Apple In a Relationship with Facebook? It’s Complicated.

Apple In a Relationship with Facebook? It’s Complicated.

MG Siegler posted a scoop on TechCrunch yesterday about the “relationship status” of Apple and Facebook.

Now the echo chamber is talking like Facebook is suddenly BFFs with Apple, similar to Apple’s relationship with Twitter.

That’s not true, and would be bad news if it was true.

Facebook is a lousy partner for Apple. Here’s why.

Not Exactly ‘Integration’

First, let’s be clear about what Siegler actually reported. He didn’t say Facebook would be integrated into Apple operating systems like Twitter is.

Siegler has “learned” from a source that Apple probably intends to announce some kind of limited integration, partnership or cooperation with Facebook.

When you currently use Facebook for iOS app “authentication” — for using your Facebook username and password instead of setting up a new one for the app — iOS switches you to the Facebook app for the authentication, then back to the original app to complete the login. The new announcement should log you in without switching to the Facebook app and back.

That’s it! That’s the news.

Siegler augments this apparently leaked information with speculation that Facebook might be added to the share screen along with Twitter for sharing something to your wall.

He says the change is for iOS 6 only and not for OS X.

The report is framed by Siegler as a trend toward ever increasing integration of Facebook into Apple operating systems that will bring Facebook to parity with Twitter integration.

I haven’t heard any evidence for that. And I would be very surprised if Apple pursued that.

Why Facebook Is a Lousy Partner for Apple

Personally, I don’t believe Apple intends to bring Facebook up to Twitter levels of partnership and integration. And they shouldn’t. Facebook is a “frenemy” at best.

Yes, Tim Cook said nice things about Facebook at All Things Digital. That’s what companies that are not in open warfare with each other do.

But Facebook is “Google Lite” when it comes to boldly entering into businesses that compete directly with Apple.

Remember September? That’s when Facebook asserted its desire to become the Internet’s number-one alternative to iTunes, challenging the whole Apple approach to content delivery. Facebook’s initiative was intended to make Facebook the Internet’s “primary entertainment hub,” according to The New York Times.

This month, the Times’ Nick Bilton reports that Facebook intends to release a phone next year. One insulting detail: They’re doing it with ex-Apple employees in a clear attempt to compete directly with the Apple iPhone using Apple’s own expertise and experience.

Facebook is a lousy Apple partner in other ways, too.

Their iOS apps suck, for example, using a mish-mash of kludgy tricks to get around Apple’s app development system and instead serve up Facebook via HTML5 and other technologies.

Facebook’s Messenger app is designed to compete directly against Apple’s iMessage. Facebook Camera app not only competes directly against Apple’s Camera app, it pretty much copies the app’s name. I expect Facebook to launch many more apps that aim to replace Apple’s own apps and hijack the iOS user experience.

Facebook is probably in talks to buy the Opera mobile browser in order to compete with Safari or for use inside their apps so they don’t have to play ball with Safari, or both.

Culture-wise, Facebook is also a bad association with Apple. The Facebook web site is the opposite of Apple’s minimalist cool. Facebook offers clunky, confusing interfaces and user-frustrating privacy policies. People love their family and friends on Facebook. But hardly anyone loves Facebook itself.

And if Facebook is flirting with Apple, they’re in bed with Microsoft and making breakfast, too. For example, Microsoft owns 1.6 percent of Facebook. They share patents. Facebook uses Bing. Facebook and Microsoft partner broadly and deeply.

A partnership with Facebook is a partnership with Microsoft.

In fact, the only thing appealing about Facebook to Apple is that they’re not Google, and they compete against Google. That’s not much to build a partnership on.

Twitter? Now THAT’S a Good Apple Partner (And an Even Better Acquisition)

Apple clearly loves Twitter. And what’s not to love? Twitter is the perfect social networking partner for Apple. Twitter is minimalist. It’s simple. It’s favored by Mac-loving celebrities and hipsters.

Unlike anything announced or leaked about Facebook, Twitter is truly integrated into Apple stuff.

When you click on “share” icon in iOS, say, from the Camera app or the Safari browser, the short list of options offers “Tweet.”

The inclusion in all share menus on all iOS devices is worth a billion dollars a year. To the best of my knowledge, Apple pays nothing.

The integration of another company’s services into Apple’s operating systems has rarely or never happened before. It happened for Twitter. It probably won’t happen for Facebook.

In fact, Twitter is such a good match that Apple should buy it. The reason is that Apple needs a social network of its own.

Social networks are how companies get to know their users so they can serve relevant content. That’s why all of Apple’s content competitors are offering products and services that harvest social signals (aggregated personal information derived from social networking activity). That’s why Google launched Google+. It’s why Amazon.com built a web browser. It’s why Facebook pushes “frictionless sharing.” It’s why Microsoft launched Bing and so.cl.

Apple’s got Siri, the intelligent agent. And Apple also sells advertising. In the long term, both these initiatives will require strong “social signals” or they will fail to keep up with competitive offerings from any number companies, especial Google.

Apple would be foolish to keep driving traffic to the many harvesters of social signals without having a way to gather its own. And Apple isn’t foolish.

The problem is that Twitter would be an expensive acquisition — almost certainly several billion dollars — possible even ten billion or more.

Still, despite the cost, acquiring Twitter would be a great move for Apple. And Apple can certainly afford it.

But Twitter acquisition or not, Apple should not partner with, integrate, cooperate with or help Facebook any more than they have to.

And so far, I haven’t seen any reason to believe that Apple is doing so.

