Facebook Attacks Apple in Newspaper Ads

Posted on December 16, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Uncategorized with 49 Comments

Image source: Twitter

In a bizarre move, Facebook has taken out full-page ads in major U.S. newspapers to accuse Apple of hurting small businesses. You know, like Facebook.

“We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” the Facebook ad claims. “Small business is at the core of our business. More than 10 million businesses use our advertising tools each month to find new customers, hire employees[,] and engage with their communities.” The ads appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

I’ll spare you the rest. To be clear, advertising—and the resultant tracking of people online—is what is core to Facebook’s business. And the reason Facebook is lashing out at Apple is because the consumer electronics giant belatedly enabled, in iOS 14.3, a promised platform feature that randomizes device identifiers on Apple’s devices, making it impossible for apps to silently track them as they can on the web.

Facebook’s self-serving argument is that the use of personalized ads on social media by small and medium businesses has exploded during the pandemic and that Apple’s changes will lead to a 60 percent reduction in sales for the average small business advertiser. Presumably, Facebook’s cut will be similar, though the ad curiously omits that data point.

“These changes will be devastating to small businesses,” the Facebook ad argues, “adding to the many challenges they face right now.”

Facebook previously warned investors that the coming change to iOS—originally schedule for iOS 14 in September—“could have a meaningful negative effect.” I previously cited Apple’s privacy improvements in iOS 14, including prompting users when an app tries to track them, as key benefits to this product.

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Comments (49)

49 responses to “Facebook Attacks Apple in Newspaper Ads”

  1. jimchamplin

    Why doesn’t Zuck just man up and pay the small business owners himself? If he’s so concerned, then he should do the right thing since he’s never going to be able to use all that money, he should put it to good use.

  2. reefer2

    Strange how Mark Zuckerbergs awkwardness as a person have become the whole of Facebooks corporate culture. They really have no clue just how tone deaf they are appearing, have they?

  3. mikegalos

    In reply to Jeffsters:


    Blackberry devices? They did demographics on both of them?

  4. curtisspendlove

    Hmmmm. Interesting argument.

    I get a *lot* of “sponsored content” blocks in my Facebook feed. And I don’t recall very many at all what I’d consider from small businesses.

    If I had to wager a guess, the breakdown would look something like:

    88% - wish.com

    10% - random giant streaming service

    01% - Kickstarter or indigogo fundraisers

    01% - scammy (buy this product for 10% of its normal price and get a Chinese knock-off)

  5. spiderman2

    finally after epic example, more companies start to stand up against apple bully practices

    • Paul Thurrott

      I guess. But it's not like anyone should rally behind Facebook of all companies.
    • Greg Green

      In reply to spiderman2:

      Epic’s example of selfishness was matched by facebooks example of selfishness. All three companies are working for profits.

      • Paul Thurrott

        You can't lump Epic into this mess. Epic is a good company doing the right thing. Facebook is just terrible.
        • Saarek

          In reply to paul-thurrott:

          Ah come off it Paul. Epic is a corporation that simply wants to make more money. They are not on some selfless righteous campaign to make the world all shiny and full of unicorns.

          If they happened to have a successful game store that other companies with large successful titles used you can guarantee they'd charge whatever they could get.

          No, I'm not claiming Apple is all white and shiny either. They are after all like all corporations, only interested in making as much money for their shareholders as they can.

          • nbplopes

            In reply to Saarek:

            Of course a company wants to make money. What’s wrong with that?

            Now Epic is fighting against a practice of an entity making money over goods and services not sold or delivered by the entity itself. Starting with Epic’s products and services. An example of such entity is the Apple Store! The App Stores charges for far more than apps, when they only distribute and catalogue Apps (nice catalogue by the way).

            If you make an App to sell say your yoga sessions, in no way its the App Store selling, providing or distributing them. They force you to let them distribute your app and for that matter charge you 30% of your revenue.

            Now, you may think that they aren’t forcing you ... well actually when one in two Americans use an iPhone or iPad ... you bet they are. If want to have a digital business service / product there is no customer friendly way around it. At the scale they operate, they are not longer selling Apps really, they are charging access to your customers!

