Bulletins

Meta accuses Apple of 'self-serving tactics' on gaming app restrictions

The company filed a comment with the NTIA accusing Apple of harming competition.

An iPhone running Facebook cloud games via Apple's Safari browser.

Meta is accusing Apple of harming competition in the mobile app marketplace.

Image: Facebook

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


"Despite having some of the most popular apps in the world, Meta’s ability to innovate on its products and services and even reach its customers is determined, and in some cases, significantly limited, by the most popular mobile operating systems, 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. Department of Commerce's White House Competition Council, which the Biden Administration established last year as part of an executive order to study market competition across various sectors of the U.S. economy.

Apple responded to the filing with a statement:

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

Privacy has always been at the center of what we believe. At Apple, we believe that a user’s data belongs to them and they should get to decide whether to share their data and with whom. App Tracking Transparency gives users the choice whether or not they want to allow apps to track them by linking their information with data from third parties for the purpose of advertising, or sharing their information with data brokers. These rules apply equally to all developers — including Apple — and we have received strong support from regulators and privacy advocates for this feature.

Meta's filing focuses on three areas: web browsing, as it relates to Apple's restrictions on what web apps can do versus native iOS software; gaming and the restrictions Apple imposes on developers who try to bundle HTML5 and cloud-based games within existing apps (like the Facebook app); and Apple's App Tracking Transparency initiative, the privacy feature the company rolled out last year that Meta has said will cost it about $10 billion in advertising revenue this year.

"Taken together, Apple’s restrictions on third-party web browsers, its restrictions on third-party gaming apps, and its ATT framework severely limit developers’ ability to create and consumers’ ability to enjoy cross-platform apps that could lower barriers to switching from Apple to Android and other devices," the filing goes on to say. "Apple’s self-serving tactics prevent consumers from realizing the innovation and benefits of a dynamic and otherwise well-functioning mobile app ecosystem."

Meta's feud with Apple over app store restrictions is not a new one by any means, but it has intensified in the last few years as Meta has increased its investments in the gaming sector. The social networking giant tried in 2020 to publish a dedicated Facebook Gaming app on Apple's App Store that would feature livestreaming, similar to Amazon's Twitch, alongside mobile games that could be played instantly with no download required, either using HTML5 technology or via streaming from the cloud.

Apple rejected the app repeatedly due to a series of cloud gaming restrictions the iPhone maker was forced to update for clarity. Still, many of the restrictions remained following the update, resulting in a high-profile back-and-forth between the two companies that has only grown more bitter as Apple has targeted Meta with iOS privacy changes and Tim Cook has taken public shots at Mark Zuckerberg and his company's business model.

Meta ultimately removed the gaming components from the Facebook Gaming app to publish it on the App Store. It later resorted to asking users to try a web version that skirts Apple's restrictions; Apple says web apps for cloud gaming and similar features are allowed on the iPhone, but it has strict rules around including those same features inside apps unless the app is dedicated to something else. (That's why, for instance, you can play HTML5 mini-games inside the main Facebook app — because by Apple's logic, it is primarily a social networking platform and not a gaming one.)

Meta cites switching costs and ecosystem lock-in as reasons why it cannot simply rely on to Google's Android, which has fewer restrictions regarding what apps can and cannot do with regards to gaming. “Restrictions that Apple imposes on cross-platform gaming, web-based, and ad-supported apps prevent them from lowering barriers to switching and lock consumers into iOS devices," the filing says. “Apple’s policies restricting cloud games and HTML5-based games have prevented Meta from introducing features that would enable developers to distribute and monetize, and users of iOS devices to enjoy, a variety of games. …These limitations have curbed Facebook Gaming’s growth and prevented it from emerging as a robust competitor to Apple in game discovery and distribution.”

Meta's filing does not mention Epic Games, the Fortnite creator that sued Apple and Google in 2020 over many of these same restrictions. The comment does however make many of the same arguments as Epic did in those cases. Epic's suit against Apple is currently tied up in appeals, and the similar Google suit 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, because users’ game data will often be stored in native iOS game apps and cannot be easily transferred outside of the Apple ecosystem, whereas Instant Games and cloud gaming services would allow for a seamless transition between iOS and Android devices."

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

Latest Bulletins

Some of the most popular reproductive health apps lack strong privacy labels and security practices, according to a report published by Mozilla Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft has finally broken its silence on a sales figure secret its kept close to its chest for more than half a decade.

