One of Apple's more impressive uses of their iCloud is the Photo Stream, unveiled with iOS 5 last fall. Simply, if enabled, any photo you take on one device is automatically pushed to all your other Apple devices - no syncing necessary. Not only is the photo stream useful because it cuts the cord, but it can be a lifesaver for anyone who loses one of their devices. It's like instant backup for all of your photos. Not bad.
But while Photo Stream on its own is pretty cool, Apple may have pushed it into prime time this afternoon with the announcement of Shared Photo Streams. That's because Apple has basically just created their own little social network inside iOS, at the exact same time they add Facebook integration (funnily enough).
"Now you can share just the photos you want, with just the people you choose. Simply select photos from the Photos app, tap the Share button, choose who you want to share your photos with, and they’re on their way," says Apple about Shared Photo Streams.
So, let's say that a few of my buddies and I set up a Shared Photo Stream. Now, every image that we take and share to that stream will be able to be seen instantly by anyone using the iCloud on a device running iOS 6 or a Mac running Mountain Lion. It's like mass-texting a photo without all whole texting part.
Neat. But here's the real meat of the new features: Commenting, Liking, and Notifications.
Each person inside the shared stream group has the ability post comments and "like" every photo that pops up on the stream. Not only that, but each comments is pushed to stream members via picture notification.
And this commenting system is native to iOS 6 - it's not a feature of the Facebook integration. This is simply Apple allowing you to form your own little photo-sharing network with a few or as many close friends and family members as you see fit.
And maybe taking a little bite out of Facebook in the process.
We know that Facebook is all about the photos. It's the world's largest photo-sharing site, and that activity is the most enjoyable and interesting element of the site for millions of users. Facebook sees 250+ million photo uploads every day.
But with Shared Photo Streams, people sick of Facebook for whatever reason now have a place to have a Facebook-like photo-sharing experience complete with comments and likes - with all of their closest iOS-using pals.
Shared Photo Streams boast a couple other new elements like the fact that they don't count against your iCloud storage - or the new ability to see your photo streams on the web. But it's this comment/notification system on these streams that really makes my ears stand up, as they always do when Apple adds some sort of social features to a product. Let's just say that it sounds a whole hell of a lot more useful than Ping.