            Now both MS, Amazon and Google are ok with that. Precisely because they use the same business approach ... or would like to be able to put that into practice too in the short future! So any regulation against such practice would eventually hurt them too!

            • curtisspendlove

              In reply to nbplopes:

              Now Epic is fighting against a practice of an entity making money over goods and services not sold or delivered by the entity itself.

              If Epic are such darlings of the indie studios, perhaps they should reverse their stance on not allowing indie games on their store unless they enter exclusivity agreements.

              I’ll give them credit for a far better split. But I can’t forgive them the method they use to hook game studios into their platform.

              • nbplopes

                In reply to curtisspendlove:

                If Epic Game store had a 60% market share in the mobile device scene (smartphones and tablets) you bet such practice would be frowned upon.

                But they have about 15%. At this level such practice is about differentiation.

                This is something that most people that don’t see how market share play in terms of pressure hence fail to understand its relevance case in case. These people don’t see the problem at 50% and wouldn’t see at 99%. Yet the later it would be a public Internet turned private through the use of specific devices, while banking on someone else to pay for it to work.

                PS: The aim of Exclusivity Agreements is differentiate the store from the competition. Not to hook developers. Device marketshare hooks game developers. In the case of Apple it hooks not only game developers ... but entire digital business scene. Heck, It hooks a Yoga teacher.

                Computing is not a lux, it’s a commodity.

                • curtisspendlove

                  In reply to nbplopes:

                  But they have about 15%. At this level such practice is about differentiation.

                  I’m not trying to claim it is illegal. I don’t care about legality in this particular argument.

                  The premise was raised “if Epic had a software store like Apple, Epic would be saints”.

                  My point is they do. And they are not. They are both corporations doing very similar morally-questionable things in order to make as much money as possible.

                  If they *really* wanted to be the darlings of the Game Stores and the bastion of indie developers everywhere they’d compete on being the best; not trying to lock-in.

                  “Offer your game with us. We give a better split than Steam. And we are amazing to partner with.”

                  They could offer extra incentive *if* the game studio wishes to enter into exclusivity. But that is not how their Indy contracts work. Make no mistake. They screw the little guys as hard as Apple does. They just use a different position and a bit of lube.

                • nbplopes

                  In reply to curtisspendlove:

                  I’m not trying to claim it is illegal. I don’t care about legality in this particular argument.

                  We are on the same page on this.

                  The premise was raised “if Epic had a software store like Apple, Epic would be saints”.

                  I don’t believe they are Saints either. I don’t believe any company is a Saint. 99% of companies do the right thing if that aligns to profits. In other words, for companies and their share holders the litmus test of a right thing is profit. For the rest of uss there is no relationship, well I would like to think so. In this day and age ... I believe Mr Scrooge seams to be considered the actual hero.

                  For me, doing the right thing is all about living long and prosper for man kind.

                  So taking this aside, I do think in this case Epic is banking the right cause against the App Store practice as much as Apple is banking the right cause against FB. For different reasons of course.

                  I don’t think a 30% private taxation over digital businesses just to allow them reach 50% of their customers in “equal” terms leads to a prosperity of an Industry. By the contrary, it leads to concentration ... and concentration leads inevitably to stalling innovaition and the rise of prices. In case you did not notice digital service prices have been rising as concentration develops.

                  Neither I believe that putting bugs on peoples devices without their consent do so.

                • curtisspendlove

                  In reply to nbplopes:

                  I don’t think a 30% private taxation over digital businesses just to allow them reach 50% of their customers in “equal” terms leads to a prosperity of an Industry.

                  I’d also like to see Apple lead by example and compete on benefits of their platforms. Make it worth 30%, if that is what they want to charge.

                  :: shrug ::

                  So taking this aside, I do think in this case Epic is banking the right cause against the App Store practice...

                  Yup, fair enough, for me it is just the insistence that Epic is an amazing company...David fighting Goliath. And it just isn’t the case.

                  Apple and Epic are two slightly different Goliath’s fighting against each other while stomping on a metric crap-ton of Davids.

