7/8/2014 9:30:38 AM
Apple vs. Facebook: What Signals Do Industry Giants Send to the App Market (And What do They Mean to iOS Developers)
Facebook, apple, policies, iOS developers, iOS 8, open graph
App Developer Magazine

Apple vs. Facebook: What Signals Do Industry Giants Send to the App Market (And What do They Mean to iOS Developers)

Natasha Yarotskaya Natasha Yarotskaya in iOS Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In recent weeks the iOS app market has been torn between conflicting signals that are coming from its two major players – Facebook and Apple. While there is clear evidence for these signals being interconnected, if they were to materialize they are likely to affect a good deal of iOS developers and tilt the wider app market dynamic. Here we are laying out these signals and discussing their possible effects.  


Last October, Facebook introduced a new feature for mobile app ads aimed to help developers drive engagement and conversions within their apps. In April of this year, Facebook launched AppLinks.org, a new initiative to make deep-linking between native apps easier for developers. 

More recently, Facebook announced its updates to the advertising feature that promotes application installs inside Facebook’s mobile app. The Mobile App Ad For Install takes users directly to the apps’ respective pages in the Apple App Store or the Google Play.

On June 12, Facebook wrote on its blog:
“We are now aligning mobile app ads to other ad formats by 1) having them be connected to a Facebook Page, 2) adding social context (e.g. indicating when a friend likes a Page) and, 3) adding like, comment, and share buttons.

Finally, Facebook’s Open Graph feature allows apps to publish Facebook stories on its users’ behalf, which automates the process of sharing and putting the app in front of more potential users.

The idea behind these Facebook’s initiatives is to help developers reach the right audiences, at scale, but also to retain user attention. At first sight, everyone wins:  developers benefit from greater user acquisition opportunities; users come across more apps that are relevant to them; and app stores get higher traffic. 

AOL, Google, Twitter and Yahoo are also jumping on the bandwagon and introducing advertising products for apps.

But some of these features are no longer for developers. Facebook has begun to take on a huge monetization opportunity that it has been gathering at its doorsteps. For example, it has been reducing the impact of organic reach on user timelines (this applies to all companies, not just apps). While for many app developers this loss of organic reach before the end of the year would not have a devastating impact as many of them are already working with many paid engagement channels; it is likely to come as a shock to smaller companies that do not have budgets allocated to marketing and advertisement. 

So for larger apps, the loss of organic reach would be compensated for with ads - if it was not for Apple’s new approval policies. 

As part of Apple's latest guidelines for iOS developers, the App Store started banning apps that include features to promote their apps and enhance monetization. (the App Store guidelines have always had rules against promoting other apps and include functionality that might compete with the App Store.) Developers report that the App Store has rejected apps that use incentivized video viewing, rewarded social sharing, or include discovery tools that allow users to find apps inside other apps. 
These changes followed shortly after Apple revealed new features to its app discovery process, including the search of apps by trending keywords, by category and subcategory, by related search terms, and more. These changes together appear to be aimed at apps that promote other apps in a way that makes them compete with the App Store for discovery and traffic and subsequently unduly influence App Store rankings – something that the company is highly protective of. 

What’s behind Apple’s new policies?

Apple's crackdown on certain advertising methods used by app developers may be related to the upcoming release of iOS 8. Among other features, iOS 8 will include an improved App Store search algorithm, an "Explore" feature, app bundles offered at a discount, and TestFlight beta testing for developers.

But equally, one cannot help reading between the lines. The seemingly minor rule in the approval policies has already been seen as a warning to Facebook, which has been continuously working to enhance its ability to promote apps, drive traffic and resolve the discoverability puzzle. Apple seeks to defend its position as the dominant app discovery field, and Facebook and app install ads pose direct competition to it.

Here at Priori Data, we will continue analyzing Apple’s steps: after all Facebook acts as a great resource for the developer community and a source of traffic to Apple’s App Store. According to Facebook, in the past 30 days, it sent users to the Apple App Store and Google Play 146 million times, via clicks from channels such as newsfeed, timeline, bookmarks and App Centre. 
Sad news for iOS developers 

Having an app published in the Apple App Store has been historically difficult. The store is known to use high quality standards and be ardently curated. It is not uncommon for apps to be rejected a number of times before getting published. 

Apple’s new rules can be a big deal for developers, many of who rely on Facebook adds to gain customers and on “incentivized” videos to turn their free apps into paid. It is still too early to make any predictions, but it is not unlikely that as app developers find it even more difficult not only to achieve growth and scale on iOS, but to get their apps published in the App Store in the first place, they are likely to move to less curated platforms – primarily, Android. 

For Facebook the impact might be of a totally different scale: it could knock a big chunk of its ad revenue offline.

If Apple or Google want to, they can

While there are a lot of open questions around recent news both from Apple and Facebook, one thing is obvious for now: these developments show how easily the app industry can be reshaped if one of its major players, Apple or Google, which control the platforms the apps run on, want to change the ground rules overnight. And oh they can.

But can Apple really make everyone in the market dance to its tune? A good indicator of the extent of the market influence consolidated in the hands of its main players, would be looking at the bigger names. For example, King's most popular game, Candy Crush, asks people to share on Facebook to get more lives. Would these top games and other large publishers that use these practices also have to adhere to Apple's latest policy updates, or would they'll get a pass?

The reasons behind Apple’s recent move are likely to be complex - stretching far beyond app discovery ownership – and so would be its implications. We will continue to explore both in upcoming posts.  

100 Questions and Answers to help you land your Dream iOS Job: or to hire the right candidate!

This guide titled, "100 Questions and Answers to help you land your Dream iOS Job" can help you through some further questions related to landing a job related to iOS. With 100 Questions and Answers categorized by seniority and with reviews from some of the top iOS engineers worldwide, this book will level up how you make interviews for your favorite platform.

475 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals

Are you paying more taxes than you have to as a developer or freelancer? The IRS is certainly not going to tell you about a deduction you failed to take, and your accountant is not likely to take the time to ask you about every deduction you’re entitled to. As former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson admitted, “If you don’t claim it, you don’t get it.

The Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Latest Model)

Inside the buds, there is a newly-designed H1 chip which Apple has built specifically for the headphones. It improves connectivity pairing times, the efficiency of the battery life, and allows for hands-free "Hey Siri" functionality. New for the AirPods 2019 is the wireless charging case for the earbuds, which means you can use Qi-compatible charging mats to power the case without having to stick a cable in. 

A hands-on guide to mastering mobile forensics for iOS and Android

Get hands-on experience in performing simple to complex mobile forensics techniques Retrieve and analyze data stored not only on mobile devices but also through the cloud and other connected mediums A practical guide to leveraging the power of mobile forensics on popular mobile platforms with lots of tips, tricks, and caveats.

Gps tracker for kids

The Chirp GPS app is a top-ranked location sharing app available for Apple and Android that is super easy to use, and most of all, it's reliable.

The Latest Nerd Ranch Guide (3rd Edition) to Android Programming

Write and run code every step of the way, using Android Studio to create apps that integrate with other apps, download and display pictures from the web, play sounds, and more. Each chapter and app has been designed and tested to provide the knowledge and experience you need to get started in Android development.

This content is made possible by a guest author, or sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of App Developer Magazine's editorial staff.