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Apple and Facebook (stratechery.com)
318 points by Amorymeltzer 11 days ago | hide | past | web | 148 comments | favorite

>Apple was quite clever in their approach: instead of killing the IDFA, which could be construed as anti-competitive, particularly given Apple’s expanding app install ad business (which is expanding beyond App Store search ads), Apple is simply asking users if they would like to be tracked, and letting them render the IDFA useless.

The unstated implication of this is that when required to receive consent from users, the entire ad-tech complex falls apart.

I think Apple is actually smart to do it this way rather than just getting rid of the IDFA altogether, but only because of the political/regulatory environment right now. Any pro-privacy move will be spun as being anticompetitive by the affected parties, until Apple actually wins in court in their first antitrust case. After that the gloves can come off.

I'm curious, though, will Apple's own ads require consent? When you open the App Store for the first time, will there be a popup asking for consent to track for ad purposes?

You can show ads without tracking user behaviour.

yet Apple also tracks you by default, without asking for consent. It's opt-in by default (which I believe is against the GDPR)


Err... opt-in by default isn't opt-in. That is on by default with an opt-out.

I believe Apple asks for permission after major OS updates.

IMO you've given enough consent by using their app store. All they need is to store the device IDs to which they display ads and install apps so that they can attribute app installs to specific advertisements. You're logged into their app store, so you should expect Apple to already know the device ID when they display ads and install apps.

But I pay for the App Store indirectly through high margin hardware, transaction fees, including the 30% tax, so shouldn’t i be able to turn off Apple’s ad network all together and not let them advertise to me in the App Store by using my purchase history?

Funny how privacy invasions are bad and everything should be done on device until Apple starts selling ads and then it’s ok somehow for them to use your behavior/purchase profile.

The thing is, you don't get to choose how you pay. You only get tho coose whether you want to pay or not. They can track you and you can not use the service.

I'm not talking about personalizing ads here, I'm talking about storing who Apple has served ads to so that they can tell advertisers which ads lead to how many app installs.

Cool, I didn't know, but doesn't that imply it's a dark pattern? How many users know about this setting? Wouldn't it be better as Opt-In, and let the App Store prompt you when you set up your iPhone "do you want to opt in to interest based advertisin/etc"? When other companies do opt-out, they're usually heavily criticized.

> IMO you've given enough consent by using their app store.

The entire point of consent is that your opinion doesn't really matter; mine does.

Imagine, asking consumers what they want and allowing them to consent. It's funny that that's considered a revolutionary new business strategy. I thought that's they way business was supposed to operate?

Sounds great until you consider that the vast majority of users just tap/click “yes” at every prompt.

End users don’t even know what’s best for them. My family acts like I’m a conspiracy theorist when I talk about privacy. Yes, that’s anecdotal, but I’d bet most people would behave similarly. Consider the sheer amount of articles in popular media about Facebook’s privacy violations. Now consider how many people in your family either haven’t heard about them or simply don’t care.

Even other tech-savvy people don’t care. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “what do you have to hide?”

I really think we need better representation in the government for protecting citizens from technology.

I was talking to some people about how food delivery apps/companies are basically stealing money from restaurants by using a smaller restaurant’s ad space to promote bigger clients. They just sort of glazed over at the details which in my mind are not terribly technical.

I don’t think Uber should go to jail over what they are doing, it’s more schemey than evil, but the average person is unable to care about technological details so we need better representation in the government against this sort of thing.

I think so, at least for the ad industry. Trust is central to the economy, and most people are unaware that their trust is misguided. A simple food label seems pretty straightforward but it’s anything but. Tic Taks are “sugar free”. There is a transparency in reminding a user or consumer that they are consenting to a predatory agreement in plainer language than you would see in fine print. We are being lied to so much especially with social media.

Many people still harbour the notion that Facebook is a social utility. It used to be.

I see it as more prudent, than clever. In regulated industries, it's called informed consent (IC).

>Any pro-privacy move will be spun as being anticompetitive by the affected parties, until Apple actually wins in court in their first antitrust case.

That would be anticompetitive behaviour with iOS Appstore or perhaps with not allowing browser engines on iOS and honesty I think Apple would find it comfortable if it was for something like IDFA than those.

It's way more crippling and goes beyond IDFA and basic 3P ad tech - at least from my reading.

Unless I'm misunderstanding?

From my reading of the url below, Apple is mandating this consent popup on all apps that use any advertising (both 3p tracking but also serving their own 'walled garden' e.g. FB) - that is beyond basic contextual.

To me this seems to go way too far. For instance FB in the US would have to get consent to show any ads as they currently run for the vast majority of users. Plus if there is privacy a law like gdpr FB already gets opt-in in those countries this is just adding another opt-in on top.


That's not correct. If you read the details carefully, it is about requiring consent to track users beyond the app.

They are also launching an IDFV that can be always accessed and is shared with the same family of apps, e.g. Facebook can track across Instagram without the popup.

I could totally be wrong still/if was at first, but I still read it as more restrictive.

under 'asking permission to track' this line "Displaying targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies" seems like it would apply to a large amount of Facebook advertising.

