What to do if you receive a FaceTime link

Most business users will continue to use Zoom, Teams, and WebEx for video meetings, but once iOS 15 and macOS Monterey appear, it seems probable we’ll see some meetings that use FaceTime. What does this mean and what do you do?

FaceTime’s reach expands

Apple has at last taken a step toward breaking FaceTime out of its walled garden by enabling Windows and Android users to join a FaceTime meeting using a web browser.

“FaceTime calls also extend beyond Apple devices with the ability to create a link from iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps,” the company said when announcing the improvement.

This is a significant step, though it falls far, far short of what Steve Jobs promised in 2010 when he said FaceTime would become an “open industry standard.”

It didn’t, and while FaceTime still has a lot to offer, it has been about as much use as a chocolate teapot during the pandemic when it comes to supporting conversations between people on different platforms. No enterprise really makes serious use of it, and I know of at least one huge computer company that you might expect would use it for externally focused meetings that uses something else instead.

Zoom has become what FaceTime could have been.

What it doesn’t do

If you are using a Windows, Linux, or Android device, you cannot begin a FaceTime meeting. The new support simply means you can open a link to access a meeting started by someone on an Apple device in your browser. You also don’t get all the bells and whistles of the complete FaceTime experience.

How to create a link to a FaceTime call

Apple users can create a link to a FaceTime call from within FaceTime:

  • Open FaceTime.
  • In the conversation browser, tap Create Link. You can name that link.
  • You can then select a person to send the link to from the top row, or send the link via Messages, Mail, Twitter, or any other applications supported in the Share menu.
  • A person on an Android or Windows device will receive the link and can then access it in their browser, while an Apple user will automatically open the call up in the FaceTime app when they click.
  • FaceTime calls on the web remain end-to-end encrypted, so privacy is not compromised.

The link appears in this kind of format: https://facetime.apple.com/join followed by a very long and very complex alphanumeric hash code, which takes you to the correct meeting. You can also pop that link into calendar events.

The person who originates the meeting link can also delete it. If they do, the link will no longer work in the event someone else taps it.

How to use a FaceTime link

  • If you receive one of these links you’ll be directed to a progressive web app in your browser.
  • When you join, you’ll need to enter your name and you’ll be shown a message that tells you to wait until the call host lets you in.
  • The host of the call will be notified that you are waiting to be admitted to the chat so they can let you in.
  • While in a call, you gain access to a very limited number of FaceTime features; sadly, these don’t include any document sharing or collaboration tools. You can enter the chat in full-screen mode, show and hide video, or mute your mic.
  • Tap Leave to quit the call.

Who is this for?

If there is one good thing about this, it is that a person using an Apple device can share a FaceTime link with others using other platforms, which their contacts can subsequently use to page a call request to them. I’m not convinced how useful that might be in the long term, but it does at least mean you and your contact can engage in free video calls using your choice of device. Nevertheless, this seems to have limited use for the enterprise.

Apple is unfortunately in a position of “too little, too late” with FaceTime as a cross-platform solution, though perhaps the company now intends to create platform-specific app wrappers for its web-based solution. If it does, it’s conceivable it may find a way to make FaceTime an actively useful enterprise tool. In the current iteration, it’s just useful to know how it works.

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