Keep Reading Show less

The U.S. Commerce Department has implemented an export control on advanced chip design software that’s necessary to produce next-generation processors, expanding on existing controls that target chipmaking tools with the goal of hampering Chinese efforts to build the most complex chips domestically.

Keep Reading Show less

What was supposed to be a blockbuster crypto merger has morphed into a legal brawl. Galaxy Digital said Monday that it has terminated its $1.2 billion bid to buy BitGo, which it accused of failing to produce “audited financial statements."

Keep Reading Show less

Andreessen Horowitz is betting big on Adam Neumann's return to the real estate startup game.

Keep Reading Show less

Unity rejected AppLovin's offer to buy the company in an all-stock deal valued at $20 billion and instead will move forward with a plan to buy ad tech and monetization software company ironSource, the company said Monday.

Keep Reading Show less

Marqeta shares fell about 25% Thursday after the company revealed a weak outlook and founder Jason Gardner said he would step down.

Keep Reading Show less

Atlantic states may have a head start in the offshore wind game, but California has a plan to catch up — and even surpass — them.

Keep Reading Show less

The Federal Trade Commission has officially begun the long-awaited process of regulating digital data by reining in "surveillance" and lax security in a move that could have sweeping consequences for Big Tech and industries far beyond.

Keep Reading Show less

Meta announced it is expanding end-to-end encryption in Messenger, just days after news broke that the company gave Nebraska law enforcement Messenger chats between a 17-year-old girl and her mother discussing a medical abortion. Meta told Wired the announcement and the Nebraska case are unrelated, however, Meta would not have been able to access the chats if the girl and mother had used end-to-end encryption.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase said the SEC is looking into different aspects of the crypto company’s business, including “existing and intended future products,” according to a regulatory filing.

Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft accused its gaming rival Sony of trying to hurt the success of its subscription gaming platform by signing contracts with game developers that prohibit distribution through Xbox Game Pass, according to a new regulatory filing published in Brazil. The news was first reported by gaming outlet VGC on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

Disney is getting ready to introduce an ad-supported Disney+ plan in December and will use that occasion to significantly raise the price of its existing ad-free subscription tier.

Keep Reading Show less

The CFPB said Wednesday that it has imposed a $2.7 million fine on Hello Digit, an app that claims to help users put aside money for rainy days but that the regulator said messed up their finances.

Keep Reading Show less

Facebook gave law enforcement in Nebraska private messages sent between a mother and a 17-year-old girl, who are now facing several charges in the state relating to a medication abortion the girl had. Facebook was served a search warrant, which was obtained by Vice, asking for their private data as part of the state's investigation.

Keep Reading Show less

Video game software company Unity can get bought by AppLovin or merge with ironSource, but it can’t do both.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase posted dismal results Tuesday as the crypto powerhouse got slammed by a downturn that “came fast and furious.”

Keep Reading Show less

Over the weekend, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation is the largest investment in addressing climate change ever made at the federal level.

Keep Reading Show less

The U.S. has begun cracking down on imported goods from China that may have been made with Uyghur forced labor. That includes solar panels, which have been detained at the border or shipped back to China in recent weeks.

Keep Reading Show less

As pressure mounts on Big Tech to do more to protect the youngest users, Snap is launching a new family center that will allow parents to see who their kids are friends with on Snap and report suspicious accounts.

It’s part of a wave of new kid safety features being launched by tech giants, including Meta and Apple. But Snap has an arguably bigger hill to climb in implementing these features than either of those companies. To get parents of teens to use Snap’s parental controls, first, parents of teens need to actually use Snap.

Keep Reading Show less

North Korean hackers used Tornado Cash, a mixer platform for cryptocurrencies, to launder funds. That's according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which imposed sanctions on the USDC and ETH wallet addresses associated with the protocol Monday.

Keep Reading Show less

Google has filed a new patent infringement lawsuit against Sonos, alleging the violation of four patents. Most of the claims focus on voice assistant functionality; Google alleges that Sonos began violating its patents when Sonos introduced its own voice assistant this summer.

Keep Reading Show less

Twilio disclosed that a cyberattack involving the theft of employee credentials allowed attackers to access data from "a limited number" of customer accounts.

Keep Reading Show less

Block reported second-quarter earnings that just topped analysts’ estimates, but shares fell as investors digested the effect of the macroeconomic environment on the company’s core payments businesses. Bitcoin volume also dragged on total revenue.

Keep Reading Show less

Meta announced Thursday it had banned Cyber Front Z, a pro-Russia troll group that purported to mobilize harassment by supporters of Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine through a public Telegram channel.

Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins