Fred Wilson: Apple is “Evil” and Facebook is “a Photo-sharing Site”

72 Comments

Union Square Ventures managing partner Fred Wilson’s had plenty of blunt opinions on the tech industry today at the Geo-Loco conference in San Francisco. But he also had some compelling justifications for his insults, even if they were mainly targeted at competitors of his portfolio companies.

Wilson was especially dismissive of Facebook, calling it “a photo-sharing site.” He said Facebook’s supposed monopoly on the “social graph” is overblown. Every big web site has a social graph, said Wilson — Google’s just isn’t “lit up” yet. Further, he argued that the web itself is the social graph. Still, Wilson acknowledged that Facebook is a “juggernaut.” He said Google should try to buy the company if it can. Google, at this point, is “challenged” on multiple fronts, Wilson said — its last great web innovation was Gmail, he contended.

Wilson said his biggest worry for his portfolio companies, which include Foursquare and Twitter, is not actually Facebook, like many would assume. It’s Apple. Apple is “evil,” Wilson said. Why? “They believe they know what is best for you and me. And I think that is evil.” The VC also said he worries that Apple owns the mobile app marketplace and the minds of mobile developers, and it interferes too much with how people use and find apps. He said he’s hopeful that Android can keep Apple honest, but he doesn’t think that’s happening yet.

Wilson even picked on the little guy, too — calling Gowalla “the second fiddle” in the social location space versus Foursquare.

Wilson did give a candid opinion of one of his own portfolio companies, admitting to Twitter’s unending problems staying online. The service breaks, he said, because “it wasn’t built right — Twitter was built kind of as a hack and they didn’t really architect it to scale and they’ve never been able to catch up.” But he promised that Twitter would soon do interesting things around location — that was the topic of the conference, after all. The company will soon use location metadata to improve “relevancy and signal to noise,” Wilson said.

The location space is more likely to be won by startups than big companies, said Wilson, because startups don’t have to change users’ existing expectations. Check-ins would be awkward on Facebook, he said, because you don’t want to tell 1,000 people you’re grabbing a beer. And younger companies have the benefit of being able to create and maintain consistent settings for privacy and information sharing from the start.

Wilson’s prediction for the location space: “The companies that do the best job on managing a user’s privacy will the the companies that ultimately are the most successful.”

Photo of Wilson courtesy Flickr user joi. Feature image courtesy Flickr user lloydcrew.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Location: The Epicenter of Mobile Innovation

72 Comments

Virtuous

If Apple is “evil”, Facebook is even more “evil”. Apple has real competition for all of its products. Facebook is a proprietary walled garden with no serious competition that blatently disregards its customers’ privacy. You can buy an Android phone instead of an iPhone. You can buy a Zune rather than an iPod. You can buy a Windows PC rather than a Mac. You can use Google Apps instead of MobileMe.

c3

Evil?..well maybe not evil, but they certainly arent doing “everyone” much good.
Nothing new.. only now allowed to run wild as technology seduces the last 20%.

http://flic.kr/p/8kSCJD if you hadnt heard of Apples Products;)

Richard. D.

Semantics guys. Are you really getting upset over the word evil?
I think some of you are taking it too seriously. When I hear that Apple is evil, I think of it in a sarcastic, snarky way. Not as if they are truly EVIL.

Ed

Apple or anyone else who tries to control what I think or do or use on or with my personal property is evil as long as what I’m doing is legal.

Steve Jobs railed about the record companies tried to do with CDs that you bought and paid for. Now he is trying to do the same thing to anyone who purchases Apple hardware with IOS installed.

I love Macs and own 3 but the day the Mac OS tries to do the same thing is the day I switch to another OS.

mike T.

I agree Ed. And at the very least if they aren’t evil, Apple is controlling.

Not to mention that Apple has more problems with their products than they want you to believe. Apple has deleted threads about problems with their products in the past, and they will probably continue to do so in the future. the thing is that before they were small enough where a lot of people didn’t notice. But as they grow in size, more people are beginning to notice, people who don’t drink the kool-aid, and when they cry foul, those who do drink the kool-aid try to discredit them.

