Axios Login

A smartphone with different colored buttons floating above its surface.

October 27, 2022

I was looking at a milk carton last night and it was "pasture-raised" and that was the first time I realized how much "pasture-raised" sounds like pasteurized and then I had to check (it's both). Anyway, today's newsletter is 1,236 words, a 5-minute read.

đź“Ł Situational awareness: In an overture to Twitter's advertisers, Elon Musk tweeted that the platform "must be warm and welcoming to all." The tweet follows new reporting that some marketers were concerned about Musk's content moderation stance.

1 big thing: Tech giants go to war with Apple

Illustration of arrow cursors aimed at Apple's logo.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Spotify, Meta and others are taking shots at Apple for what they believe are unfair and anti-competitive practices meant to bolster Apple's business at the expense of their own, Axios' Sara Fischer, Ashley Gold and I report.

Why it matters: The industry backlash towards Apple has been increasing as the tech giant pushes to make more money from its software services, like App Store, Apple Music, iCloud, Apple News, Apple TV+ and Apple Pay.

Driving the news: Spotify on Tuesday spoke out against Apple after the launch of its new audiobooks feature.

  • The Swedish audio giant alleges Apple wouldn't allow a button in its app for users to get an email with specific details on how to purchase a particular audiobook outside the app, because doing so would be a violation of Apple's terms.
  • Meanwhile, Apple updated its App Store guidelines on Monday, making it explicit that apps that sell promoted posts have to give Apple a 30% cut of those transactions, which caught the ire of Meta.

"Apple is putting less imagination behind innovation, while simultaneously doubling down on collecting tolls and stifling competition," said Harry Clarke, Associate General Counsel and Spotify's top competition lawyer. "They are leveraging every tool in the monopolist's playbook."

  • "The App Store was designed to be a great business opportunity for developers," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement to Axios, noting the Spotify app was initially rejected for not following the App Store's guidelines. "We provided them with clear guidance on how to resolve the issue, and approved their app after they made changes that brought it into compliance."

A Meta spokesperson objected to the new App Store guidelines in a statement saying, "Apple continues to evolve its policies to grow their own business while undercutting others in the digital economy."

  • "Apple previously said it didn't take a share of developer advertising revenue, and now apparently changed its mind."

Apple, for its part, maintains it is just being more explicit about its existing policy. "For many years now, the App Store guidelines have been clear that the sale of digital goods and services within an app must use In-App Purchase," the Apple spokesperson said.

  • "Boosting, which allows an individual or organization to pay to increase the reach of a post or profile, is a digital service — so of course In-App Purchase is required."

Be smart: Apple has increasingly found itself in the crosshairs of its Big Tech rivals. Some competitors have pushed for the passage of bills like the Open App Markets Act and the American Innovation and Competition Online Act, which would force Apple (and Google) to loosen their rules.

  • Spotify sued Apple for anti-competitive practices in the EU in 2019, resulting in the EU charging Apple with antitrust violations.
  • Meta waged a massive lobbying campaign against changes to Apple's app tracking policies that make it harder for advertisers to collect user data for ad targeting.
  • "The introduction of ads to the App Store confirms what we have argued all along: Apple's anticompetitive practices are not intended to promote privacy, security, or the user experience, but rather to pad Apple's bottom line," Rick VanMeter, executive director of the Coalition for App Fairness, told Axios.

The big picture: Apple's increasing App Store lockdown follows growing protest and international action over its rigid payment systems.

  • When Epic Games sued Apple over its restrictive App Store in 2020, a judge ruled for Apple to let Epic, and other developers, tell users about alternative payment mechanisms and to link out to their own transaction systems. Apple fought the injunction and appealed the ruling, with a final decision not expected until 2023.
  • Meanwhile, new laws in South Korea and the EU's Digital Markets Act will compel Apple to allow rival in-app payment systems.

2. Meta shares sink after earnings, weak forecast

Illustration of a frowning face made from the Meta logo

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Meta shares fell more than 10% Wednesday after the company issued a downbeat forecast to go along with mixed results for the past quarter, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: After years of unprecedented revenue and profit growth, Meta's ad business is beginning to slow, thanks to increased competition from TikTok and Apple and overall uncertainty around the economy.

  • Looking ahead, the company said things will get worse before they get better.

Details: The tech giant's third quarter results missed investor expectations on earnings, but beat them marginally on revenue and user growth

  • "While we face near-term challenges on revenue, the fundamentals are there for a return to stronger revenue growth," Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
  • Meta said it forecasts revenue of $30 billion for the fourth quarter, coming in shy of analyst expectations. The fourth quarter is typically Meta's most lucrative period, due to spikes in advertising around the holiday season.

Yes, but: The company did report some good news. It grew its Facebook daily active user base by 3% last quarter, a positive sign for investors that may be concerned about TikTok's impact on the platform's ability to stay competitive, especially with younger users.

The big picture: It's been a volatile year for Silicon Valley companies that rely on advertising revenue.

  • Google-parent Alphabet said Thursday that ad sales in the third quarter slowed dramatically, causing a steep drop in profits.
  • Snap last week reported its slowest-ever quarter for revenue growth since going public in 2017.

What to watch: Meta faces pressure from investors to cut costs and drive revenues ahead of a possible recession.

  • In Wednesday's letter to investors, the company said it is "making significant changes across the board to operate more efficiently." Meta has already said that it would slow hiring and cut budgets.

Meanwhile, Meta was hit with a $24.7 million fine Wednesday after a Washington judge found the tech giant had intentionally violated the state's campaign finance disclosure laws 822 times.

3. "Chief Twit" Elon Musk arrives at Twitter HQ

A photo illustration of Elon Musk and his Twitter profile is displayed on a mobile phone.

Photo: Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency

Elon Musk strolled into Twitter headquarters Wednesday afternoon — and he brought a bathroom sink with him, Axios' Herb Scribner reports.

Driving the news: Musk visited Twitter's HQ in San Francisco ahead of an expected meeting with employees, as he nears closing a deal to buy the social media company for a reported $44 billion, putting an end to a dramatic saga that's been ongoing since March.

What he said: Musk tweeted a video of himself walking into Twitter's headquarters holding a bathroom sink.

  • "Entering Twitter HQ — let that sink in!" Musk tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Musk also changed his Twitter bio description to read, "Chief Twit," and his profile's location now reads "Twitter HQ."

The big picture: Twitter employees recently told Axios that Musk's takeover bid has presented challenges within the office, impacting the company's overall morale.

  • "People are just exhausted," said a Twitter employee. "It can be conflicting because as a shareholder you're happy but as an employee, there's a lot of uncertainty."

4. Take note

On Tap

  • Apple reports earnings today, as do Amazon, Shopify, Intel and Pinterest.

Trading Places

  • Samsung officially named Jay Lee executive chairman, a role he has held informally since his father was hospitalized in 2014. Lee has been vice chairman since 2012.

ICYMI

  • Despite federal efforts to block Chinese telecom equipment from U.S. supply chains, state and local governments across the country continued to buy products designated a threat to national security, a new report finds. (Axios)
  • Autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI is shutting down after failing to land new investment or more investment from backers Ford and Volkswagen. (Axios)

5. After you Login

Here's an interesting graphic showing in action the earthquake-detecting tech we wrote about yesterday.

Thanks to Peter Allen Clark for editing and Bryan McBournie for copy editing this newsletter.