Why Apple chose Twitter over Facebook

On Apple choosing Twitter integration over Facebook in Mountain Lion and iOS

Control, privacy, platform, and competition are just some of the reasons both iOS and OS X integrate Twitter but not Facebook.

With the upcoming release of OS X Mountain Lion, Apple will be fully integrating Twitter social sharing across all of their included apps, as well as extending a developer API for 3rd party apps available through the Mac App Store. This follows similar integration in iOS 5 last year and leaves one huge, lingering question: where's the Facebook integration?

Facebook has roughly 845 million users on their platform, and Facebook for iPhone has been one of the most popular apps on the App Store since launch. Both iOS and Facebook are massive platforms and the intersection of those to platforms is enormous.

That's not taking anything away from Twitter, which is also extremely popular and also shares a huge intersection between its user base and Apple's. They're just very different social networks, with different features, and iOS currently only has one and not the other.

So why would Apple choose to leave out Facebook and rely only on the less-enormous, less feature-filled Twitter for social integration in OS X 10.8 and iOS 5?

Twitter integration in OS X Mountain Lion

Control

The first reason that springs to mind is control. Apple likes to have as much control over their platform as they can in order to deliver the absolute best user-experience possible. Twitter doesn't take much issue with this, but Facebook is a different story.

Apple and Facebook once tried to work together on Apple's Ping social music service. According to the late Steve Jobs, Facebook wanted "onerous" terms in order to allow integration between Ping and Facebook's platform. Apple declined. Facebook pulled support. Finger pointing and harsh words followed.

(There are also some signs that Apple and Facebook flirted with integration in iOS 4 as well, but nothing became of it.)

Privacy

Apple has had some issues with privacy, including the collection of traffic data and recently apps that uploaded Contacts info without permission. However, they've also used privacy as a way to needles Google. Apple makes most of their money selling products, not selling advertising services, so they don't want to or need to collect a lot of user data. They've also been fairly unimpeachable when it's come to insisting other companies get users to opt-into sharing information up front, rather than force them to opt-out in some convoluted manner later. (Much to the consternation of advertisers and marketers, most recently in the magazine subscription area.)

Facebook on the other hand likes to collect huge amounts of data from its users, often with a collect first, apologize later mentality. Apple might take issue with Facebook wanting to harvest iOS user data, package it up, and market against it. Especially if all they, and users get in return is integration for status, photos, and location.

Platform

Facebook views their service as a platform. Just as OS X and iOS are unique and proprietary platforms meant to help Apple sell hardware, Facebook's platform is a proprietary service meant to help them collect data and sell ads. Apple wants to prioritize their iPhone and iPad devices, Facebook their social graph.

Those different and diverging priorities can easily be at odds and lead to conflict.

Competition

Lastly, Facebook has long been rumored to be working on their own smartphone. This could present the same problem for Apple that Google did when Android was released. In fact, it could be an even bigger problem if Facebook's integration is more broad than a maps or video app, or a mail account. Facebook integration isn't a bell that can be easily un-rung.

It would make sense for Facebook to make their own smartphone, however, the same way it made sense for Google.

Steve Jobs threatened to go Nuclear on Google when Android was released, to spend Apple's last dollar suing Google over their "stolen" technology. Would Apple set themselves up for that to happen again?

Twitter

Twitter doesn't seem to want as much control as Facebook. They're so far much more upfront about user privacy. While they're also a platform, it's one that seems -- at least for now -- more compatible with Apple's needs than is Facebook's. There's also no sign of a Twitter Phone on the horizon (or rather, almost every smartphone is already a Twitter Phone these days.)

Of course, it's always possible that Apple and Facebook may come to some sort of agreement down the road, ultimately paving the way for Facebook integration in iOS 6 and future versions of OS X. During Apple's recent shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook was asked about their relationship with Facebook and where exactly the popular social network would come into the picture down the road.

We do a lot with them, our users use Facebook an enormous amount. [...] I've always thought that the two companies could do more together.

