It looks like Apple has finally picked up one of the last remaining pieces of internet property linked to one of its key service brands: the iPhone and Mac giant has quietly taken over ownership of iCloud.net, TechCrunch has learned. Subsequent to that, the small-time Asian social network that existed at the site has informed its users that it will be shutting down by the end of this month.
Contacted for this article, Apple declined to comment.
The icloud.net domain — which is now controlled by Apple — was one of the last major iCloud-based web addresses that was not owned by the company. (Perhaps the last major one? not quite, there is also iCloud.co.uk, owned by Dennis Publishing.)
In 2011, just before officially unveiling its own iCloud storage service (but after there had been leaks about its imminent arrival), Apple acquired iCloud.com from Swedish software company Xcerion, which had launched its own cloud-based storage service under that name in 2007, and in 2011 rebranded it to CloudMe. It was later confirmed in Xcerion’s accounts that Apple paid about 47 million Kroner ($5.2 million) for the domain.
Four years later, Xcerion quietly transferred the rest of its iCloud-related name holdings, covering some 170 domains, to Apple as well. Examples include iCloud.us, iCloud.eu and iCloud.tv, and ironically, I found the full list on an iCloud.net blog post — which means that you have until the end of this month to look at it if you’re curious.
The soon-to-be-gone iCloud.net social network is a cross between a pared-down blogging platform and pared-down Facebook.
Started in 2011, it’s not clear how many users iCloud.net ever had (we’ve tried to ask). “iCloud social network is a multi-purpose network platform,” the site noted on its homepage, with some typos, when it was still taking sign-ups:
“You can share your activites, pictures, music, videos, movies, write your daily blogs, and join in your favorite groups, etc..By joining iCloud.NET, you will get the latest news feeds from your friends, interact with friends and get the fun of life is our greatest expectations.”
It looks like Tong Lei, the developer behind the network, will keep other existing portals operating. They include a Bitcoin site and a search engine, and he told me, in answer to my question, that he is also planning a couponing site for Chinese consumers. No more social sites, he said.
It’s interesting to see that iCloud.net happened to be attached to a social network — albeit a very small and mostly unused one, from the looks of it — because Apple has been rumored, according to Bloomberg, to be planning to launch one or more social products sometime this year.
One possibility that Apple is working on, according to the report from August 2016, is a photo app akin to Instagram or Snapchat; another would be taking features that borrow from these two apps but incorporating them straight into Apple’s native photo app; a third would be to build more social features and social integrations into other existing Apple services, such as communications services that would unify all of your interactions, photos and other touchpoints with people into one place.
To be perfectly clear: it’s not a sure bet at all that any of these social efforts — if they ever make it out into the market — would use iCloud branding.
But should Apple choose to expand into more social or photo or information storage services under any name, the proximity of a social network called iCloud.net might be too close for comfort.
(Interesting side reading: this essay from 2014 that argues that iCloud is anti-social in its DNA.)
More generally, Apple has made no secret of how it is increasingly looking to its services business for revenue growth.
Services for Apple includes non-hardware businesses like the App Store, iCloud and Apple Music, and in the last quarter, they collectively posted $7.17 billion in sales, up 18% over the year before. Apple is aiming to double that figure in the next four years.
“We are very excited about the products in our pipeline,” CEO Tim Cook said of Apple’s services business at the end of January.