Apple managers were conflicted over App Store ads before launch

Posted:
in iPhone
Internal Apple emails surfaced in the Epic Games v. Apple trial show some of the company debate surrounding Search Ads on the App Store, including how it could be at odds with Apple's public messaging.

Credit: AppleCredit: Apple
Credit: AppleCredit: Apple


The discussion, which took place in February 2015, was between Apple engineer David Neumann and Fraud Engineering Algorithms and Risk head Eric Friedman. They took place more than a year before Apple actually rolled out search ads in 2016.

The debate kicked off when Neumann emailed Friedman a link to a Google announcement concerning ads in the Google Play store. "Boy, I sure wish we could do this," Neumann said in the email thread presented as an exhibit in the trial, which was first spotted by 9to5Mac.

"Yes, the ability to pay for promotion would be awesome. We've floated it several times as the way to end chart gaming: if people are willing to pay "marketing companies" (bot nets) to gain position, why don't we just let them pay us to gain position?" Friedman wrote in response.

"No one is willing to take that on, however. I suppose it would get pretty cheesy, but at least it would be transparently cheesy," Friedman continued.

Friedman went on to state that he was convinced that App Store charts aren't really a discovery tool. Instead, he said he believed the primary function is "inside baseball" -- or a chart to let developers know which apps are on top.

Neumann said that Apple could post an essay about App Store discovery to explain why it would be launching Search Ads. However, Friedman cautioned that Apple CEO Tim Cook's public stance on monetization would need to be taken into account.

"The devs would love it. The problem is that Tim is telling the world that we make great products without monetizing users. Ads would be weirdly at odds with that. I do think that search and explore are much better discovery tools. Also popularity alone is a stupid ranking function for the App Store. It's fine for music (though fuse is about to unleash a torrent of fakery there, too)."

But in the App Store I don't only want to know what is popular. I want apps that are high quality, well looked after by engaged developers, and retained (because useful) by other users. Being popular within a category is a nice to have and should mostly correlate with the other values I described.

Apple eventually launched Search Ads on the App Store in October 2016. Since then, it has steadily expanded the availability of the tool.

On Tuesday, the Cupertino tech giant also introduced a new, more prominent advertising slot in App Store searches.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,917member
    Sounds like a reasonable discussion. Don’t see anything off-putting there…
    lolliverthtasdasddysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,498member
    Ads in the app store suck. I’m searching for an app by name. Just show me the damn thing. 
    baconstangmuthuk_vanalingamdysamoriadarkvader
  • Reply 3 of 14
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,533member
    Isn’t the Today page already just a collection of ads? Why not simply put a “For You” grouping of app ads on the Today page in addition to hiding ads for apps I already own on the Today page. 

    At least we can turn these ads off in Settings
  • Reply 4 of 14
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 878member
    Friedman would have been fired by Steve Jobs. Steve was all about his product first and hiring people of the same mind. Tells me a little something of the Apple standard.
    darkvader
  • Reply 5 of 14
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,150member
    Being pro-privacy isn't being anti-advertising. This misunderstands just how extreme data gathering and tracking is on the internet.

    Getting relevant ad-results based on your search isn't creepy tracking. What is creepy is advertisers following you around the internet after targeting you based on nothing more than messages you've exchanged "privately" over instagram, facebook, whatsapp or gmail/google services. 
    bageljoeyDAalsethwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    flydogflydog Posts: 924member
    dewme said:
    Isn’t the Today page already just a collection of ads? 
    No
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    flydogflydog Posts: 924member
    DAalseth said:
    Ads in the app store suck. I’m searching for an app by name. Just show me the damn thing. 
    When I search for "google maps," for example, the first search result is the Google Maps app. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,599member
    mac_dog said:
    Friedman would have been fired by Steve Jobs. Steve was all about his product first and hiring people of the same mind. Tells me a little something of the Apple standard.
    And you know this how? So, you know for a fact that Steve never wanted or encouraged internal debate and discussions. Somehow, I don't think that's true.
    Those types of debates are good. However, once the decision is made, everybody needs to tow the company line.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 707member
    mac_dog said:
    Friedman would have been fired by Steve Jobs. Steve was all about his product first and hiring people of the same mind. Tells me a little something of the Apple standard.
    Did you look at his job title? "Fraud Engineering Algorithms and Risk". It sounds like he was doing his job in support of the product!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,626member
    mac_dog said:
    Friedman would have been fired by Steve Jobs. Steve was all about his product first and hiring people of the same mind. Tells me a little something of the Apple standard.
    Jobs supported and promoted iAds. It’s Tim who is more privacy conscious - not “selling the customer” for example. 