They would have to get rid of a lot of targeting (and also the attribution parent mentioned) and maybe even more if using gdpr PII definition

"Sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker" the location data would apply to most SSPs/programmatic. Kind of a question of the comma too. If sharing any device location dat [period]. Or if the location data must go to a data broker to apply to that line. And depends a bit too if they use CCPA data broker definition (and ccpa definition of 'sale' is super broad any exchange of value). Even more if you count IPs as location.

Yikes, where to begin...

Quoting Chamath on the rationale for the Facebook Platform is like quoting the current management of Boeing on how to build a plane. If you want the real story on the dynamics behind the Platform, and why it worked so incredibly well when it did, you’d have to talk to Dave Morin, but I’m not sure he’d like to revisit that period in his life. Dave’s open, humble approach (something I think he’d picked up at Apple) attracted the best and brightest companies and programmers to the platform, and gave them the confidence needed to invest in building a presence there. Eventually a bunch of people inside of Facebook got jealous of the attention he was getting and had him demoted.

Chamath takeover and his self-dealing (investing in platform companies while overseeing it? really?) was a large part of the Platform’s failure, not its success. People lost confidence, and confidence is the one thing that every platform — whether it’s a piece of software, or a country’s economy — really runs on. If you want to talk about platforms, and what they are, and what they aren’t, that’s really all it is. People who bring up a million other things and a random Bill Gates quote don’t know what they’re talking about.

Apple is strict and super-weird about some of their rules, but they’re consistent. And it’s in that consistency that they’ve been able to build a large, dominant platform. When people start to see cracks in that consistency — such as the recent Hey drama — both developers AND people within the company immediately freak out, and some statement is made (whether it’s what the developers want to hear is another matter). They’re also super consistent with most of their APIs and their timetables, which further encourages investment.

Facebook is pretty much the exact opposite of this, in every aspect of their business. Whether you’re a newspaper or an Instagram model or a developer, you’re never quite sure where you stand. While things built on top of Facebook might have large-scale near-term value, nobody’s planning their next decade on there (even if suspicious can’t-let-China-win government meddling and the Silicon Valley oligarchy keep them on top for that long).

no idea of the history, but it sounds like you're agreeing with chamath's take, despite whatever opinion you may have of him. just seems like he is guilty of the same behavior he's associating to facebook.

one quip:

> Apple is strict and super-weird about some of their rules, but they’re consistent. And it’s in that consistency that they’ve been able to build a large, dominant platform. When people start to see cracks in that consistency — such as the recent Hey drama — both developers AND people within the company immediately freak out, and some statement is made (whether it’s what the developers want to hear is another matter). They’re also super consistent with most of their APIs and their timetables, which further encourages investment.

As someone who has dabbled in app store development from time to time, none of this seems to be true. Apple is inconsistent with application of their rules and their rules are also internally inconsistent from case to case, especially with regards to what apps are allowed on the platform.

But there is something interesting in there -- was it the developer experience that drew developers to their platform originally or something else? Not sure offhand.

I was going to say, depending on the size of the developer for their application, they are horribly inconsistent with policy and feedback regarding review. I work at a mid level development game house, and compared to what the AAA game houses can get away with is night and day (maybe not quite as drastic as that, but the standards are definitely different).

There are times where our app got rejected for a valid reason, we talked to our Apple contact, and it was approved.

I think we got rejected again a few updates later for the same reason, we talked to our Apple contact again, it was approved again.

Does everyone have an Apple contact or just big/medium companies?

I think that is one of the major hurdles to being an independent developer, TBH. Developer relations is a real thing and is a position that is worth the money. I have the majority of the skills to make a game from scratch, but I couldn't get it published with any real competency.

This is one of those comments that seems interesting and believable because it's so confidently stated. But is any of this speculation actually accurate?

I agree with the second half of the comment. Facebook has been capricious, and thus it's hard to trust building on top of them for the long term. But the first few paragraphs just seem like unsubstantiated gossip.

TBH that's true for the original article too. I feel that most of these opinion pieces are 'just so' post-facto explanations. I'd rather have a prediction market where people put predictions and confidence values along with detailed explanations, and then we can see in a few years how things play along.

It's very easy to make confident pronouncements when they are basically unfalsifiable.

You read "confidently-stated," I immediately read "has a personal vendetta."

Wow, thanks for the scoop! Is there anywhere interested readers can read more about Dave and Chamath's tenure at FB, particularly the latter and the issues you pointed out?

I’m only partway through the audiobook and haven’t fact-checked it, both both are covered fairly extensively in [1]. Jump straight to chapter 10 (Growth!) for the start of Chamath.

I’m really enjoying the book so far, and it seems to present a pretty unbiased view considering it was made with access to (and, by extension, some amount of blessing by) Facebook.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52032133-facebook

some questions I want to try and look up but it would be cool if you could expand on some of your points.

Did you work there?

From Chamath's wiki he invested in things like Palantir, some storage company, and Playdom which seems like the only company that he could have self dealing over...? Do you have other company examples? I am imagining being in charge of the social graph on fb platform could seem to be very tempting to then purchase/ invest in companies.