Say what you want, but Apple has a history of denying problems, covering it up, and blaming others. (Iphone 4?)
Add that to the fact that they tell you what apps you can use, what hardware you can use with a device, who can develop for them, etc., and they are control freaks.

Sounds like a bad relationship…

Supreme Tech Ninja

Ed, I think you hit the nail on the head. Im writing this reply on my Macbook Pro (which i love) with my iPhone sitting beside me. I think Apple products are generally great. However, Apple’s control issues bother me alot, especially when they try to play moral police.

Take for example the rejection of the Nine Inch Nails app from the app store because of “objectionable content” due to some of the songs that it allowed you to listen to, the SAME songs that they had no problem selling on iTunes. They reversed themselves on that one. There is also the South Park app they rejected twice, also based on content that could be obtained using iTunes.

I could go on and on (Google Voice, Pull my Finger vs iFart, etc) about their arbitrary standards they use to justify their censorship, but my point is that its bad, and i doubt most people want them to play that role. Let me clarify that I specifically mean content they object to for moral or anti-competitive reasons, not technical reasons.

They can get away with it for now, because in my eyes and the eyes of many others they have the best phone/platform out there. But IMHO I think that if there was a choice between an iPhone and the current appstore, and an iPhone paired with an uncensored app store, consumers would overwhelmingly choose the latter.

k

Google should try to buy Facebook?
This time next year Facebook will have around 1 billion users.
Fred is sort of giving advice to Google, but he doesn’t want this to happen and he knows it ain’t gonna happen.
Google will need to buy rapid growth to stop the FB beast.
Fred has a few investments they may be interested in.

Is Apple evil? I don’t think so.
Had they asked us what we wanted, how many of us would have said an iPhone or an iPad?
Innovation is not evil.
But I have to say I don’t like the spin doctors who work in the Apple marketing department.
The last email to Steve on sjobs.me goes into Apple’s BS on how they’re making their products less damaging to the environment.
They aren’t as bad as BP, but all the BS they’ve been giving us lately is borderline evil.

About Gowalla versus Foursquare.
He’s telling the truth, but does it matter?
Google was search engine N° … 20 ?
Now they’re number 1.
Fred doesn’t want history to repeat itself.
(Google once bought Jaiku)

About Twitter.
They have 300,000 new users per day.
Honestly, who builds a system that’s ready for something like that? :-)
They’re catching up. In other words, Twitter ain’t for sale. Foursquare is?

About the location space.
Call me crazy but …
Fred knows Google is better at protecting our privacy.
He’s saying Google, we like you, come talk to us. :-)
One last thing I would like to say: when you have 500 million users, and you have a photograph of almost every user, I think you have something very powerful in your hands when you combine it with image recognition software.

Hurry up, Google!

sindark

I use Facebook largely as a photo sharing site. It is better than Picasa or Flickr because tagging is easy and everybody already has a Facebook account. Also, there are no limits to how many photos you can put up in total (though only 200 per album).

Picasa, by contrast, only allows a set amount of disk space. On the plus side, however, you can upload much higher resolution images there.

stevenelliottjr

I think someone already mentioned this, but a few years ago everyone was writing about how evil Google was. Before that it was Microsoft was the evil empire. Now its Apple because why? They’re popular? They create closed products? Well, they’re a company that makes good to sell for profit and as such want to protect their secret sauce. You can’t fault any company that does this and in fact I would argue they’d be insane not to be doing this.

Chris

If Apple is evil because “They believe they know what is best for you and me”, where does that put Google, as it indexes all the world’s information and decides how and in what order to present it to you (or suppress it from being found)?

Samuel Lavoie

Nicely put. Sums up what I think of this “apple is evil” thingy. Lot’s of easy to do geeky rants. Can we end that now?

Steven Elliott

Apple isn’t more evil than any other tech company. They just happen to be the ones that are doing innovative things right now and slipped up recently with iPhone4. I remember when it was Google that being touted as evil but everyone still used their products and continue to. Facebook is also evil then I guess if you think about it since they’re so popular. What you have here is a VC trying to steer the market to some other product that he wants to invest in. Oh well, that’s life.

Here is the best part though about the whole thing. If you think Apple is evil, or facebook blows or whatever then don’t buy their products or use their services. Its as simple as that! Thankfully, for the time being, we all have the freedom of choice… stop whining about shit that nobody gives a f**k about.

