Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An email chain revealed by Epic Games as part of its lawsuit against Apple provides an earlier context for Facebook’s battle with Apple over its App Store.
Last August, Facebook announced that Apple’s App Store rules were preventing the Facebook gaming app from being released for iPhones in the desired manner.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said the company had to remove the part of the app that played games – the point of the app – in order to get approval on the App Store for Apple’s iPhones.
Emails from 2011 between three former Apple executives, including Steve Jobs, now show that a similar conflict between Apple and Facebook was likely part of the reason for a delay in releasing a Facebook app for iPads over a decade ago .
Apple’s iPad came out in 2010, but Facebook didn’t release an app for it until October 2011. Between those two dates, a Facebook engineer even announced in a public blog post, citing delays in the app’s release, in part due to a “strained relationship” with Apple. “
In July 2011, the then software boss at Apple, Scott Forstall, sent an email to the former Apple marketing director Phil Schiller and Jobs. In the message, he said he spoke to Mark – presumably Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – about the Facebook iPad app.
He wrote that he told Mark that Facebook should not include “embedded apps” in its Facebook iPad app.
“Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t happy with that as he views these apps as part of the ‘overall Facebook experience’ and isn’t sure if you should be doing an iPad app without them,” Forstall wrote.
At that time, Facebook was turning its social network into a platform for games and apps. The most famous of these was Farmville, a game where users tended gardens on their Facebook accounts.
Facebook wanted Apple to compromise. According to Forstall, Mark suggested:
- Facebook could leave out a directory of apps in the Facebook app – not even links.
- Facebook could prevent third-party apps from running in an “embedded web view” or basically in a browser in the Facebook app.
- Facebook wanted Apple to allow users to post about apps in the news feed. Forstall wrote that these were filtered at the time because tapping on these posts wouldn’t do anything.
- Facebook suggested tapping one of these app links in the feed to switch the user to a native app, or bring it to the App Store if one exists, or otherwise link to Safari, the iPhone’s web browser .
Jobs, then CEO of Apple, replied from his iPad: “I agree – if we remove Fecebooks’ third suggestion, it sounds reasonable.”
Forstall followed three days later, saying he had a long conversation with Mark and Facebook didn’t like Apple’s counter-proposal to ban Facebook apps from linking on Safari.
“”But, according to Mark, there is no obvious way to differentiate between a game of poker and the NYT. Both are Facebook developers and offer Facebook integration, “Forstall wrote.
Schiller, who was Apple’s director of marketing until last year and heads Apple’s executive review board, which calls to see if Apple’s apps are approved, summed up Apple’s position.
“I don’t understand why we want to do that,” wrote Schiller. “All of these apps won’t be native, they won’t have any relationship or license with us, we won’t review them, they won’t use our APIs or tools, they won’t use our stores, etc.”
When Facebook’s iPad app was finally launched, it said it would not support its own credits currency for apps like Farmville on iOS – a compromise based on discussions among Apple executives.
In recent years, the rivalry between Silicon Valley’s two neighbors has intensified. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook took slightly disguised footage of Facebook’s handling of user privacy, using Facebook as an example of a recent feature that asked apps to “do not track”.
Facebook launched an ad campaign to say that the iPhone maker’s privacy features are hurting small businesses. In addition, Apple’s App Store guidelines have been further optimized and Apple’s 30% App Store fee for online events has been criticized in addition to complaints about the gaming app.
Facebook is not part of Epic Games’ argument in its litigation against Apple and its App Store policies. The process started on Monday and is expected to take three weeks.