Do you know what Dave is doing currently? Slow capital doesn't seem to be a frequent updater on twitter. Before their most recent post, it was like a year ago they posted. And it looks like company related updates not Dave related.

his wife is the Modern Martha Stewart, maybe he is spending more time supporting her than working on his own thing

i dont know any of the people involved, but the time when Dave Morin was in the platform was the best for 3rd party developers. it was a really neat, very open platform well ahead of its time, it was reliable and really made developers feel included. FB shut the door for us abruptly in later years because they liked fake news better than virtual sheep.

Facebook had a developer forum in the early days which basically chronicled what was happening on their platform. pity they took it down...

Apple's moat has increasingly become incentivised of late by being the privacy-conscious option to its competitors - thanks primarily to Google's infringement of the same

I think tech people fundamentally misunderstand how the privacy-conscious features of Apple resonate with the non-technical public.

The vast majority of the public do not care, at all, about the type of data tracking that gets HNers so up in arms. That may be a bit of hyperbole - they may care a teeny bit, but the second they have to do something that is even the slightest bit inconvenient in order to get more privacy ("Why do I have to log in here again?") they'll bail.

What Apple has done, though, is frame privacy-consciousness in terms of exclusivity and luxury. It's quite similar to how Tesla rebranded electric cars from dorky and stodgy to cool. Most people's experience with Apple's privacy-conscious features are Touch ID and Face ID. These felt really futuristic when they first came out. And the privacy messaging that Apple does is really great IMO: it's more along the lines of "With Google all your data is shared with crappy advertisers along with the rest of the unwashed masses. With Apple everything is safe and secure, and most importantly protected from their grubby little non-Jony Ive-approved hands."

This has real benefits to consumers (because the privacy advancements with Apple are not just marketing, they're real), but people should understand Apple is still based around exclusivity and luxury, and privacy is just a part of that.

This is not supported by polling data. See for example:


"Some 81% of the public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits, and 66% say the same about government data collection."

Asking people whether they care and making them prove it by subjecting themselves to the slightest inconvenience may result in different conclusions.


I only know two persons in real life (other than me) that care about data privacy and act on that. Of course if you ask most people they will say that yeah they care about privacy, but their actions tell a different story.

Most people simply haven't learned the hygiene yet.

It can be as simple as showing them to open incognito for specific searches or topics, or to install a trusted tracker blocking extension like ublock origin and set it up for them.

Managing app location privileges is a big one too, iOS is really good about nagging for background location permissions and I appreciate that a lot, but a lot of people don't realize if you give Facebook or another app "while using", you can bet money it will use it whenever you open the app.

https://business.financialpost.com/technology/tim-hortons-ap... The Tim Hortons app logged this guy's location 2,700 times in 5 months. He didn't find out until the iOS 13 background location warning.


People care, most of them just aren't as literate as the typical HN user so they either don't have a clue what's really happening, or simply throw their hands up in the air.

But what if you could improve your privacy without any inconvenience at all?

That's essentially Apple's marketing pitch on this subject, and this poll shows that there are a lot of people with whom it will resonate.

and the solution is not to say (or imply) that people have messed-up priorities, it is to figure out how to make the right thing as convenient as possible.

How many of those 81% are willing to delete facebook, messenger and instagram though?

Probably very few if that’s what their friends use, but that doesn’t mean they don’t resent it.

A billion people might use Facebook, but 1.3 billion use iMessage. I think this is a significant risk for services that don’t respect user privacy.

I call bullshit on more people using iMessage than any of facebook related services. In this case, I feel like you've a very North American point of view. Majority people who have a smart phone has one of fb/whatsapp/instagram accounts, while iPhones don't even make up for the majority of market share when it comes to smartphone.

That's a bad metric. I find Facebook a privacy disaster (and user hostile and i am less happy when I use it). But am I willing to delete it? No, because if I meet someone I can friend them on FB later, and it's my only means of communication for some people. If a better communications network were available I would switch, but since there isn't, I can't.

There you go, you find it to be a disaster but you still find value in it. It's benefits outweigh the concerns you've. IMO it's actually a metric that shows how many people are actually willing to give it up for the sake of privacy.

How does having these apps on my phone hurt my privacy?

Expressed Preferences vs. Revealed Preferences

>19% of the public uses google and/or facebook services.

I think more non-technical people care than you realize. The problem is that many of them care about the wrong things (misunderstanding what the systems are doing) or don't understand how to regain their privacy. They also largely distrust Apple because "It's just another company and they're all alike".

As an example of misunderstanding: Apple attempts to guess at pairs of phone numbers, email addresses, and names based on the data on the phone using analysis on the phone. So someone emailed a colleague a phone number (From: Bob, Body: "Hey, call me at 555-555-5555"). They get a call from 555-555-5555 and "Bob" comes up in the caller ID. It freaked them out, "I haven't added them to my contacts! Apple is reading my email!". This misunderstanding of what the systems are doing and how they're doing it creates an appearance of something "wrong" happening, even when it's not. The inability to distinguish these things leads to "they're all the same" and other perspectives that cause the non-technical people (especially, but even many technical people) to give up. They care, but they don't know how to overcome it (short of getting a dumb phone or a feature phone and moving off grid).