                  (I know I have a reputation here for loving everything Apple does, but it just ain’t true. But, for me, there just aren’t better available products that do what I want, in a way that is acceptable to me. Maybe one day non-Android Linux, like Ubuntu One will sweep through and provide a better option for me; but I don’t hold my breath.)

          • curtisspendlove

            In reply to Saarek:

            If they happened to have a successful game store that other companies with large successful titles used you can guarantee they'd charge whatever they could get.

            Uhmm. I hope this is sarcasm. I’m assuming you’ve heard of the Epic Game Store, no?

            In my opinion they do worse than charge whatever they can get. They sell exclusivity in exchange for large up-front cash payouts and/or revenue guarantees.

            Unfortunately my lack of patience has caused me to buy a few games from them (I’m looking at you, Satisfactory.)

          • Paul Thurrott

            A couple of things. Corporations are designed to make money, not to be charitable organnizations. In this case, Epic is in the right. And what it is doing, and proposing for Apple, is fairer and "better" for consumers. So you can be a company and make money and be a better citizen of the world. Which is what Epic is compared to Apple, despite the latter company's hyerbolic marketing to the contrary.
            • nbplopes

              In reply to paul-thurrott:

              Its just coincidental. If Epic was in the same position as Apple would probably play the same cards. Apple is a private company operating in a public market. So as everything public, is up to regulators to assure the level of fair play for consumers sake in the medium to long run.

  6. ragingthunder

    In reply to Jeffsters:

    How many billions of cheap Android devices in India, China, Africa and Southeast Asia has this Apple data been compared to? Remove those billion devices and Apple's claim to elitism is on very thin ice. Those data look good only because Apple doesn't offer anything for the developing markets. It's laughable to compare the online shopping habits of your Vietnamese village-dwelling granny with that of the hippies of LA.

    • Saarek

      In reply to ragingthunder:

      You're right, but the average spending power of someone in the UK or the USA is usually far in excess of those you have just referenced.

      Most people in those countries cannot afford an iPhone, Mac or iPad and the chances are they aren't buying many expensive products or apps from anyone else either.

  7. nbplopes

    So FB is fighting for the right to bug users devices with no consent. How sweet.

    Tech companies have been playing over users ignorance ... It’s time to stop.

    Apple is absolutely correct on this one. Consent should be requested for every different site. No more cross domain consents like Google and FB use. Furthermore OSs should provide users with a easy way to manage their tracking consents. Say a Tracking Consent Wallet easily accessible.

    Furthermore, OS Vendor tracking should follow the same principle.


    • Saarek

      In reply to nbplopes:

      More than that, the sites should automatically default to no consent until explicitly told otherwise.

      As it stands at the moment most sites I visit ask me about cookies (and other tracking) and most hide away the decline options via hard to find sub menu's, in effect they make it as hard as possible in an effort to force me to give up and just accept. That practice should be illegal.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to Saarek:

        Consent forms should be standardized by the OS / Browser. Of course the text over what its being given consent would be provided per site as different sites and apps provide different services.

        So consents would than be more explicit and less cluttered.

  8. crunchyfrog

    That's very funny, FaceBook, the good guys.

  9. crunchyfrog

    If they really wanted to help small businesses, they'd push congress for more stimulus so they can survive these nationwide shutdowns, past and present.

  10. feek

    I seem to remember small businesses making it by without Facebook tracking users across the web and apps.

  11. txag

    You know you’re over the target when they start taking shots at you.

  12. Mcgillivray

    Facebook should cut their rates then by 60%

    They're basically saying they won't be able to supply the same level of results to customers

  13. mikegalos

    What's amusing is that, if Facebook's numbers are correct, Apple users, who are about 22% of the devices on the Internet make up 60% of sales from Internet advertising. So Apple users are roughly three times more likely to click on ads and buy things than users with other brand devices.

    FYI: The 22% figures comes from the last NetMarketShare report in October which was:

    Google: 44.79%

    Microsoft: 32.25%

    Apple: 21.99%

    Other: 0.97%

    • jmountjoy

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      I think more appropriate is the following. Assuming the figures you quoted are accurate and - for ease of maths, total income is $100 (we can just imagine the scaled up figures, but it shouldn't matter in the final result as we're using percentages - thanks for that) and "total number of users" is 100.

