While WWDC 2022 was relatively non-disruptive for mobile growth, there's still plenty of news to cover.
If you want a full run-down with commentary, including everything we know about SKAdNetwork 4.0 and Apple's newly re-emphasized App Tracking Transparency guidance, I have two options for you:
- Watch this webinar our team at Branch hosted on Friday. It's a recap of everything you need to know, designed for quick consumption.
- Tune in for the next Mobile Dev Memo podcast episode, which will be out on Monday (watch for it in the Spotify or Apple Podcasts feeds). Eric Seufert and I went waaaay into the weeds on how everything works, and what it likely means for the future of the ecosystem.
If you prefer to get your updates directly from the source, here are the two most relevant tech sessions from WWDC:
- What's new with SKAdNetwork. All the new stuff in SKAdNetwork 4.0. While the official tech documentation has not yet been published, there's also a written summary from Apple of the new functionality here.
- Explore App Tracking Transparency. Apple's re-statement of the ATT policy, their opinion on 'separate-but-equal' attribution systems (not OK), and fingerprinting ('never allowed').
For a written technical breakdown of SKAdNetwork 4.0, the best I've seen so far is from the team at Singular. It covers all the main new pieces:
- Hierarchical Campaign (Source) IDs
- Hierarchical Conversion Values
- Coarse Grained Conversion Values
- Multiple Conversions (Postbacks)
- Support for Decreasing Conversion Values
- Mobile Web to App Support
- SKAdNetwork Testability Updates
My top-level takeaway is that SKAdNetwork 4.0 brings more data signal, in more situations, while also reducing the complexity of the system (previous versions of SKAN were somewhat over-engineered).
It's still not perfect, and there is plenty left for SKAN 5.0, but this is a big step forward.
SKAdNetwork 4.0 is a major improvement, and should finally make SKAN a lot less painful for most apps.
…but the sad part is that all of this COULD have been version 1.0, if Apple had just talked to a few people before getting started.
This is a somewhat provocative Twitter thread, and worth reading.
Apple's tech session on ATT re-emphasizes the letter of the law on fingerprinting. It mostly uses the same words that have been out there for the last two years, but I agree with this article: there are some additional nuances this time.
- 'Tracking' is not just about IDFA. ATT applies to all forms of advertising tracking, and it's not just IDFA gating (IDFA is only mentioned once in the whole session). This was always clear in the policy, but the way Apple describes it this year seems to have subtly shifted.
- No separate-but-equal systems to SKAN. Apple specifically rules out workarounds based on processing user-level data but only outputting aggregated reports. In other words, you can't create 'separate-but-equal' systems to SKAN that work without user opt-in.
- Fingerprinting is never OK. Fingerprinting is addressed head-on: Apple says it's never allowed. While there are no explicit statements about upcoming enforcement plans, it's not hard to see this as a final warning.
Ultimately, while this further elimination of ambiguity is certainly welcome, I fear it still comes without sufficient specificity to force behavior change unless Apple also starts setting enforcement precedent.
According to Mark Twain, there is no such thing as a new idea. That applies to the iOS/macOS ecosystem too.
Apple has created flexible, accessible platforms on which developers are able to build pretty much anything they can imagine (yes, I recognize the question of whether those things can survive as sustainable businesses is a different issue). This means it's basically inevitable that when Apple themselves wants to build something new, someone else will have already given it a try.
The reality of 'getting Sherlocked' is almost as old as WWDC itself, and this year is no different. It is often devastating to the developer in question, but not always — for an example of a classy response, check out this tweet from the founder of Camo, a third-party app that makes it possible to use your iPhone as a webcam through your computer…pretty much exactly what Apple introduced this week with Continuity Camera.
Finally, to wrap up the WWDC recap section, here's a nice write-up of some other interesting iOS 16 updates that could be interesting for mobile growth.