Apple could stay away from Facebook just as they have always done, allowing Twitter to continue on its course of massive growth and user adoption. Or Apple and Facebook could patch up their differences, work out a deal, and give users more benefit with additional social sharing options..

Regardless, it would be nice to see the two work something out given how popular Facebook is and how often most of us use the social network on our iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads.

Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

Why Apple chose Twitter over Facebook

23 Comments

I think Apple have been pretty smart with the new Share Sheets feature coming in Mountain Lion. They've managed to slight Facebook and Google (Youtube) by not offering their services as a default, but left the door open for them to be integrated anyway, either by third-party or Facebook / Google direct (which they almost certainly will). Apple retains control, but users will ultimately get the deeper integration as well, so everyone wins. Look out for some kind of Share Sheets API in iOS 6...?

If you use both services? There is a work around. Have your tweets post to Facebook. Ideal? No. But if you are primarily on twitter to follow people? Works pretty good.

Great article Andrew. We'd add that Apple probably admires Twitter for its simplicity. The purity of 140 characters at at a time. No sprawling timeline or message walls or time-waster games. It's also manageable, easy to add to SDKs, and "small" enough feature-wise to add to iOS and OS X.
Re: "Apple and Facebook once tried to work together on Apple’s Ping social music service."
One of the best ways for two successful companies to become enemies is by working on a joint project. Especially when that project results in a bad product. (Remember the Motorola ROKR?) The two companies' long term goals are almost always orthogonal. One or both of them will walk away unhappy.

Facebook is about sharing as much possible information, that they can eek out of you. This has been shown time and time again, and they are now taking control of many (make that most) forums, where you have to log into facebook, even to comment! I am about sharing as little personal information as I can online. Facebook is the opposite of my goals. My kids say "but dad, when all my privacy is locked down, its private!" You can't make some folks understand. Once its out there on facebook, you are at their mercy, with their continual privacy changes, etc. and who they want to sell your info to at the moment. I personally don't trust anything they do.

Seriously, dude? Then you should NEVER post ANYTHING of a personal nature online at all. If you have or do... THEY'VE GOT YOU!
LOL!

I don't really care about any of this. I tried twitter two times and just couldn't get into it. I didn't see the point.

I use Twitter more and Facebook less, these days. I got fed up with Facebook's lax privacy policies and platform changes that didn't bring features I wanted or needed. Twitter on the other hand, works fine for me. Facebook integration is unnecessary, as you can go to the website if you want and the Facebook App on the iPhone is fine for me.

You know what I find most annoying about Facebook? I've set up my account and my subscriptions to limit the number of notifications I receive so that I receive a limited number of status updates, yet I'm STILL receiving status updates that aren't checked from people I am subscribed to. I'm really not interested in EVERYONE'S status updates. This is why I like twitter more. I can read my timeline or I can read my mentions.

This is wrong. Apple didn't go with Facebook because facebook wanted to develop the integration themselves something which Apple wouldn't permit.

To the most part I agree. Twitter is definitely easier to handle for Apple than Facebook would be. I was following those two companies, and their dissents, for a while now and I really don’t get why they aren’t getting along at all. Tim Cook’s statement that he likes Facebook and wished there was more cooperation is not all too credible in my opinion. At the end oft he day I guess we should not forget that Facebook is for sure harder to implement into Apples OS’ than Twitter. In fact Apple included only one part of twitter’s service, the tweeting part. Nothing else is embedded in Mac’s or iDevice’s DNA. I guess this was just way easier than fighting with Marc Zuckerberg about who can how like what and so on, plus who get’s who’s user data.

I can't believe real rock music is so often snubbed by the music "elite". That somebody would even think Adele is worthy of running against the Foo Fighters for Album of the Year is astounding, if not ridiculous to consider. The fact that Wasting Light was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage, using ANALOG equipment is enough to put it ahead of anything else nominated, but music execs. obviously don't care about that. Electronically produced music and voice is quickly becoming the breadwinner with today's audiences, and that's just what the execs want.

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