Imagine buying a new iPhone and deciding to set it up from scratch instead of restoring an old backup. What’s the first app you download? For many people, it’s probably Gmail, Amazon, or Netflix. Beyond that, it would seem logical to look for suggestions in the App Store, right?
Apple, in fact, has a list of “must have” apps in the App Store. If you’re just starting out or looking for apps that Apple thinks will add value to your experience on an iPhone, there’s a list for that. Of course, since it’s organized, it’s not necessarily a list of the most popular downloads. This is the list of apps that the iPhone maker thinks every user should install.
Interestingly, three apps are missing from the list: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. That’s a pretty big omission considering each of these apps have over a billion users and are arguably the most popular app in their respective categories.
Of course, all three apps are also owned by Meta, which used to be called Facebook before the company thought changing the name would help deflect all the negative attention it’s getting. We’ll ignore, for now, the fact that the reason it’s getting so much negative attention isn’t because of its name.
Rather, it’s because of its behavior – like the way it tracks pretty much everything you do online and then uses that information to show you ads, for example. Apple, on the other hand, insists that it does not collect or share user data with third parties, and often talks about how it regards privacy as a “basic human right”.
Last year, Apple made changes to iOS, the software that powers the iPhone, that requires developers to seek permission before being allowed to track users. This has hurt Facebook’s business. At the time, the world’s largest social media platform ran full-page ads in major newspapers warning that Apple posed a threat to the open internet and was intentionally harming small businesses.
Hyperbole aside, it’s fair to say that the two companies aren’t exactly friends. Which explains why Apple isn’t particularly interested in encouraging people to download Facebook, no matter how many people will anyway.
As if that wasn’t proof enough of how Apple feels, the top four apps on the list are Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and Google. If you make a list of Facebook’s top four competitors, it’s that list. Also included are Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitch, and a handful of streaming services (but not Netflix or Spotify).
There are two lessons here, and I think both are important. The first is that Facebook has a much bigger problem than the company wants to admit. Changing his name didn’t change anything that was wrong with Facebook. It may still be popular, but Apple would much rather you didn’t install it on your device. It can’t stop you from doing it, but it certainly won’t encourage you either.
I don’t know if it’s possible to fix what’s wrong with Facebook, but the company doesn’t seem to be trying. Instead, he complains that his problems are someone else’s fault.
Look no further than the news that the company has paid political operatives to plant stories damaging to TikTok, its biggest rival. Or, the fact that, according to The edge, the company “failed to properly downgrade likely nudity, violence, and even Russian state media” over a six-month period. Facebook attributed this to a “bug”.
A quick look at Facebook/Meta’s response to one of the many controversies shows that they are not a company willing to take responsibility and be held accountable, but a company that seeks always blaming others. It’s a problem.
And, despite Meta’s grand vision of becoming a metaverse company, a lot still depends on the advertising revenue it generates from iOS users to fund this strategy. Apple has enormous control over the fate of Facebook, and you might think a corporate relationship management between the two companies could go a long way.
This brings us to the other lesson, which is that Apple has a lot of control over the App Store and should be very careful about how it uses it. Right now, the company is facing tremendous pressure from regulators and lawmakers over this control. Excluding Netflix and Spotify are particularly curious as they are the de facto streaming services for video and audio, respectively.
Of course, neither allows users to subscribe to the app, meaning Apple can’t collect its share of subscriptions. The fact that it lists the “must haves” and leaves out the obvious choices – simply because it doesn’t benefit them financially – makes the company look vindictive. For the most valuable company in the world, it’s never pretty.