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Nobody’s allowing Facebook to track them. So what now?

Apple's app tracking clampdown

Good morning! This Wednesday, it appears Apple's "Ask not to Track" popups are a disaster for Facebook, Apple and Epic can't stop arguing over what counts as a game, Chinese companies are building opinionated voice assistants and Coinbase is done negotiating salary.

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The Big Story

'Ask app not to Track' is winning

Anna Kramer writes: Facebook was right to be afraid of iOS 14.5. Apple's new privacy tracking opt-out is proving even more popular than expected: About 85% of users worldwide have opted out of ad-tracking when prompted, Flurry Analytics found, and that number leaps to around 94% for U.S. users.

  • This might still be early-adopter behavior, though. Flurry data shows that it can take three to five weeks for about 60% to 75% of users to adopt a major iOS update.
  • And it's not a perfect representation. The Verizon-owned analytics company says that Flurry is used in over 1 million apps, and that it is collecting and publishing daily updates to its opt-in data aggregated from user behavior for those apps.

This will be making a lot of people very nervous. Developers have tried everything to get people to allow tracking. Some we've seen simply explain how the ad business works, while others make veiled threats about what might happen if the business goes away. None of it seems to be working.

Let's assume this isn't going to get better, or at least not a lot better. This level of opt-out means a huge hit to the company's advertising business. What does Facebook do?

  • It's going to invest even more in first-party products, hoping to keep users inside the Facebook universe where it can still track them.
  • It's also going to accelerate things like AR and VR, trying to move the world onto platforms it owns so that it doesn't have to play these games anymore.
  • And it's going to throw even more weight into its fight with Apple, as it becomes yet another developer who feels wronged by the App Store.

Meanwhile, Apple presses on. It's currently hiring for dozens of slots on its advertising team, and as we mentioned yesterday it added Antonio García Martínez, the former Facebook exec and "Chaos Monkeys" author, to its roster. Its job listings make a point of the company's privacy-focused approach. It's definitely easier to be "the privacy option" when you're also the only option. But as long as Apple's allowed to control every pixel of its platform, it's going to do so. And make a killing in the process.

Epic v. Apple

Seriously, what is a game?

Seven days into the Epic v. Apple trial, it's still the big question: What's a game? Protocol's Nick Statt reported on why the answer matters so much:

  • At its heart, this trial is about whether the creator of a closed ecosystem can illegally monopolize software distribution on a platform it owns, and whether Apple and the App Store fit the bill.
  • Lawyers on both sides have to try to establish what the market is. Is it the video game market, the entire mobile app market or just the iOS app market? Apple is far from having a monopoly on the first, arguably has a dominant position in the second and does have top-down control of the third.

It's about setting the stakes. If Epic succeeds in broadening the scope of the proceedings to include all of iOS and the App Store, it may win a ruling that strikes at the totality of Apple's platform and threatens to open up the entire iPhone ecosystem to competitors.

  • So Apple is dead-set on narrowing the scope of the debate to the game industry, where a ruling could result in less damage to iOS in the event Apple does lose. It also makes Apple's 30% commission seem more reasonable, compared to other consoles.
  • If Fortnite is just a game, then this is about one game company's quest to get one game special privileges, and that's not especially convincing.
  • If Fortnite is more than a game, as numerous Epic executives have now contended, Epic's quest can be recast as one to open a door to Apple's walled garden, to the benefit of developers everywhere.

There's much more market-defining to come, of course; we haven't even really started talking about Android. But this weird debate puts the whole trial in perspective. Epic may be commonly thought of as a game developer today, but its ambitions are to be a multimedia giant that "transcends gaming." Standing in its way are Apple, the App Store and that 30% cut.

People Are Talking

On Protocol | China: Chinese voice-assistant companies are putting opinions into their bots in hopes you'll like them more, said Xiaoice's Li Di:

  • "Facts are when I ask [the chatbot] how tall the Himalayas are, or can you get me a Uber. But when I ask it whether it likes Donald Trump, that's an opinion. Do you like this song by Taylor Swift? That's also an opinion. An AI being has to have opinions. It can't both like and dislike it."

Coinbase is banning all salary and equity negotiations, and plans to offer identical pay to anyone in the same job and location, L.J. Brock said:

  • "Traditionally people expect they need to negotiate for the best package after being hired in a new job. Those that do this well tend to be rewarded, and those that don't lose out. These negotiations can disproportionately leave women and underrepresented minorities behind, and a disparity created early in someone's career can follow them for decades."

Carl Pei said people are bored by Apple's pace of innovation, and created his company Nothing to try and bring excitement back to the industry:

  • "There's a general feeling of, 'Why should I upgrade my tech?' because each new generation is sort of similar to the previous one. In the past, people were so optimistic about technology. But now people are indifferent. And there must be a way of breaking the cycle."

A MESSAGE FROM ENVOY

Envoy analyzed over 20 million workplace entries over the past year to understand where and how quickly Americans are returning to work. See how workplace foot traffic is changing each week across the country and near you in our Return to Workplace Index.

Learn more

Making Moves

Lara Mendonça is joining Twitter's design team. She joins from Bumble, and adds to the impressive list of diverse top talent Twitter has hired in recent months.

YouTube is spending $100 million on Shorts creators, hoping to buy its way into being a TikTok competitor.

Myoung Cha is joining Carbon Health, after a stint as Apple Health's head of strategic initiatives.

Project CHIP is now Matter, as the organization continues to try and build the One True Smart Home Standard. (Good luck with that.)

Google is planning to double the size of its AI Ethics team to 200 people. Sundar Pichai promised to boost the troubled team's budget going forward.

Better.com is going public via a SPAC at a $7.7 billion valuation. SoftBank's leading a $1.5 billion investment into the company as part of the SPAC merger.

In Other News

Work in the Future

Goodbye office, hello farmland?

Someone should really remind Marc Benioff that he has a whole giant San Francisco skyscraper with his company's name on it. Because he seems awfully ready to ditch Salesforce Tower for … Salesforce Ranch, I guess? "We're looking at maybe buying a large piece of land, maybe a large ranch in the United States or some other type of acreage where we can build the next generation of Crotonville," Benioff said yesterday. He also cited Disney World as a good model for the future of the office. Seriously.

In a hybrid world where hot-desking becomes the norm and nobody has an office they go to every day, truly everything is suddenly fair game. And Benioff's not even the first to think of farming; Zoho's got him beat there. The office of the future might look even more different than we realize. Just please, no "It's A Small World."

A MESSAGE FROM ENVOY

Envoy analyzed over 20 million workplace entries over the past year to understand where and how quickly Americans are returning to work. See how workplace foot traffic is changing each week across the country and near you in our Return to Workplace Index.

Learn more

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

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