Facebook has allowed misinformation to circulate, pandered to bigots, and generally turned a blind eye to all manner of horrible behaviour that has spilled out into real-world consequences including attempted genocide. But now The Social Network™ has found something so scary it has decided the world needs to know that Bad Things Are About To Happen.
That bad thing is Apple. Especially Apple's new privacy controls that make it harder for Facebook to sell ads.
Facebook named Apple in with a slightly unusual document containing lengthy prepared remarks [PDF] ahead of its Q4 2021 earnings call and alongside its results announcement.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg's section of the remarks repeats the claim that Apple's iOS 14 will rob small businesses of the chance to use Facebook's targeted advertising.
"I do want to highlight that we increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors," he told investors, before criticising the security of Apple's iMessage service on grounds that it "stores non-end-to-end encrypted backups of your messages by default unless you disable iCloud". That arrangement, Zuckerberg said, means Apple and law enforcement agencies can read user messages.
Apple aims to be the ripple in the pond that moves the whole industry forward
Zuckerberg also declared that Apple enjoys a "dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own." Which Zuck thinks is bad for small business.
The CEO argued that Facebook isn't just trying to protect its own patch with its many efforts to turn WhatsApp into an e-commerce platform but is instead advocating for the entire economy and its prospects of a post-pandemic snap-back. Apple, by contrast, is accused of advocating only for Apple.
This argument consumed 2,800 words and was pitched as a discussion of "aspects of business strategy that I think are important for investors to understand."
As luck would have it, Apple also announced its earnings today and revealed that its first quarter for FY 2021 saw it win $111.4bn of revenue, the company's record for a quarter, the first occasion it cracked $100bn, and a year-over-year jump of 21 per cent. Sales of all Apple's products and services jumped, with the iPhone's 17 per cent growth rather wan compared to the 41 per cent jump for iPads, the 21 per cent clocked up by the Mac, and the 30 per cent year-over-year improvement in wearables and home kit.
Apple has a dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work
CEO Tim Cook also made some remarks about Apple's approach to privacy, saying the company aims "to be the ripple in the pond that moves the whole industry forward." The requirement to inform users of apps that track them – to which Facebook objects – will appear in coming months.
Facebook clearly sees Apple's ripples as eroding the environment, rather than offering an opportunity to catch a wave.
The social network also posted solid results, even if its annual total of $84.17bn revenue was less than Apple's quarterly total. Facebook revenue rose 21 per cent compared to its previous full year, while its Q4 haul of $27.2bn was 31 per cent up compared to last year's effort. Quarterly net income was $11.2bn and the full-year result was $29.15bn. Apple's Q1 net income was just $400m behind that figure.
The gap between the two on matters of privacy is clearly far wider. ®