I think they care, but they don't necessarily equate using Apple over Google as to be being more secure and private (the premise in this thread).

They likely see both as secure enough.

The vast majority of the public do not care, at all, about the type of data tracking that gets HNers so up in arms

That was true maybe five years ago, but the HN meme is no longer true.

I interface with a lot of wetware for my job, and I've seen a shift. People have learned to care about privacy.

Some of the education has come from the mass media. Some of it from the creepiness of seeing a product you viewed on one web site follow you around to all the other web sites you visit. Some of it has come from the privacy alert boxes on Apple devices. Some of it from the thousands of TV commercials for privacy services.

The notion that "nobody cares" is simply not true anymore. If it was, then there wouldn't be a demonstrated market for all of the privacy tools out there.

According to the article, 30 percent of iPhone users have turned off IFDA tracking

> Notably, Facebook has declined to even show app install advertisements to the 30% of U.S. iPhone users that turned off their IDFA of their own accord — and now it is opt-in, instead of opt-out.

That is a massive proportion. Especially when you consider that the IFDA setting is buried three or four screens app in the settings app. 30 percent of users went way out of their way to turn tracking off. That tells me that a lot more users care about their privacy than we might assume

> What Apple has done, though, is frame privacy-consciousness in terms of exclusivity and luxury.

That's an interesting point. Without delving into the rest of your comment, I'd like to expand on that one bit and add that part and parcel with exclusivity and luxury, part of Apple's brand has been simplicity, quality, and joy (or pleasure in use).

Like many luxury brands ; ). Or high-end brands. It's a mix.

And I think that Apple is using it's privacy features to enhance the "quality" and "simple" part of their brand in addition to the other aspects you mentioned.

This is not how the tech hype works though. Chrome was hyped up by tech people who despised IE and desperately wanted an alternative. They sold it enough to the non tech crowd. Similarly the privacy conscious tech crowd will sell it to the rest of the bunch. At the end of the day even if people don’t care about privacy it’s still something they can feel good about and it matters.

“Slightest bit inconvenient” is hyperbole. People are busy; don’t blame users if privacy features are built to be too inconvenient for users to adopt. This is where Apple helps too by making privacy easier, e.g. Apple SSO.

>The vast majority of the public do not care, at all, about the type of data tracking that gets HNers so up in arms.

That's a hell of a claim. What's your source on this?

I agree. The layperson may not know the ins and outs, but most people say they want privacy. Apple doing privacy things, marketing said things, and getting news coverage of said things does eventually filter down to the average person. So while few outside tech may really understand IDFA, all the privacy moves Apples makes in aggregate do make it out to the regular person.

Unfortunately, as you touch on, privacy is yet another thing that only people with money get to have.

This is such a big win for Apple. I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with Apple, to the point of switching away from the Mac completely and not missed it a bit.

However, my foray into Android was not so rosy. Android felt like playing with Fire. It was scary not knowing what all was taking your data and then finding like half the apps I had downloaded had been stealing data in some form or another.

Moving back to ios was certainly a huge relief. The privacy aspects are just so much better.

As someone who has been diehard Android fan since I got my hands on the first Android G1 through the flagship Nexus line and then Pixel line— I, too, am ready to jump ship to iPhone due to the blatant disregard of background app data handling in the Android mobile operating ecosystem.

It has become crystal clear that Google's interests lie in selling advertising beneath the surface vs Apple's interests selling hardware.

For people who like Android but not how Google is handling it, https://e.foundation/ is a very interesting project.

There is no need to change masters, and if you have a Pixel, you don't even need to change devices: LineageOS.

I abandoned my iphone4 for a nexus because I felt the walled garden approach Apple were taking was a stranglehold; there was no flexibility with the home screen, I couldn't run any emulators, blah blah. On my nexus I could have the hacker news feed on my home screen! Felt like a huge win for a few years. Now I'm 100% abandoning android to head back over to IOS, which has been reinforced by IOS14 detecting TikTok capturing huge amounts of data nefariously. BUT here's the added problem - I've had a google account for over 15 years, all of my email is handled via a (paid) google account and migrating it to something else is the kind of nightmare that I've been procrastinating over for a few years. I know I can control lots of privacy settings, but my overall trust is pretty thin these days. Add to that a lot of friends only use WhatsApp means that Facebook still have an 'in' as well... it feels like even with the best intentions the market still has an almost insurmountable leverage over the individual (in this case me!).

I've had a google account for over 15 years, all of my email is handled via a (paid) google account and migrating it to something else is the kind of nightmare that I've been procrastinating over for a few years

I was in the same boat. I was paying Google over $30/month just for e-mail. I didn't move for years because I feared it would be a hassle.

In the end, I was able to move everything over to Fastmail in half an afternoon. It really was worth it.

Wow I just had a look at Fastmail and there's a quote on there directly targetting all of us that feel like this - "there's even a gmail transfer tool" :D

Thanks so much for this, I'm looking into it now!

I did the same thing a few weeks ago and it worked well, Fastmail's documentation was also really good.

I'd recommend setting up your own domain for email with Fastmail too since it makes it easy to move later. Fastmail also lets you create aliases for individual accounts, I've used that to group together less trustworthy services.

