Ping was Apple’s first attempt at the social networking but it pales in comparison to what they have coming. Hidden deep in the iOS 4.3 file system is a new folder titled “Media Stream.” Within that folder is some information about “Photo Streaming.” From the looks of different alerts and plists, it appears that Apple will let iPhone users set up “Photo Streams” that friends could “subscribe” to. Also, it looks like there will be some privacy preferences related to this, so you can choose who is allowed to view your “Streams.”
With Photo Streams, you will also be allowed to “invite” other users to view your pictures as you take them and upload them to a service. This service looks like it is connected to MobileMe, and we speculate that “Media Stream” can be directly connected to “Find my Friends.” We think Find my Friends will be another aspect of Apple’s social network, a part of a free MobileMe, where you can choose to view your friends’ “Photo Streams” all on that same map. Apple has a patent on something called iGroups relating to this. This would clearly tie into the Mac and iOS photo app’s Places feature. From looking at the SDK, it looks like “Media Stream” could very well also have a plugin counterpart, like AirPlay, in 3rd party apps.
From the actual operating system, not the SDK, we could only find references and graphics relating to the “Photo Stream” feature, not the “Media Stream” feature in general. We speculate that Apple is currently working on “Media Stream” and this is going to go way beyond photos in the future. We think Apple will expand this to music and videos, maybe like AirPlay between mobile iOS devices where you can watch or listen to your friends’ media and of course Apple will provide easy buy links to iTunes.
Speculating further, the Media Stream has to be stored somewhere, it isn’t just going to live on your iOS device. We believe this is where Apple’s Cloud infrastructure comes in. Apple will likely have a Kin Studio-type (I know!) of automatic upload feature that will allow you to tag your uploads for either private or public consumption (see video above).
Going back to Find my Friends, according to some people in the know, Apple has been working on Find my Friends for quite some time and has been ready to launch at a basic stage for some time. This would be what the name implies, a map with your friends on it like Google Latitude. It looks like Apple might be waiting on Find my Friends until their dream social network is ready to launch. Perhaps with a huge cloud focus.
Why iOS 5? Well the files are pretty hidden and not as informative as other features we’ve found like the iPad 2 having dual cameras and Photo Booth coming to iOS. We also feel iOS 4.3′s launch is nearing and Apple wants to get the service working with their new North Carolina data center; we wouldn’t doubt Apple’s social being heavily cloud-based. Check out some SDK screenshots after the break. Oh, and the Kin?