This is the story of how a Salesforce CEO gifted Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs and App Store icon
Steve Jobs and App Store icon (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff met with Steve Jobs in 2003 and the pair discussed cloud services.
  • After that conversation, Benioff came up with an app store for Salesforce and registered the URL.
  • When Apple announced App Store, Benioff gave the URL to Jobs.

You probably already know that redirects to App Store or iTunes depending on the device you're using, but that wasn't always the case. After a meeting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2003, it was Salesforce and CEO Marc Benioff who owned it.

But after his initial plans changed Benioff was left with a URL he didn't need. Until 2008 when Apple announced App Store.

The whole story of how that came about is in Benioff's new book, Trailblazer, with TechCrunch sharing the story.

In an interview last year around Salesforce's 20th anniversary, company CTO and co-founder Parker Harris told me that the idea for the app store came out of a meeting with Steve Jobs three years before AppExchange would launch. Benioff, Harris and fellow co-founder Dave Moellenhoff took a trip to Cupertino in 2003 to meet with Jobs. At that meeting, the legendary CEO gave the trio some sage advice: to really grow and develop as a company, Salesforce needed to develop a cloud software ecosystem. While that's something that's a given for enterprise SaaS companies today, it was new to Benioff and his team in 2003.

But it took a few years for Benioff to put all of the pieces together. And once he did, what he came up with was the kind of app store we are all so familiar with today.

One evening over dinner in San Francisco, I was struck by an irresistibly simple idea. What if any developer from anywhere in the world could create their own applications for the Salesforce platform? And what if we offered to store these apps in an online directory that allowed any Salesforce user to download them?

The idea was so good Benioff had his team register the URL so Salesforce could use it when it was ready to. But ultimately Salesforce ended up shipping with a different name after customers said they didn't like the AppStore name. AppExchange was born, leaving unused. At least, until Benioff was invited to Apple's big 2008 announcement – App Store.

"At the climactic moment, [Jobs] said [five] words that nearly floored me: 'I give you App Store."

After the event, Benioff gave the URL to Jobs so it could be used with the new App Store product.

Benioff wrote that he and his executives actually gasped when they heard the name. Somehow, even after all that time had passed since that the original meeting, both companies had settled upon the same name. Except Salesforce had rejected it, leaving an opening for Benioff to give a gift to his mentor. He says that he went backstage after the keynote and signed over the domain to Jobs.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.