The biggest time sync was moving all existing accounts from Gmail over to Fastmail. Luckily I use a password manager so they were at least all in one place, but it still took about a day of tedious effort.

What's worse is a lot of sites are just broken. They don't let you change your email or account name, they make you contact support to do it, etc. If you're in California you can at least file a CCPA request to force them to delete your account.

Do you need to move your email? Can’t you just have that go to an iPhone?

Ah I wish people would stop using WhatsApp. It's not secure by any means. I'm really sick of facebook advertising products based on conversations I have in WhatsApp.

I find it hard to take Apple's privacy aspects seriously when they're willing to violate those principles in markets like China [1]. Can we really applaud a company that's willing to give user data to governments, even if they don't do it in the US or EU?

[1] https://www.wired.com/story/apple-china-censorship-apps-flag...

I read the article you linked to, and the only thing in it that had a whiff of “willing to give user’s data to governments” is the thing about Apple relying in China on data from a Chinese company for information about malicious sites (instead of Google which Apple relies on in the rest of the world), with speculation from a cryptographer about why that might be cause for concern. What is not mentioned in the article is that Apple addressed those concerns in a statement, showing them to be unfounded: https://www.imore.com/heres-apples-statement-safari-fraudule....

The handful of things I'm aware of:

- In China Apple allows iCloud infrastructure to be managed by Chinese companies (presumably so they can do bulk collection on user data/message backups).

- Apple removes the Taiwanese flag emoji from devices

- Apple removes the apps the CCP asks them to from the app store in China (notably this includes podcast apps with access to unapproved speech).

I wouldn't be surprised if there were more concessions.

I've written more generally about this here: https://zalberico.com/essay/2020/06/13/zoom-in-china.html

Apple is still the best when it comes to protecting their users in the west, but few western companies stand by their principles in the Chinese market. It's disappointing.

In China Apple allows iCloud infrastructure to be managed by Chinese companies (presumably so they can do bulk collection on user data/message backups).

I agree. This absolutely fits the bill. For Apple, it’s either accept this arrangement or don’t do business in China, but it doesn’t change that it has a hollow ring, when Apple talks about privacy as a human right elsewhere.

Apple removes the Taiwanese flag emoji from devices

That’s a bad look, but it has nothing to do with privacy, and ultimately has no practical consequences for anybody.

Apple removes the apps the CCP asks them to from the app store in China (notably this includes podcast apps with access to unapproved speech).

Again, that has nothing to do with privacy. I don’t even see how it reflects poorly on Apple. What would you like Apple to do differently here? Should they martyr themselves in protest Chinese laws? What would that accomplish?

I wouldn't be surprised if there were more concessions.

Undoubtedly, if by concessions you mean complying with local laws in the countries where the do business.

Apple is still the best when it comes to protecting their users in the west

I’m sure Apple is also among the best when it comes to protecting their users in China. The problem is that Chinese laws don’t allow for the same level of protection as US laws.

You can't stand by western values in the Chinese market, the government won't let you. So your option is play by CCP values or don't play at all.

On the plus side, at least the Chinese consumer knows what the CCP values are, so it's not like it comes as a surprise.

The only option they have is to do what they did or just not sell in China - I would prefer the second but I also don’t have billions of dollars to make from selling there

I've been on Android for a long time now, but as I've become more aware of my privacy in recent years I've concluded my next phone will probably be an apple.

My problems with Android are largely around all the things you can't do without turning on web and location tracking. The most egregious of these is probably the aparant inability to set your home address in the google map app. There is no reason it can't store this as some kind of favourite. It is ridiculous, and indicative of an approach designed to maximise the amount of information you give up to them.

OTOH if you have location tracking on for Google Maps it will know if you're driving and will alert you of problems a couple of kms down the road (accidents, construction, etc). This has been helpful in a number of occasions while not using directions.

Well I'm completely fine with them offering that, there are lots of things that location tracking is useful for. I just want them to make things optionally available with the permissions granted being proportional to the task. If you want traffic warnings then that's great, but you still shouldn't need it turned on to store your home address.

I had the same feeling and even though everyone touts the level of control you get with Android its overwhelming as a user who just wants things to work and doesn't have time to pore over every app and setting to control.

I'm an iPhone user and I actually want an Android for privacy reasons.

Safari on iOS is inferior to Firefox with uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger.

Also Safari might have content blockers (inferior, but better than nothing), however iOS apps don't open links in Safari but in their own web view. This is mostly a cultural thing, but due to Android's tighter integration (eg back button) Android apps at least admit opening in the external browser as an option.

Example of apps that can open links on the external default browser on Android, but not on iOS: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail.

Android also supports web push notifications, making it possible to use some services from the browser, which is a far better sandbox. Firefox supports creating web app shortcuts, running full screen and with notifications, but with uBlock Origin powered content blocking in the background.

Why is this important? Have you seen the apps that share data with Facebook about you via their SDK? Go ahead, you might have a revelation about how privacy friendly your iOS device actually is:


I could avoid this crap on Android, but I can't on iOS unless I block the Facebook.com domain entirely at the DNS level, which I did, but it's not very practical if I'd need Facebook too.

iOS has some pretty cool privacy features, but it is also defective by design and this keeps it from being a good option for protecting the privacy of power users.

