Mark Zuckerberg says Apple’s app store policies are not ‘sustainable’

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Andrew Ross Sorkin speaks with Meta CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg during the New York Times DealBook Summit in the Appel Room at the Jazz At Lincoln Center on November 30, 2022 in New York City.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn’t been shy about his criticism of Facebook. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is perfectly willing to return the favor.

Speaking at The New York Times DealBook summit on Wednesday, Zuckerberg had harsh words for Apple, the most valuable American company, and the way the iPhone maker exerts control over its App Store.

“Apple has sort of singled themselves out as the only company that is trying to control unilaterally what apps get on a device,” Zuckerberg said. “I don’t think that’s a sustainable or good place to be.”

Zuckerberg made a contrast between Apple and Google. The latter lets users download apps to their Android smartphones without relying on only the Google Play store.

“They’ve always made it so you can sideload and have other app stores and work directly with phone manufacturers,” Zuckerberg said. “That’s also been our commitment in how we built up our VR and what we plan to do with our AR headsets.”

Meta’s online ad business has been badly wounded this year by Apple’s policies regarding third-party tracking. Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update makes it much harder for Facebook and other ad-supported apps to target users with advertisements.

Along with macroeconomic challenges, Apple’s changes have caused Meta to report consecutive quarters of declining revenue. The company has lost two-thirds of its value this year.

Cook has long been critical of Facebook’s business, which relies on user data, and even linked the company’s algorithmic model to violent action taken by extremist groups due to the way the app would recommend content.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that “there is a conflict of interest” with companies that “deliver their apps exclusively through platforms that are controlled by competitors.” The platform operators, Zuckerberg said, are not neutral actors but also have a lot of their own “strategic interests.”

Zuckerberg’s voice adds to an emerging conflict between Twitter and Apple. Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk claimed on Monday in a series of tweets that Apple had threatened to remove the Twitter app from the App Store as part of its app review moderation process.

Regarding Musk, Zuckerberg said “it’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out in terms of the approaches he’s taking.”

“I would guess that not everything is going to work, but I think some things might work,” Zuckerberg said.

He suggested that Musk’s on-the-fly decisions related to content moderation could face challenges.

“I tend to think that I don’t want one person or one company making those decisions, which is why we pioneered this oversight board for our content decisions,” Zuckerberg said. “People have a vehicle that they can appeal to outside of us.”

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