    And jobs, after his first stint as Apple iCeo when he did get rid of some people, didn’t really fire anyone. 
    edited May 5 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,206member
    Ads suck. They’ve become an egregious invasion of every space on this planet, physical and virtual. They waste more bandwidth than anything users intentionally do (I suspect there’s more data going back and forth fr advertising than willful streaming of video, especially when we include the forced video ads on text articles).

    I have ZERO tolerance for ads anymore. It is entirely the fault of advertising itself. Every person who despises advertising as much as I do was brought here by advertisers being unwilling to self-moderate. They’ve caused their own injuries by way of pushing people to develop and use ad blockers. It’s not just the advertising companies, though; it’s also the greed of every company that thinks they can increase profits by selling ad spaces in their websites and software. Yes, GREED.

    Advertising is now a disease that needs to be eradicated.
    darkvader
  • Reply 12 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    dysamoria said:
    Ads suck. They’ve become an egregious invasion of every space on this planet, physical and virtual. They waste more bandwidth than anything users intentionally do (I suspect there’s more data going back and forth fr advertising than willful streaming of video, especially when we include the forced video ads on text articles).

    I have ZERO tolerance for ads anymore. It is entirely the fault of advertising itself. Every person who despises advertising as much as I do was brought here by advertisers being unwilling to self-moderate. They’ve caused their own injuries by way of pushing people to develop and use ad blockers. It’s not just the advertising companies, though; it’s also the greed of every company that thinks they can increase profits by selling ad spaces in their websites and software. Yes, GREED.

    Advertising is now a disease that needs to be eradicated.
    It's it more the fault of the corporations and small businesses themselves? For example Apple does ads on TV and in-store retail, and at carriers, and on the internet. Why would they do that? For the same reason almost every other company promotes itself, mo' revenue.

    With the billions Apple has spent on self-promotion you would assume they've determined it's not money wasted. The advertising industry is simply filling a demand by the people and companies wanting to promote a product or service. If companies did not demand advertising of their "company stuff" then ads on the internet would be virtually non-existent. 
    edited May 5
  • Reply 13 of 14
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 481member
    dysamoria said:
    Ads suck. They’ve become an egregious invasion of every space on this planet, physical and virtual. They waste more bandwidth than anything users intentionally do (I suspect there’s more data going back and forth fr advertising than willful streaming of video, especially when we include the forced video ads on text articles).

    I have ZERO tolerance for ads anymore. It is entirely the fault of advertising itself. Every person who despises advertising as much as I do was brought here by advertisers being unwilling to self-moderate. They’ve caused their own injuries by way of pushing people to develop and use ad blockers. It’s not just the advertising companies, though; it’s also the greed of every company that thinks they can increase profits by selling ad spaces in their websites and software. Yes, GREED.

    Advertising is now a disease that needs to be eradicated.

    Exactly.  I'm blocking every bit of advertising I can.  I've had adblockers in my web browsers for years, I use Firefox with NoScript, and I'm now running Pi-hole to dump advertising domains entirely on my network.

    You know, I could probably have handled static picture and text ads.  But I will not tolerate tracking, and I will not tolerate moving ads.


  • Reply 14 of 14
    CloudTalkinCloudTalkin Posts: 807member
    dewme said:
    At least we can turn these ads off in Settings
    I don't think that's right.  Afaik, there is no way to turn off ads.  I'm actually 100% sure you can't turn off ads.  There are now two types of ad slots in the App Store.  Search query ad slot that appears when you search for something.  Suggested ad slot appears before you even make a query.  You can not turn off either of these ad slots.  You're going to get ads.  No way around that.

    What you can turn off is Target Advertising.  Ads based on data mined info.  The ads would then no longer be based on your info, but you'd still get ads.  Again, no way around that.  Separately, go turn of Location based ads.  They aren't covered under the rules of targeted advertising.


    muthuk_vanalingam
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