Also Safari might have content blockers (inferior, but better than nothing), however iOS apps don't open links in Safari but in their own web view. This is mostly a cultural thing, but due to Android's tighter integration (eg back button) Android apps at least admit opening in the external browser as an option.

There are two types of web views in IOS. One is an out of process web view where the app has very little visibility in what you do while you are using it. This view does support installed content blockers. Feedly for instance supports this web view. The other is an in process web view where the app has far more control and visibility. But doesn’t support content blockers. I use the Facebook website for just that reason instead of the app.

Have you compared outgoing traffic from the same apps on Android and iOS, and found a difference?

Really interesting, while honestly I couldn't care less about "advertising data" I cannot fathom going from Android to Apple all because of "walled gardens" where some of my friends enjoy it, I feel trapped like a bird in a cage.

It's the same reason I don't want to switch from Windows to MacOS, I refuse to support a platform where one company is "the Judge, Jury and Executioner".

As a mobile dev, it is also quite irritating that if you wish to develop for iOS, you must use an Mac, but if you wish to develop for Android, you can use any device you want. Oh how I would love for Apple to feel caged by their own walls, e.g. make Android Studios not available for MacOs until XCode is available for Windows and Linux.

Ok, but this is an unreasonable request.

Apple regards their platform as an advantage for developers. You are free to disagree and choose another platform if you like.

But the idea that you would expect Apple not to use it’s own platform to develop its tools makes no sense.

You would be expecting them to give up their primary advantage.

And for what? To satisfy people who don’t want to buy their products?

>Moving back to ios was certainly a huge relief. The privacy aspects are just so much better.

Are you saying you saw a notable difference in the ads you were shown after switching back to iOS?

If you avoid tracking you will see a difference in ads but the most immediate confirmation is the number of captchas you run into, everywhere. Without tracking, everyone thinks you're a bot.

does this mean iOS is less user friendly on the web then? (obviously not their fault, just asking the logical question)

I think its less to do with iOS vs Andriod, or more to do with giving away your information. I'm sure there's ways to make your Andriod become equally as "secure" with the local data as iOS, but iOS makes it easy

dude...why am I being downvoted for asking a question? lol...

I think it was the way you phrased it. It sounds combative. If you had stated it more plainly, people probably would have left you alone.

Also, people tend to get downvoted for starting or ending comments with "lol," as it shows a basic lack of respect for other people on HN.

I would say my phrasing was misunderstood. I was genuinely curious...oh well...

I'm doing that now because I've been downvoted. I didn't do that with my initial question which was the one that was downvoted.

You are commenting in a fanboy thread. Don't take it personally. HN is not more "enlightened" than the rest of the internet when it comes to fanboy stuff.

>Apple's moat has increasingly become incentivised of late by being the privacy-conscious option

As long as you're not in China that is:


My little sister liked Android phones because she found the green robot thing cute.

But after Apple declined to implement 16 Web APIs in Safari due to privacy concerns, she bough an iPhone.

She's 8.

Apple's moat is that people like iPhones.

Apple's moat is the same moat Google, Amazon and every other big company has - their lobbying efforts to keep the governments in their current state of ignorance and incompetence.

Remember that anti-competitive agreement between the the big tech companies to not compete with each other for employees aka fucking illegal? Remember how many people went to prison for that? Right, 0. These companies are all fine dining together and high fiving each other for their agreement to not compete with one another all the way to the bank.

When a small competitor arises, they just throw a few billion to squash them aka acquire and laugh all the way to the bank some more.

I wouldn't be surprised if this blog is going to get a corporate sponsor sometime soon - it's been such a good boy, making pretend these companies are actually competing.

This article misses a lot: 1) Facebook doesn't necessarily need the IDFA for optimizing advertising -- SKAdNetwork leaves the door open for ads optimization, just not at the user level. This article reveals how little the author understands about digital advertising. 2) I don't believe this move by Apple increases its "moat" in any meaningful way. Apple was almost certainly motivated to deprecate the IDFA to protect consumer privacy -- the only way this enforces Apple's moat is by substantively differentiating Apple's privacy positioning from other hardware vendors. 3) If anything, deprecating the IDFA harms Facebook moreso than it helps Apple to improve its ability to grow its ads business. Apple has increased the scope of its Apple Search Ads business but deprecating the IDFA doesn't help it there except to level the playing field.

The author of this blog is at his best when he's going a mile wide and an inch deep on high-concept subjects like self driving cars and Amazon taking over retail. When he tries to go deep on specific topics, his lack of context often leads him to specious and, frankly, silly conclusions.

Am I the only one who finds stratechery abstruse and hard to follow?

He has a concept playbook [1]. His MO is to tie current events back into the concept playbook. If you haven't been following along for a period of years, it is easy to get lost.

[1] https://stratechery.com/concepts/

Thanks for sharing. Will read this up. Hope that helps lose some of my disillusionment with Stratechery.

