In late July, a subcommittee of Congress successfully coerced four major technology company CEOs to formally answer questions about alleged monopoly business practices – a public spectacle only marred by attendees’ COVID-19-related isolation. Amazon, Facebook and Google faced some of the toughest questions, but Apple couldn’t escape attention as there was ample evidence that its app store was abusing its increasingly dominant position in the software industry.
The hearing on “Online Platforms and Market Power” is important because it paved the way for formal antitrust proceedings against four of the world’s largest technology-focused companies or otherwise. Individually and collectively, these companies reach billions of people, which has a huge impact on the hardware, software, and services companies that end users rely on. While all four tech giants portray themselves as ambitious good actors, their actions certainly have negative consequences.
Today a group of developers announced the formation of a collective coalition for app fairness, initially supported by the likes of Basecamp, Epic Games, Match Group, Spotify and Tile, as well as the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe and several other founding members. After registering individual complaints with US and European regulators, the group is now demanding that “Apple be held accountable for price cuts and other anti-competitive measures after” almost a decade of no oversight, regulation or fair competition.
How has Apple recently responded to these claims? Fresh Marketing. A new App Store promotional page suggests that the public just doesn’t understand how benevolent Apple really is, and when they realize how much the company protects users from unsafe and fake content, it seems like a 30% reduction in developer revenue not to be so offensive.
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If this sounds familiar, it is because Facebook also has the “We are misunderstood” defense. Empowerment to run deeply disruptive disinformation and misinformation campaigns? Perhaps! But you have no idea how much worse it could have been. It’s a nifty parade: don’t worry about what we’re doing wrong; Just focus on what we’re doing right.
Apple wants you to know today that the 1.8 million apps in the App Store could have been bloated – over 2 million apps were removed because Apple didn’t support the latest operating systems – and even dangerous. According to Apple, hundreds of people review and promote the apps. These employees rejected over 1 million submissions for “offensive, harmful, unsafe or illegal content” and deleted “over 60 million user reviews classified as spam” in 2020 alone. Using an automated system, Apple also scanned 100% of the apps for known malware to prevent viruses from being transmitted to users’ devices.
While these data points are interesting, they don’t do much to address the concerns that have been causing turmoil to developers and regulators. Imagine a shop owner responding to allegations from bullying suppliers by pointing out how beautiful their store is. “My business doesn’t sell dirty products,” you might say, “and all of my employees – from salespeople to warehouse keeper – work hard to keep it clean. We even throw things away that we can no longer sell. If you don’t like my business or my rules, shop elsewhere. “
That’s all well and good, but the regulatory fear isn’t really about how enjoyable the App Store shopping experience is. It’s about how Apple treats developers and how they, in turn, feel compelled to raise their prices significantly, which ultimately has a detrimental effect on consumers.
Regardless of how beautiful Apple’s shop may look and feel, the simple fact is that most customers don’t have the option to purchase compatible apps elsewhere. Apple has blocked competing app stores on all of its devices except Macs. In some cases, it has forced cross-platform services to increase the amounts they charge some or all of their customers to cover Apple’s 30% cut. The only question was whether this would only appear noticeable to Apple users as a 30% higher fee or a 15% higher fee spread across all customers of the service, regardless of the platform.
Apple is also suggesting earning that full 30% by providing developers with all kinds of tools to fill the App Store’s virtual shelves. There is no mention of developers being charged an annual fee – one arguably artificially small – to access these tools, or that they may need to be sued to prevent one or all of the non-cooperative developer accounts from being abruptly removed from the Business will be drawn when these tools are believed to be misused – and even put the developer’s global business outside the App Store at risk.
The stakes are probably even higher on Facebook. Most people know that Facebook’s social network now reaches nearly 3 billion users around the world. However, users are only just beginning to discover the extent to which Facebook and third parties have misused their personal data – even in recent times, despite previous Mea Culpas. A related problem is that apparently any business or political organization can use Facebook’s advertising and paid advertising platforms to spread information or misinformation to as many people as they can afford. This is a massive public order and health issue that Facebook only has halfway. addressed from the heart.
Following a $ 5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over $ 5 billion in consumer data collected from personal computers and mobile devices, nine attorneys general in Washington and DC are currently investigating “whether Facebook’s actions are putting consumer data at risk may have affected the quality of consumer choices or increased the price of advertising. “Unimpressed, Facebook is looking forward to Mixed Reality as the computer platform of the future and for this purpose is completely consolidating its Oculus Mixed Reality business, which was once separately managed. In a recent email, it was announced that Facebook would officially take legal responsibility for all Oculus user data and platforms on October 11th.
Facebook and Apple don’t get along; Their CEOs have publicly traded barbs for user monetization and the respective merits of their platforms. At this point, however, neither the CEOs nor their companies can claim to be misunderstood. Facebook has an incredible social platform and excellent VR hardware that is offset by massive, ever-growing privacy and misinformation problems. Apple creates beautiful products, but the developers and consumers who support them are up to date.
Each of these companies is too big to fail. But they should also be too big to continue playing such small anti-consumer games. Far from being misunderstood, Apple and Facebook have given the public plenty of time to realize who they are and what they are capable of, for better and for worse. Excuses and marketing won’t change anything. It’s time for these tech giants to take a long overdue look inward and adopt more sustainable business practices. Unless they act independently, regulators are clearly ready to intervene on behalf of users.