by Ayman Haydar,

It’s easy to forget that not long ago we were living in a duopoly-run state, dominated by two powerhouses: Google and Facebook. Google vs Facebook depending on your point of view or media headlines that week. Now, they have become part of a much larger ‘tribe’ that rules the market. GAFA, primarily made up of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon has become the acronym of choice when it comes to talking about big tech as one collective unit. Microsoft occasionally features in this list too, usually at an earnings call or when someone gets on their high horse and demands these giants are broken up and properly regulated.

Raking over old ground aside, this year has begun a little differently. As Google makes headway with its FLoC of birds and Privacy Sandbox, Apple has stepped well and truly into the limelight, ready to shake up the advertising industry as we know it, and pose a very real threat to Facebook’s future earnings. In other words, it’s no more Mr Nice Guy. Not that I’d call Tim Cook exactly ‘nice’, but he’s definitely found himself an edge going on the offensive against Facebook in a speech that left little doubt about who he was referring to. Take this one soundbite in particular…

“Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it, and we’re here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom. If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.”

Well, if you’re going to call out the ‘competition’ then that’s the way to do it; expertly timed (International Privacy Day) keeping ambiguity to a minimum to deliver one hell of a gut punch to Mark Zuckerberg. Not that the Facebook CEO has been exactly quiet in voicing his annoyance at Apple’s upcoming ad changes either.

Cook’s speech was likely in direct response to Facebook’s full-page newspaper ads that attacked these modifications, and Zuckerberg’s stance that these changes were being made on the basis of competitive interests rather than to safeguard user privacy. It’s tit for tat, which I’ll admit would be amusing if it wasn’t happening between two grown men and in such a public forum.

#bigtech #digitalmarketing #digitaladvertising #adtech #browserchanges #adtracking #IDFA #userprivacy #socialmedia #antitrust #whatsapp #facebook #markzuckerberg #google #sundarpichai #floc #apple #timcook #amazon #gafa #digitalization #duopoly #internationalprivacyday

Facebook is Hurting, But For How Long? 

I expect this back and forth to go on for a while, so I’d take a seat and get comfortable as both companies continue to move towards collision. In other words, brace for impact. Right now, Apple has the upper hand and it’s Facebook that’s hurting. Its share price has fallen 2.3% in the last six months, compared with the S&P 500 index’s gain of 15%. Still, it’s not like the ship is sinking; Facebook still has plenty of room to grow the company. This period of uncertainty and damage to revenue won’t last, with some analysts even predicting that long-term these IDFA changes could actually strengthen Facebook’s business.

As ‘closed’ content platforms become the new playground, it’s Facebook that will be best placed to capitalize on this, having recently made in-roads and invested heavily in areas such as ‘Shops’ and gaming. Both offer huge potential. Plus, it’s not as if Apple is shutting down the data well for Facebook, it’s just limiting what’s possible within the boundaries of the app. Facebook will recover. They always do.

Not that Apple are making these changes from the goodness of their heart either. Having conquered the world of hardware (how many of their devices do you own?) and the software (Apple Music, Apple Pay – the list goes on) which accompanies it, they now have their sights set on the most valuable asset of all… data.

Welcome To Apple World 

To be clear, Tim Cook and co. are in the business of selling their users a particular kind of lifestyle, and as privacy moves further into the spotlight as a key consumer concern, Apple wants to be the one who can assure their fears and keep them nice and safe, wrapped up in their very own ecosystem. I wonder if you can sense my skepticism here.

At first glance you wouldn’t immediately identify Facebook and Apple as rivals, but when you dig a little deeper, it’s their opposing business models, which both set them apart and cause them to clash. Both are tech giants with billionaire CEOs. Both are an integral part of our lives today. Both deal in connectivity and data – it’s just that one wants to bring you further into their world, while the other looks to tailor things to entice you elsewhere.

My take is what it’s always been: let users make up their own mind. Facebook has already had to deal with one embarrassing privacy PR blunder this year with its WhatsApp update – they can’t afford another misstep. In the coming months, Apple will rollout messages to its users that will decide Facebook’s fate within the current data tracking ecosystem. Facebook will counter this by pushing pop-ups of its own pleading with users to stay opted in. Beyond that, we’re still in the dark about the larger impact this will have across the industry.

So, Where Does Google Stand? 

Google has been much quieter in its reaction to the changes, opting for compliance rather than ‘all out’ war at this stage. They are however, pre-empting any loss in ad revenue from these iOS changes by warning its customers in advance. Shrewd.

#bigtech #digitalmarketing #digitaladvertising #adtech #browserchanges #adtracking #IDFA #userprivacy #socialmedia #antitrust #whatsapp #facebook #markzuckerberg #google #sundarpichai #floc #apple #timcook #amazon #gafa #digitalization #duopoly #internationalprivacyday

I think it makes sense to work with rather than against Apple on this. If Cook puts his money where his mouth is and actually makes good on his vision for an ‘ethical technological’ approach, then we may stand a chance in helping users make informed choices about their data in future.

They need to remember that personalisation isn’t the enemy – it’s misinformation and past data misuse that have eroded trust in the whole system. This system isn’t broken beyond repair, but it does need to evolve. Lawmakers are taking consent and privacy seriously and it’s time these tech titans did as well. Enough in-fighting and point scoring, we need to move on.