I was going to say the same. I want to like Stratechery and Ben's writing but most of the time it's a word salad that leads to nowhere.

Exactly, so much spaghetti writing.

You're not alone.

The part about Facebook becoming WeChat at the end and thus bypassing the restrictions Apple puts in place doesn’t ring true unless Apple is prevented from restricting apps from building their own mini app stores for games: https://9to5mac.com/2020/06/18/apple-refuses-facebooks-gamin...

It's so hard to read articles like this that are constantly quoting themselves from 5 years ago.

I don't see why -- he's pretty consistent, and it's interesting to see his framing/narrative evolve.

It reads like a constant self-congratulatory victory lap.

Consistent and evolving? Seems contradictory.

I think the mental model is consistent, but the explanations and examples evolve.

Obviously like all models, these approximate reality.

Is the biggest threat to Apple web?

I would think so. Of course, it might not be as we know it. However, a world where content works across devices. APIs are standardized. Responsive to multiple sizes. Low barrier to entry and access. It seems to me that Web is the future. Note I say Web, and not browser. An integrated experience built on the web - like Firefox OS might be the open and free platform we need to build our own great experiences. Definitely something worth exploring.

5 - 10 years ago I would have said the same and was sure the web would take over. I've done a lot of work on both web and native mobile platforms and these days I'm really less sure what the future looks like. If web apps do take over they won't be web apps like we know them.

I went through a similar process - I was sure webapps would get better and were the future and I switched a lot of my digital life to be on web first platforms.

In the past year or so I’ve become a bit disillusioned and have switched back to mostly native apps for things from email to music. I have fiber internet but even then load/buffer times on my native apps are non existent. The ui-s are way snappier and I am happy with the switch.

If webapps do make a comeback I agree - they will have to be quite different.

If AR goes mainstream, I feel that way will be the nail in the coffin for any future where web-based apps rule the world. I just don’t see how the web could compete with native AR apps that operate “close to the metal”. The web still can’t even provide a user experience even comparable to that of a standard mobile app

Edit: Keep in mind that I’m not saying web apps will disappear. Just that they might not have any more mainstream relevance than they have today

This is also my bet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5J_6oMMG7Y

I have no idea how much of that video is real, but I think if the AR hardware is possible it's likely the next computing platform UI after mobile device displays.

Apple has been laying the platform groundwork for this for a while. If anyone can pull it off, I suspect it would be them.

I don't think the web will be able to compete with that.

Apple's strategy here with privacy is just so great. From a regulatory standpoint, the EU can't be against it, and the US likes "anti-competitive behavior" when it benefits customers. Facebook, Google, et al will have to basically just live with Apple's choices here while suffering losses to their businesses.

"make lemons out of lemonade." - presumably the author meant "make lemons into lemonade" - I can't comment on the article to correct so am doing so here.

Man, I would buy it but I need wheels on mine.

Apple is not in the user data business.

It's sad to see somewhat bright minds, spending their life analyzing what companies are doing to maximize profit.

Why is that interesting and at what point do you notice that every move these companies make, is anti-human?

Take Apple: their entire business model is reliant upon the government never waking up to enforcing open standards and protocols to ensure consumers get hardware-agnostic, operating system-agnostic, service-provider agnostic, company-agnostic tools and services, which is what everyone would agree we want, except the sociopaths who value profit over humanity and run these corporations.

That's what got everyone excited about Bitcoin for a hot second. That it finally escapes the walled gardens all technology is living under. Instead of fixing the walled gardens, these delusional fools think they can technology their way out of corporations owning all key infrastructure. Jesus Christ.

Back to Apple.

Apple's entire business strategy is creating a walled garden because it benefits them, at the expense of everyone else. They give consumers crumbs and call it 'the biggest release ever'.

Facebook's entire business strategy is being a surveillance network, which is again, entirely reliant upon the government never waking up to how creepy, immoral and counter-productive it is on so many levels! There are enough sociopaths in government who think oh good, a surveillance tool, we can make use of it! Good luck having Facebook regulated when we live in a corporatocracy folks!

Everything these big companies do is against the interests of human beings. People are just too dumb to see it because if you drip-feed them 'new emojis' and 'you can have a weather widget on your screen in 2020', they don't realize they are getting fucked!

Sorry, carry on with your 'analysis' of what these sociopaths are up to and pretending you have valuable insight, when the only sane insight to be had is 'these fuckers are out of control'.

> Why is that interesting and at what point do you notice that every move these companies make, is anti-human?

Hyperbole if I've ever read it. "every move"? Is investing in clean energy to power all of their data centers anti-human as Apple has done? Is creating a $100,000,000 education fund for under-represented app developers anti-human? Is encrypting devices by default to protect privacy anti-human?

Now, as you can see I'm a bit of an Apple apologist and of course all of these are good PR moves. But every corporation is by definition just a "group of humans working together for profit." They will do good things for profit and they will do bad things for profit. But a group of humans working together for profit does not make every move they do "anti-human."

There are certainly shades of gray, but if I can speak on behalf of the post you are responding to, it seems their argument would be that it is a net negative, and that the "Good PR humanity" is relatively shallow in the end.

