Meta vs. Apple over gaming app restrictions

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Facebook parent company Meta accuses Apple of harming competition in the mobile app market through restrictions on iOS software surrounding game streaming and other related technologies, according to a new filing with the National. Telecommunications and Information Administration released Thursday.


“Despite having some of the most popular applications in the world, Meta’s ability to innovate its products and services and even reach its customers is determined, and in some cases significantly limited, by operating systems. most popular mobiles, such as Apple’s iOS.”, the filing reads.

Meta submitted the comment as part of an ongoing study the NTIA is conducting for the U.S. Commerce Department’s White House Competition Council, which the Biden administration established last year as part of a an executive order to study market competition in various sectors of the US economy.

Apple responded to the filing with a statement:

Apple believes in vibrant, competitive markets, and through the App Store, we’ve helped millions of developers around the world turn their brightest ideas into world-changing apps. The App Store is an unprecedented growth engine that drives competition and innovation for developers big and small. Today, third-party apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, are some of the most popular apps on the App Store. We have a vested interest in supporting a robust developer community, and we intend to stay that way.

Confidentiality has always been at the center of our beliefs. At Apple, we believe that a user’s data belongs to them and they must decide if they want to share their data and with whom. App Tracking Transparency gives users the choice of whether or not to allow apps to track them by linking their information to third-party data for advertising purposes or sharing their information with data brokers. These rules apply equally to all developers, including Apple, and we’ve received strong support from regulators and privacy advocates for this feature.

Meta’s brief focuses on three areas: web browsing, regarding Apple’s restrictions on what web apps can do compared to native iOS software; games and the restrictions Apple places on developers who attempt to bundle HTML5 and cloud-based games into existing apps (like the Facebook app); and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency initiative, the privacy feature the company rolled out last year that Meta says will cost it about $10 billion in ad revenue this year.

“Taken together, Apple’s restrictions on third-party web browsers, its restrictions on third-party gaming apps, and its ATT framework significantly limit developers’ ability to create and consumers’ ability to enjoy cross-platform apps that could reduce barriers Apple’s move to Android and other devices,” the filing continues. “Apple’s self-serving tactics are preventing consumers from realizing the innovation and benefits of a vibrant and well-functioning mobile app ecosystem.”

Meta’s feud with Apple over App Store restrictions is by no means new, but it has intensified in recent years as Meta has increased its investment in the games business. The social media giant tried in 2020 to release a dedicated Facebook Gaming app on Apple’s App Store that would offer live streaming, similar to Amazon’s Twitch, as well as mobile games that can be played instantly with no download required. , either using HTML5 technology or streaming from the cloud.

Apple has repeatedly rejected the app due to a series of cloud gaming restrictions that the iPhone maker was forced to update for clarity. Still, many restrictions remained after the update, leading to a much-publicized back-and-forth between the two companies that only got worse as Apple targeted Meta with privacy changes. iOS and that Tim Cook took public photos of Mark. Zuckerberg and his company’s business model.

Meta eventually removed the game components from the Facebook Gaming app to release it to the App Store. He then asked users to try a web version that bypasses Apple’s restrictions; Apple says web apps for cloud gaming and similar functionality are allowed on the iPhone, but it has strict rules about including those same features in apps unless the app is dedicated to something else. . (That’s why, for example, you can play HTML5 mini-games in Facebook’s main app, because by Apple’s logic it’s primarily a social networking platform and not of a game.)

Meta cites switching costs and ecosystem lockdown as reasons it can’t just rely on Google’s Android, which has fewer restrictions on what apps can and can’t do when it comes to gaming . “Apple’s restrictions on cross-platform games, web-based and ad-supported apps prevent them from lowering barriers to change and locking consumers into iOS devices,” the filing said. “Apple’s policies restricting cloud gaming and HTML5-based games have prevented Meta from introducing features that would allow developers to distribute and monetize, and iOS device users to enjoy a variety of games …These limitations have stunted Facebook Gaming’s growth and prevented it from emerging as a serious competitor to Apple in game discovery and delivery”.

Meta’s filing does not mention Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite which sued Apple and Google in 2020 over many of these same restrictions. The comment, however, makes many of the same arguments as Epic in these cases. Epic’s lawsuit against Apple is currently tied to appeals, and Google’s similar lawsuit has yet to get a court date.

“Apple’s restrictions serve to maintain the App Store as the primary place for users to discover and access games on iOS devices,” the filing concludes. “They also have the effect of maintaining high barriers to switching to an Android device, as users’ game data will often be stored in native iOS game apps and cannot be easily transferred outside of the Apple ecosystem. while instant games and cloud gaming services would enable a seamless transition between iOS and Android devices.”

Update 5/26, 2:08 p.m. ET: Added statement from Apple.


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