I suspect there aren't many people who have ever told Mark Zuckerberg no. That's what happens when you're one of the wealthiest people in history and control a platform that affects the lives of almost 3 billion people.
It happens for two reasons. First, people who can afford it tend to surround themselves with others who reinforce their beliefs and view of the world.
Second, when you believe the thing you are doing is noble and right, you don't hear the rationale in the voices of dissent. Over time, the people who might have told you no get quieter as it becomes clear that the only acceptable answer is yes. Eventually, those voices simply disappear and there is no one telling Zuckerberg (and by extension Facebook) no.
Until Apple. The iPhone maker has made it clear that it is a dissenting voice against Facebook's approach to monetizing its users' personal information.
As a result, Zuckerberg has launched an all-out war against Apple, especially as the latter has started to implement privacy-focused features into iOS 14 that will require app developers to request permission before tracking users across apps and websites.
It is true that the move will probably have a real and tangible effect on Facebook's business. But the interesting thing is that Apple isn't saying that you can't track users, you just have to ask permission first. Facebook doesn't seem to hear the second part because all it heard was something that sounded like no.
And so, the company has launched a vocal and highly public fight. In the past few months, Facebook has run full-page print ads claiming Apple is attacking small businesses. It also told investors that Apple is one of its "biggest competitors," and has reportedly been considering an antitrust lawsuit over the App Store.
All of that comes after Zuckerberg told colleagues in 2018 that Facebook needed to "inflict pain," after Apple CEO Tim Cook told an interviewer, in response to a question about Facebook's controversial data practices, "I wouldn't be in this situation." Zuckerberg's response was reported in a Wall Street Journal article on Saturday.
Now there are reports that Facebook is working on its own competitor to the Apple Watch. I'm not going to get into the apparent problems with Facebook trying to sell a device that exists only to collect even more of your information, because I think there's a far more important question.
Why would the world's fourth-wealthiest man, who at age 37 is worth roughly $100 billion, spend so much time obsessing over the world's most valuable company? Because Apple appears to be the one voice saying no to Zuckerberg's plan for world domination--or at least its plan to capture, track, and monetize as much of your information as possible.
You can argue about whether Apple's move is self-serving. To that, I would simply point out that if a company does something that is in the best interests of its users, that also happens to serve its own interests, that's just smart business. Apple definitely benefits from using privacy as a competitive differentiator. It's a part of the value it offers its customers, who are willing to pay a premium.
It does, however, explain why Zuckerberg is so obsessed with Apple. Every Facebook user is either a customer of Apple or Google. Those two platforms, by way of iOS and Android, have direct relationships with their users. In that sense, they act as a sort of gatekeeper between users and any third-party ads or services.
With the iPhone, Apple makes the devices and the operating system, which means it also gets to make the rules. Facebook, on the other hand, doesn't have the same kind of relationship because it depends on device makers, and is at the mercy of companies like Apple and Google.
Zuckerberg, it seems, doesn't like the rules because they are in direct conflict with Facebook's business model--at least as it has existed until now. I've said it quite a few times before, but if your business model is threatened by the idea that people might choose not to let you track everything you do online, your problem isn't with Apple. Your problem is your business model.
Instead of focusing on its competition, Facebook should be focusing on making Facebook even better. If its business model is broken, it should work on fixing that instead of complaining about Apple.
Admitting that, however, is difficult. It's far easier to just yell and complain when someone tells you no.