Consider a $100,000,000 education fund for app developers. Certainly, app development can be a gateway for some people, but once they develop apps, where do they go if not a market place that Apple tightly controls? They are a machine funding the creation of new cogs in this scenario.

If your overlords buy you an opulent dinner and provide you with a warm bed, it doesn't mean you are free.

Freedom can be a vague and high-minded ideal that obviously needs to be balanced with communal concerns, but I agree with the parent poster's overall disgust. It feels that a company like Apple is so big that they are beyond any societal control or regulation, and that is unacceptable. To hear their minions rush to their defense as if their interests are somehow aligned (they're not) is too much to handle sometimes. It's tiring.

You are free from entities that don't have coercive control over you. If there were no alternatives to the Apple ecosystem to get your work/social life/business done, then you would be correct, we are not free. However, iOS has <20% global marketshare[0].

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you that the App Store needs reform. Perhaps there should be some regulation, that's above my pay grade. Your level of disgust also to me feels like hyperbole.

0: https://www.statista.com/statistics/236031/market-share-of-i...

Oh yes, the fabled <20% marketshare.

So where should I go from Apple if not into the waiting arms of Google/Android? Is that better?

This isn't actually a conversation specifically about Apple if you recall. It is a conversation about all such companies. And yes, your defense of Apple is a little cringe-y. Why do you need to defend such a behemoth in a conversation that is decidedly not dedicated to them? Per the parent comment--Why does HN obsess over the actions of these companies that are categorically not for anyone's benefit other than their own? That was the original question.

I honestly am asking you to reflect on it. Why do you care? What's it to you?

> I honestly am asking you to reflect on it. Why do you care? What's it to you?

I care because I think there is a lot of misdirected energy and anger. In a world with racial injustice, starvation, poverty, etc. you choose this topic to be outraged about?

Well you have a right to your outrage. It’s good some people are outraged because it keeps them on their toes. But at the same time I have a right to say I think your dialogue and vitriol is out-of-line with the reality of the situation, and hyperbolic at best. I am a counter-balance to your outrage and that’s why I care.

> I honestly am asking you to reflect on it. Why do you care? What's it to you?

What a phenomenal way to shut down conversation.

"Why do you care?" is such a spineless response. It could be used in any conversation regarding any topic for an easy out.

Either engage with the conversation or don't.

Quite convenient how you look the iOS marketshare at the global scale :) Is there an organization regarding antitrust cases that works on a global scale like UN? Last I checked the U.S. antitrust commitee looks at the U.S. economy, not how many iOS users are there in Kenya, India, etc.

It is only fair that you look at the iOS U.S. marketshare, and what would you know, they have over 50% ;)


50% is not a monopoly last I checked. It’s an oligopoly but at least a highly competitive one with two very different value propositions (privacy/closed ecosystem vs openness/lower prices). Basically every computing landscape ends in oligopoly due to network effects - personal computers 1990s (Windows vs Mac), video game consoles (Nintendo vs Sony vs Microsoft), mainframes 1970s (IBM vs 7 dwarves), etc. Argument is almost as strong at 50% IMHO. At 90% not so much (Google Search, Microsoft Windows, Android almost globally)

As a consumer, I pay more to buy Apple devices because Apple is a walled garden that exercises tight control over its ecosystem. I like the walled garden and it results in a ton of benefits to me as a consumer (the fact that you couldn't even list one benefit just shows that you haven't meaningfully explored your own questions or opposing viewpoints).

You used a lot of words to basically say nothing meaningful and show that you actually don't understand these companies or their customers.

> Take Apple: their entire business model is reliant upon the government never waking up to enforcing open standards and protocols

If the government mandates protocol X, then protocol X is no longer open.

The body directing the development of protocol X becomes an extended part of the government (or simply a direct part), and is subject to an entirely different level of political influence.

> People are just too dumb to see it...

I honestly don't believe you can share, understand, or speak for the interests of people you hold in contempt. The thing is, they aren't dumb, no more so than you, I or anyone else. You may not understand their perspective, but they have one whether you can see it or not.

I couldn't agree more with this. "Drip feeding 'new emojis'" sent chills down my spine.

The problem always seems to be the question, "How do you get a decentralized system to a reach critical mass of mainstream usage?"

Consider the concept of a labor union. The word "union" implies a unification, formalization, and to some extent a centralization of workers around an administrative structure that is not the business that employs them. I think many people would agree that such a union is a necessary counter force if you want to achieve progressive workplace reforms.

Technology to free us from the walled garden always pursues decentralization as a means to evade control. But there must be some unified, centralized force promoting it early on.

The downside to this is that it creates a large attack surface vulnerable to legal threat and infiltration of competing interests. However, we can't replace the global internet with enmeshed home networks. We can't replace fiber with dreams, or iphones with raspberry pis.

It would be great if the governments represented the people, and did not act like some self-interested third party so much of the time. Perhaps, the government--our government--would be an appropriate body to administer a formative revolution. But since we know that they like to spy, control, and arbitrarily regulate, it forces the question of how to form a dedicated central entity powerful enough to promote the changes we want to see, but resistant to the trappings of other corporations and government.

It's a deep question that arises when you pursue freedom of any kind.

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