James

So Apple thinking it knows what’s best for us is evil?
Then so is every other company that’s ever created a product and sold it.

How lacking in facts I find this opinion.

First, I can choose not to buy an Apple product. There are plenty of compelling options.
Second, Apple’s 14.1% smartphone market share (according to Reuters 7/22/2010) is a far cry from “owning it.”

Jeez, when did we get so unfoundedly jealous?

Dimitrie

You guys, this is a capitalist economy. You can’t say that apple is evil. We are not forced to buy their products. They can do what ever they want as long as it is legal.

Now, if we were “forced” or “limited” to only buying their products, then yes, we can have room for saying “hey improve this, improve that, thats not right!” But, if it was communist, we wouldn’t be allowed to complain now would we haha.

Apple products work for me, and I’m willing to bust out the cash for it. I haven’t had problems with them yet compared to my other none apple products.

Steven Elliott

Apple is not evil, they are just smug, arrogant, bastards. That said, I still own Macs but don’t use an iPhone because I feel that it is way too hyped. I owned one for about 6 months before I finally had enough of it. I am a writer, and as such, need to be able to type quickly when my mind is flowing. The iPhone hindered me in expressing my thoughts in an efficient manner.

Another problem that I have with the iPhone is that it does not multitask very well, or didn’t when I had it. I think that Apple is focusing way too much on their mobile products and needs to put some innovation back into what made them successful in the first place, sleekly designed laptops, etc., and Mac OS X. I love my Macs and use them everyday for various writing tasks.

Facebook is more evil in my opinion than Apple ever was or could be. Their theory of privacy, or lack thereof, is very scary to me. I think that end of the day the beauty of the situation is that you have choice. You can either choose to use Facebook, Apple products or not, when that choice is removed then I would worry.

Just my $.02.

Peas,
Steven

PC

It really troubles me when people on the losing end start to use “good” and “evil” as an explanation for their failures, or simply because they do not understand what is going on. There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too afraid to wield it (Lord Voldemort).

I am not sure how it is evil for a company, any company, to decide what its vision is and stick with it. You then choose whether you want to buy in to that vision, or shop elsewhere. I may be wrong, but it seems just a little childish to buy a product from a company who is open about its rules of engagement, only to be surprised that those rules exist and cry about them. To think that Apple is the only company who requires you to use their software shows a lack of study. Most mobile devices, even the “open” android is pretty much locked to a carrier, locked to a software source, and others are not permitted to play. Interestingly, iTunes music files sync fine with a Zune, yet Zune Marketplace files cannot be synced with an iPod without a hack.

If you want to talk about evil, I would consider Google to be a much more dangerous and “evil” company because they are slowly infiltrating every part of our lives and no one really knows what they are about or what makes them tick. Google was a search engine, now it is an office suite, it is a telephone, and it will soon be in your TV and home computer. Those Google tentacles are slowly, but surely, working their way in to everything we own and do, and we do not know where it will end. People are developing dependence on Google, which gives Google a dangerous (perhaps evil) level of power, and that is very very troubling.

Eric

How is supporting open standards and giving people devices that actually work evil? I’ll tell you what’s really evil – and this is what Microsoft and will make the Android more evil than Apple will ever be.

Mediocrity.

Ziggy

Supporting open standards? F* that, who cares about open standards when all apps have to be approved by a gate-keeper. How about supporting open apps!?!?

Khürt

Most consumers, the ones buying the bulk of the products, don’t care about open vs closed. They don’t even know what that means. They buy what works. And right now, they see Apple as the company that sells what works. Only (some) developers or people who like downloading free apps (freeloading) care about open versus closed.

Dan Buell

I read Fred most every day but man is he wrong here on many fronts… Facebook a 500-million user photo sharing site? Google’s last great product was G-mail? Does Google Voice not count because it was an acquisition? Apple is evil because they think they know what is best for you and me? Fred is in full-blown conspiracy mode here. Apple thinks they know what you want, which is why they don’t allow third party applications on their mobile platforms! Er wait a minute. Good one Fred!