Related
  • desinapster

    If Steve Jobs were alive right now, he’d never agree to this. What Facebook did to Ping is one of the reasons.? Now my iPhone5 will have spyware(Facebook) right out of the box

  • technochick

    Wow, what a pile of talking out of your uninformed and biased ass. You have zero information about if Apple is doing anything or how they will handle it and so no you can’t say what is true and what is not. And while you think that Facebook is evil that is your personal opinion and yours alone so have the balls so say that. Flat out and not try to make an expert judgement blah blah BS

  • technochick

    If Steve Jobs were alive right now, he’d never agree to this. What Facebook did to Ping is one of the reasons.? Now my iPhone5 will have spyware(Facebook) right out of the box

    1. Folks need to drop the whole “steve jobs would never”. He might have led the charge and even if he wouldn’t, he’s not here. He’s dead. It’s Tim Cook’s show and he can do this, whatever it is, if he wants. 

    2. Facebook did nothing to Ping because it wasn’t included. For reasons we don’t know the details but could be worked out at this point. Steve wanted Facebook included at some level so that actually is a point against your whole ‘Steve would never do this’ 
    3. No one said that you would be forced to sign up for Facebook to use your iPhone so just don’t sign in. 
  • Tallest_Skil

    If Steve Jobs were alive right now, he’d never agree to this. What Facebook did to Ping is one of the reasons.? Now my iPhone5 will have spyware(Facebook) right out of the box

    You’re going to wait until iOS 6 comes out to buy an iPhone 4S? Why?

    And you know absolutely nothing about what Steve Jobs would do.
    ALSO, there is no “spyware” unless you log in with Facebook in iOS. Stop the FUD.
  • ja808hi

    Face Book is GARBAGE. point Blank. Its just a place where people can complain about there day. and there ups and downs of life. Not going to get into the whole other reasons why. Its just a Fade right now like all the other social networks. Its no different then Myspace and Google + and all the rest of the other social networks out there or the ones B4. Its what ever you prefer over the other. 

  • chsweb

    Apple “needs” a social network like Facebook “needs” a phone. Apple is a social network, always has been. Why would anybody ‘need’ a Facebook phone?

  • Conor Conay Jackson

    It’s Complicated. Not ‘Its complicated’. 

    Its – The iPhone 4 is known for its inability to receive signal when held a certain way.

    It’s – It’s (it is) all hype though.
  • Seraphiel

    I totally agree with the author about twitter being more apple like then anything else. Indeed it is easy and straight to the point. I’ve tried Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter. Google Plus is more user-friendly then Facebook but both have their privacy related issues. I stuck with Twitter. It’s simple.. everything you post is shared with the world so you know what you are doing. There is a way to keep a conversation private through Direct Messages. Nice.. Searches and lists were made in 5 minutes. Simple, clean and you know what is happening. Sure Apple could buy Twitter.. It wouldn’t hurt their reputation. Integrating Facebook too tight into Apple’s iOS and OS X is a bad idea. FaceBook isn’t know for being one of the nice guys. Apple should keep their distance from it just as they do with Google.

  • AlexPlus_

    if facebook is anywhere near iPhones im switching to blackberry. YOU HEAR ME TIM!?

  • media_lush

    who in their right mind would trust facebook for anything….. there are numerous reasons why people hate it but have no viable alternative. imagine on relying on facebook for any kind of personal business and then see your account disabled because there was a flash of nip on a pic you posted – (this has happened to me and quite a few friends)…. just stop and think about that for a minute. can you see your mobile provider doing the same thing…. stopping your account because you sent a suggestive pic?

    …. an god forbid you ever get to talk to an actual person if you have a problem…. I’ve complained half a dozen times on what facebook has done with the thousands of pics I posted in a group I admin…. no reply at all.
    ….. and how many times have they changed it with absolutely no recourse to not wanting it…. everyone hates Timeline but facebook don’t give a shit…. same with the desire to have a “dislike” button.
    Apple should buy twitter and create there own social network that is part of the OS and similar to facebook about 5 years ago…. you know when people actually liked it.
  • John Branham

    tim wouldn’t have dropped such a huge teasing hint on Facebook if it were “partial” integration. that’s my opinion but idk.

  • morphorod

    Holy Hyperbole Batman, I wouldn’t go that far in terms of Facebook’s camera app. Its more akin to tap taps Camera+ and Instagram then to Apples Camera App.

    In terms of the other parts of the article, I agree is large part. Facebook is trying to get its hands into everything instead of refining themselves in a couple of things. This leads to fragmentation and sloppiness. I doubt Facebook will be Integrated in Apple, they just have two totally different business models.

    Twitter would be great though. But I don’t think it would be worth the billions it would cost, not to mention the Antitrust nightmare that a merger like that would create. The FBI and the DOJ would be looking into that one for at least a year before a deal could be finalized. But it would be nice to see them merged into one.

  • extra_medium

    First, i have to comment that this article is written on a completely different level from most of what i have read on cult of mac so far during the week or so I’ve been reading. It actually sounds like we have a professional writer here.

    Second, I cant believe that facebook is actually seriously considering making a phone in todays market. What are they going to do, release yet another android device but with an fb logo? That will flop in the grand scheme of things. Make their own, third FB os with apps and everything? Good lord i hope not. Make a dumbphone that is integrated with fb the way motorola made that terrible espn phone years back? It just seems like an awful idea that contradicts the few analysts left who are still calling zuckerberg a genius.

  • Frank Lazar

    “A partnership with Facebook is a partnership with Microsoft”

    It’s not like Apple and Microsoft have never partnered before…..

  • coolimoy

    Facebook still around? wow.

About the author

Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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