Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty images
An email chain disclosed by Epic Games as part of the lawsuit against Apple provides previous context about Facebook’s battle with Apple over the App Store.
Last August, Facebook said Apple’s App Store rules prevented it from releasing its Facebook Gaming app for iPhones as it wanted.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company had to remove the part of the app that played games – the point of the app – to gain approval in Apple’s App Store for iPhones.
Now, emails between three former Apple executives, including Steve Jobs, from 2011 show that a similar conflict between Apple and Facebook was likely part of the reason for the delay in the release of an iPad Facebook app over a decade ago.
Apple’s iPad came out in 2010, but Facebook didn’t release an app for it until October 2011. In fact, between those two dates, a Facebook engineer tucked into a public blog post, citing delays in the app’s release, in part due to a “ tense relationship. ” with Apple. “
In July 2011, Scott Forstall, then head of software, sent an email to Phil Schiller and Jobs, Apple’s former marketing chief. In the post, he said he spoke with Mark – presumably Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – about the Facebook iPad app.
He wrote that he told Mark that Facebook should not include “embedded apps” in its Facebook iPad app.
“Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t happy about this, considering these apps are part of the ‘whole Facebook experience’ and isn’t sure if they should make an iPad app without them,” Forstall wrote.
Facebook then turned its social network into a platform for games and apps. The best known of these was Farmville, a game where users tended to gardens within their Facebook accounts.
Facebook wanted Apple to compromise. Mark suggested, according to Forstall:
- Facebook could omit a directory of apps in the Facebook app – not even links.
- Facebook could prevent third-party apps from running in an “embedded webview,” or rather a browser in the Facebook app.
- Facebook wanted Apple to allow user posts in the news feed related to apps. Forstall wrote that those were filtered at the time, because tapping those messages wouldn’t do anything.
- Facebook suggested tapping one of those app links in the feed to switch the user to a native app or take them to the App Store if one exists, or link to Safari in some other way, the iPhone web browser.
Jobs, then CEO of Apple, replied from his iPad, “I agree – if we scrap Fecebooks’ third proposal, it sounds reasonable.”
Three days later, Forstall followed up and said he had a lengthy conversation with Mark, and that Facebook did not appreciate Apple’s counter-proposal to ban Facebook apps from linking to Safari.
“But according to Mark, there is no clear way to distinguish between a game of poker and the NYT. Both are Facebook developers and offer Facebook integration, ”Forstall wrote.
Schiller, who was Apple’s head of marketing until last year and in charge of Apple’s Executive Review Board calling for apps to be approved by Apple, summed up Apple’s position.
“I don’t see why we want to do that,” Schiller wrote. “All of these apps will not be native, they have no relationship or license with us, we will not review them, they will not use our APIs or tools, they will not use our stores, etc.”
When Facebook’s iPad app finally launched, it said it wouldn’t support its own Credits currency on iOS for apps like Farmville – a compromise along the lines of what Apple’s executives discussed.
In recent years, the rivalry between Silicon Valley’s two neighbors has heated up. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken lightly disguised photos of how Facebook handles user privacy, using Facebook as an example for a recent feature about asking apps to “not track”.
Facebook has set up an ad campaign to say that the iPhone maker’s privacy capabilities are hurting small businesses. It has also continued to adjust Apple’s App Store policies, criticizing Apple’s 30% App Store fee for online events in addition to complaints about its gaming app.
Facebook is not part of Epic Games’ argument in its legal battle against Apple and its App Store policies. The trial started on Monday and is expected to last three weeks.