Update 2022/11/30 at 3:40pm ET: Apparently, Elon Musk has taken a trip to Apple’s headquarters. Per a tweet from Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook took him around “Apple’s beautiful HQ.” The tweet includes a brief video of a water feature and trees. It’s not yet clear why Musk visited Apple headquarters, although it comes on the heels of his tweets about Apple (you can see them below).
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 30, 2022
Elon Musk did a live speed run of learning about Apple’s stringent App Store policies on Monday.
In a series of totally normal, not-at-all-unhinged tweets, Musk claimed Apple “mostly” stopped advertising on Twitter, accused the company of hating “free speech in America” and censorship, then said Apple “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store,” and wrapped things up by tweeting about Apple’s 30 percent App Store cut and posting a meme about going to war with Apple (Update 2022/11/29 at 2:50pm ET: Good thing I included screenshots below, because Musk deleted the meme about going to war with Apple).
Humorously, Musk tweeted everything from an iPhone.
Musk’s new beef with Apple should hardly come as a surprise. Over the last few weeks, Musk has laid off a significant amount of Twitter staff and upended the company’s content moderation policies, causing brands and advertisers to ditch the platform (contrary to Musk’s claims, it has nothing to do with activists).
At the same time, Musk forged ahead with a refreshed Twitter Blue subscription that gives subscribers an identical blue checkmark to verified accounts, despite warnings that it wouldn’t go well. Within days of Blue going live, Twitter had to suspend the subscription while it scrambled to come up with ways to stop rampant impersonations on the platform, which so far has boiled down to Musk begrudgingly admitting Twitter will manually verify Blue subscribers after all.
Blue subscription puts Twitter at odds with Apple, Google
The Twitter Blue subscription fiasco is a relatively important piece to the Musk v. Apple puzzle. As advertisers pull out of Twitter, Musk is hunting for other ways to squeeze profit out of the company as bankruptcy looms. Getting people to pay for Twitter might help (although the math of Musk’s Blue subscription doesn’t quite add up). The new Twitter Blue was only available on iOS for the brief period it was available at all and will likely be available on iOS when it returns later this week. It’s unclear if or when Musk will expand Blue to Android.
As predicted 8 days ago, the brewing war between Apple and Twitter has arrived. https://t.co/D7fG8hMlnF
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) November 28, 2022
Blue’s iOS availability is the crux of the issue. As has been pointed out before, Twitter’s shift to subscriptions means Apple and Google take a cut of the money — Apple takes a 30 percent cut that drops to 15 percent after the first year per subscriber, while Google takes 15 percent from the start. That could be a problem for Musk, who — as described above — is trying to squeeze as much profit from Twitter as possible.
More than that, Apple and Google have both taken stances against apps that don’t handle content moderation properly. For example, back in January 2021, Apple and Google banned Parler from their respective app stores over its lax moderation policies in the wake of the January 6th insurrection. Musk claimed Apple hasn’t said why it allegedly withheld Twitter from the App Store, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the moderation changes had some part in it (assuming the allegation is true). That said, Apple has a history of blocking app updates if it thinks the app in question tries to skirt its revenue cut, among other reasons, so it really could be anything.
Regardless, now that Musk owns a business that is directly impacted by Apple’s and Google’s app store policies, he seems much more concerned about them. There are certainly arguments to be made that app store policies, rules, and regulations are anti-competitive in many respects — it will be interesting to see if Musk manages to spur any action on the issue or if he chooses to offer Blue through the web instead as a way of avoiding giving Apple and Google a cut.
Of course, Musk might just make his own smartphone (judging by the tweets already surfacing from Musk stans who are ready to toss their iPhone if Apple bans Twitter from the App Store, he’d have some customers). Hopefully, the Musk phone doesn’t catch fire as often as Tesla vehicles.
Read more about the ongoing Musk x Twitter saga here.