework—all eyes were on Apple Park for the company’s next privacy moves, and its potential impact on publishers and advertisers.

A walk in the park, it wasn’t.

“Give users more granular control than ever before”

A year after angering software developers with new privacy features aimed at making it harder to track iPhone users’ digital footprints, Apple Inc. on Monday doubled down with even more changes that will roil the digital advertising industry.

Tim Higgins, Wall Street Journal

Apple previewed powerful new privacy protections across all its operating systems (iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8) to help users better control and manage access to their data.

The company said it would introduce additional features to help users control how their online data is used by third parties, including changes that would allow users to shut off the ability of advertisers to see if and when an email is opened through Apple’s Mail app, and to hide IP address information to prevent tracking web usage on the Safari browser. 

Apple also rolled out Hide My Email, a new spam-protection service baked into Mail, Safari, and iCloud that lets users create unique, randomized email addresses that forward to their personal inbox. Users can create an unlimited number of such randomized emails, and delete them at will.

Premium iCloud users will now be able to access the internet with a feature called Private Relay—Apple’s version of a VPN—that would block network providers from creating user profiles for tracking, using IP addresses and web usage data. It would ensure all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it, not even Apple.

The company also announced new “app privacy reports”—similar to Safari privacy reports—which will show more info about how various apps are tracking user activity, including details of what data gets sent to specific third-party trackers.

“Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.”

All of this could potentially have a massive impact on marketing campaigns from businesses, and publishers. 

The effects could be dire for the digital ad industry’s use of the iPhone. 

Tim Higgins, Wall Street Journal

For a detailed look at Apple’s new privacy protections, click here.

But enough of the doom and gloom. 

Here’s a quick look at some new innovations announced at WWDC21 that may be of interest to publishers:

Shared articles will not be forgotten

When we receive article links on our smartphones, we’re not always in a position to read them, and quite often the shared content ends up gathering digital dust. Apple has designed an innovative solution to this problem, called “Shared with you”. 

Here’s how it works.

On that note, Apple also introduced an “all-new rich results for contacts”, a Spotlight feature that offers quick access to various items related to each contact, including their shared links.

Eliminate distractions with Focus

Notifications on our phones have become a source of constant distractions, and Apple says it’s working on ways to fix that. One of these is “Focus”, which allows you granular control over notifications. 

“Focus is a new way to match your device to your current mindset,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering, said. “All you have to do is choose what you want to focus on. You can carve out time in your day for work or your personal life.”

All you have to do is choose what you want to focus on.

Craig Federighi, Apple

Here’s how it works.

Look and sound your best online 

At a time of increasing online meetings and live events, it’s imperative that we look and sound our best. Apple is pulling out all the stops to make that possible. Here’s how.

  • FaceTime will do a better job with voice isolation, cutting out distracting background noise. 
  • In cases where the opposite is required, users can turn on “wide spectrum” audio instead of voice isolation. 
  • When there are a number of people on the screen, the voice will sound like it comes from where the head is, using in-built spatial audio.
  • Now there’s Portrait mode in calls, that blurs background automatically.
  • Grid view, FaceTime links, and more…

Here’s how it works.

Universal Control: “So incredible, you just have to see it in action”

The lines between Mac and iPad are getting blurrier.

Building upon the Continuity features first introduced in OS X Yosemite, in the new macOS (Monterey) Apple is introducing a new feature called “Universal Control”. It lets users work with a single mouse and keyboard to move between iPad and Mac for a seamless experience, with no setup required. 

Universal Control automatically recognizes when a new compatible device is placed nearby, and turns the devices into one big canvas. Users can drag and drop files across multiple devices at once, making it possible, for example, to use a multi-screen setup while sketching a drawing on iPad and placing it into a CMS on Mac. 

“Universal Control is so incredible, you just have to see it in action,” says Craig Federighi.

Here’s how it works:

Developer betas for all the software have now been released, with public betas available next month.

The final versions will be released this fall.