Elon Musk vs. the App Store
Image: Apple

Elon Musk vs. the App Store

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Good morning! Elon Musk has become increasingly vocal about his issues with Apple’s App Store tax. But what options does he really have open to him? Let’s dive in.

A rebel with a cause

So, you paid over the odds to buy out a company. You need to find new ways for it to generate revenue. You came up with what you think was, honestly, an incredible solution. But what if somebody is going to tax that shiny new revenue stream?

Elon Musk is railing against Apple’s App Store tax. Apple still lays a 30% levy on payments through apps in its ecosystem for developers who make over $1 million through the App Store, with a few other expectations too.

  • “Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store,” Musk tweeted earlier this week.
  • That levy would take a large slice out of revenue Twitter makes from Musk’s proposed $8 per month Blue subscription plan, which will give users access to verification. That service is expected to launch this week, initially … just on iOS, according to The Information. (Maybe Musk’s initial plan of charging $20 wasn't such a bad idea after all?)
  • Apple has so far remained silent on Musk’s comments.

This isn’t exactly a new debate. Musk is joining some industry heavyweights in his outrage at Apple’s approach to the App Store.

  • Most notably, Epic clashed with Apple in court over its control of the App Store ecosystem and … not a whole lot changed as a result. Apple does now have to allow developers to link customers to their own payment systems, but many users still pay through apps for convenience.
  • Spotify’s Daniel Ek has also been a vocal critic of the App Store tax, most recently arguing that Apple continues to “disadvantage competitors, and the impact is huge - on consumers [and] app developers.”

The obvious chain of events, if Musk were to try to find a way around the App Store levy, seems straightforwardly problematic for Twitter…

  • Apple is nothing but hardline about protecting its control over the ecosystem. Remember that Epic found itself with Fortnite removed from the App Store for trying to skirt the 30% fee.
  • Musk has said that “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” though that seems to predate his public pushback of App Store charges and is likely more to do with content.
  • You would think that Musk surely couldn’t risk Twitter being removed from the App Store at a time when he is clearly desperate to ensure that user growth keeps hitting new highs. Still, it’s unclear if Apple would go ahead with removing Twitter from the App Store.

But Musk could be playing a bigger game. Or at least, he could be trying to.

  • In a now deleted tweet, Musk suggested he was “going to war” with Apple.
  • So far, he seems to be rallying the masses by attempting to sully Apple’s reputation around concerns of free speech. “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter,” he tweeted. “Do they hate free speech in America?”
  • As CNBC has outlined, this could be the start of a bigger plan that goes something like: get Twitter kicked off the App Store; spark raging national debate about Apple’s role in free speech online; force Apple to modify its business practices; victory.

Is this all slightly fantastical? Undoubtedly. But then, so was buying Twitter. If we know much of anything about Musk, it’s that he’s unpredictable and not shy of taking swings that others would demur from. Hold onto your hats, this could get exciting.

Five ways to improve your information security

If there’s one thing that’s true about cybersecurity, it’s that no organization is ever entirely secure. Still, there’s plenty you can do to make things more secure, and Protcol’s Kyle Alspach recently put together an entire special report on how enterprises can better protect themselves. Here are five key ways your business can improve information security.

  • Deploy (or strengthen) multifactor authentication: “When it comes to information security ROI, multifactor authentication is hard to beat. Requiring a second form of identity verification, beyond just a username and password, has been shown to prevent the vast majority of credential-based attacks.”
  • Explore passwordless authentication: “While it's still a new concept, passwordless authentication holds a lot of promise for businesses. Some just allow users to skip entering their password; other options eliminate the password completely.”
  • Keep awareness training up to date: “Since it's the humans themselves who are often the weakest link, many organizations at this point understand the value of security awareness training for staff. But that value can be diminished when the training regimen lags behind current attacker trends.”
  • Empower employees to work securely: “Scolding employees for the use of unauthorized applications, aka ‘shadow IT,’ is increasingly being recognized as something to ‘not do.’ Rather than admonishing employees, organizations should help employees feel like they can self-report when they're using an unsanctioned application for productivity reasons.”
  • Keep risks in perspective: “Despite the concerns about threats from malware, the reality is that the vast majority of malicious activity does not include any use of malware, according to CrowdStrike. Compared to malware-based attacks, the threat posed by credential-based attacks ‘needs more attention’ than it's getting right now, said CrowdStrike CTO Michael Sentonas.”

A MESSAGE FROM HASHICORP

Organizations moving to the cloud need a new operating model — one that rethinks how they manage infrastructure, handle security, and connect systems. Platform teams trust HashiCorp’s stack of automation software to build the powerful, easy-to-use infrastructure their business needs to innovate.

Learn more

People are talking

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of of trust and safety, explained why he left the company:

  • “We had a system of governance. It was rules-based. We enforced our rules as written … and when that system of governance went away, you don’t need a head of trust and safety anymore.”

Making moves

Faraday Future’s head of product, Robert Kruse, resigned, Bloomberg reported. Its CEO was also removed earlier this week.

In other news

What’s the news from AWS re:Invent? Former Protocol enterprise editor Tom Krazit has the lowdown in his newly relaunched newsletter.

For some color on the FTX debacle, read these emails and text messages published by The New York TImes, which show exasperated lawyers and executives got with Sam Bankman-Fried.

China has taken steps to boost its semiconductor chops, according to the FT. It has Alibaba and Tencent working with researchers to use the Risc-V chip architecture in an effort to increase domestic production.

Airbnb launched a new service that will allow renters — or at least, those with approving landlords — to offer short-term sublets of their property on the site.

Twitter is no longer policing COVID-19 misinformation, which means it will stop removing or tagging such content.

BlockFi appeared in bankruptcy court on Tuesday, and told the judge that it was “the antithesis of FTX,” a line it looks set to continually repeat over the coming weeks.

Crypto brokerage Genesis hopes to avoid bankruptcy, it said, after Bloomberg reported that its creditors were speaking with restructuring lawyers in a bid to achieve the same goal.

Why does streaming keep getting more expensive? This is why.

Recruiters have felt the pain of the tech layoffs, and The Wall Street Journal has taken a close look at how and why they’ve been affected.

Where did Jack Ma go? Tokyo, according to the FT.

A MESSAGE FROM HASHICORP

Organizations moving to the cloud need a new operating model — one that rethinks how they manage infrastructure, handle security, and connect systems. Platform teams trust HashiCorp’s stack of automation software to build the powerful, easy-to-use infrastructure their business needs to innovate.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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