      Apple users account for 60% of sales, or $60.

      Apple users account for ~20% of users, or 20 users.

      Typical Apple user equates to $60/20 = $3

      Non-Apple sales is $40

      Non-Apple users is 80

      Typical Non-Apple user equates to $40/80 = $0.5

      The typical Apple user is worth 6 times the revenue of a non-Apple user.

      That's why Facebook has their panties in a bunch.

  14. jdawgnoonan

    Poor Facebook.

  15. north of 49th

    Paul, are web apps also protected? I get the sense that we are witnessing an escalation in the war on our privacy. I'm not a Facebook user and I'm glad this avenue of collecting information on people is closed (if you are using an iOS app) but I have to believe Facebook has its next options lined up.

  16. mattbg

    I get their point to some extent. Facebook is going to show me ads no matter what, because I'm not paying for their service... so now I have to see a bunch of ads that I don't care about at all rather than ads that were mildly relevant and sometimes interesting?

    However, regardless of the impact, to some extent this is free advertising for Apple. If Facebook hates you, you must be doing something right. Does anyone (or any company) at all respect Facebook at this point?

    • dashrender

      In reply to mattbg:

      I agree with jwpear - who are these people who are seeing these relevant ads? Like JW, I only see ads for things I've already searched for on Google - and then the suddenly show up all over FB - yup, super creepy dude!

      • Paul Thurrott

        Creepy and not particularly sophisticated.
      • mattbg

        In reply to Dashrender:

        To be fair to me, I did say "mildly relevant and sometimes interesting" :)

      • stephen_victor

        In reply to Dashrender:

        To anyone reading, would you all use a social platform if it had zero ads, zero tracking, zero data sharing, and no algorithm to let you see only what you actually follow? But the caveat is you only get to post/reply up to 20 times daily before having to pay a very small fee (like 2 cents per post) until the quota resets?

    • jcbeckman

      In reply to mattbg:

      You can always opt-in if that's what you want. All that's happening here is users are getting a choice. If this is so beneficial to users, then what has Facebook got to worry about?

    • jwpear

      In reply to mattbg:

      The only relevant ads I see are those for sites I've already visited on the web. All that really does, at least for me, is emphasize now creepy their tracking is. They definitely don't show me relevant local ads from small businesses, which I think is counter the the point they're trying to make here. I call BS on their claim.

    • jdawgnoonan

      In reply to mattbg:

      I prefer ads that aren't relevant to me. Ads that are obviously targeted at me make me very angry. Hell, most "targeted ads" for me turn out to be things that I have already bought, so those ads are a true waste of their customers' money. I have no sympathy for the data miners who build profiles of users to push ads at them. I use Android right now, but Facebook's letter is a huge selling point for iOS in my opinion. I also want to echo jwpear's comment above. Their targeting software obviously sucks because after I research grills I have Facebook bugging me about grills for the next week. And they are not showing me ads for the local True Value store that carries those same grills. Their ad targeting algorithms are scams.

  17. kb923689

    LMAO. Who Mark thinks he's fooling? Suffer. I want Facebook/Whatsapp/Messenger/Instagram done. Gone.

  18. rbwatson0

    And in non-related news, the Facebook app has been pulled from the Apple App store for an undisclosed violation of app store policies... /s

  19. Saarek

    It's like a Peeping Tom begging people not to shut their curtains. It's a disgusting invasion of privacy that most people are not aware of and Facebook is quite right in their assumption that no one but a fool will choose to allow the tracking to continue when Apple explains in clear and simple language what they are doing!

  20. jdawgnoonan

    The Facebook Container plugin for Firefox is a wonderful way to help further hurt Facebook's customers by denying Facebook their true product (the user's data). https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/facebook-container-prevent-facebook-tracking .

  21. RonV42

    Lets not forget how many phones include the Facebook app by default. They are the problem not Apple. Facebook has paid placement and many times cannot be removed in stock rom's.

  22. GetEdumated

    While it is hypocritical for Facebook to be raising these concerns, they make a good point that Apple is just forcing app developers to utilize revenue streams that Apple can take a cut of.