Bottom line, Fred pimps and only pimps companies he has in his portfolio, which makes him disingenuous.

fred wilson

not true Dan

i pimp plenty of companies that are not in my portfolio

if you read my blog every day, you’d know that

TobySchumacher

If the plan was to be controversial, the word “evil” is definitely that. Apple believes that one of the reasons people pay a premium for its products is the curation or control over its platform. It believes its users want the app store experience of a high end suburban mall rather than a flea market. Not that there is anything wrong with either. There is room for both in this world. If deciding what should be on a platform is evil, then my IT dept is evil. The FDA is evil for controlling what can be sold in the US. My local farmer’s market is evil for only allowing actual locally made goods. We can debate if long term Apple’s policies are scalable or even working, but the term “evil” is not appropriate in this discussion. Especially when there is so much real evil in the world.

vinodgopinath

Apple evil? I wouldn’t go that far. If people are lapping up everything they dish out, clearly there is a market. My concern is that the juggernaut is getting too far ahead in the game. It’s a pity that there is not one credible alternative to Apple and it’s philosophy. All hopes pinned on Android and Google. I for one am trying desperately to avoid buying the iPad. But where is that mythical Android tablet? Can’t wait too much longer…

Adam

HUh? You cant wait too much longer for a tablet? That is ridiculous. Its a superfluous toy. Why do you need one other than to satisfy your inner drive to play with and be seen with the latest gadget. In 2 years it will be a brick. A toxic metal filled brick.

Sam

When you think of Apple, remember all those Apps you love…. Well, 3.3.1 in the Apple Developer agreement makes Apple extremely evil. Wake up peeps. To state that you can’t use outside frameworks after the OS has been out for a few years? WTF?

Just look at monotouch. Apple has a great opportunity to get a ton of MSFT developers on their platform. I’m betting it will be another missed opportunity. I’m betting Android will get a LOT more popular.

Matt Harzewski

SDK 4.1 agreement:

“Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).”

To summarize:

  1. You cannot use undocumented iPhone APIs. Only ones Apple makes public. i.e. No coverflow.

  2. Native applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++. JavaScript is aloud if it is interpreted by WebKit. Applications that compile against the native iPhone APIs through a third-party layer, such as Flash, are prohibited.

The only thing this means is that you can’t write your app in Flash and then have a “compatibility layer” compiled that loads and interprets the Flash document. I believe things like Unity are okay though.

This makes perfect sense. It’s in Apple’s best interest for developers to update their apps to take advantage of new features as soon as possible. If they have to wait on a third party to re-implement something from Cocoa in their framework, or possibly decide to NOT implement it, developers can’t update their applications right away. It takes control away from them and puts it in the hands of someone like Adobe.

They also don’t want developers to write for another platform, like Android or Windows Mobile, and then port it over without any thought to UI conventions. That makes for bad apps.

Khürt

So move along and develop your app for a platform you consider less evil. And if your stuff is good enough maybe we consumers will follow. In other word – put up or shut up.

sarah

or allow consumers the choice to buy an app if they want. If they like it they will buy it and they won’t if they don’t. except you don’t even have that choice if apple tells you what you can or can’t buy.

Vijaya Sagar

With that kind of thinking, one could argue that Twitter is dumb. Why? “They can’t seem to fix a simple website up-time problem!”. And that Foursquare is silly. Why? “Because, I think it seems like a silly idea.”. But we know that such arguments sound simultaneously dumb & silly.

Fred Wilson is known to be a perfectly reasonable and good guy. So, I think this entire interview is fake. If that isn’t the case, you can expect that Fred would some day do an MBA Mondays session titled “Hey! I am not perfect either.” ;^)

Teo

If Twitter improves its location based service so I can use Twitter to say “Whats happening and where it is happening at” then what is the point of using Foursquare or Gowalla?

MisterK

Not sure about all this “evil” stuff. The biggest problem on the Internet right now is that everyone thinks that everything falls under some made up Internet rules. Why can’t a company just make what they want or offer whatever service they want and then you, personally, can choose whether to buy it or not? I think the idea that everyone feeling that they should have a say in how every company runs its business is evil. I’m happy that there are companies that are smart than the average Internet user doing things in their own way. I chose to buy Nike sneakers. I chose to buy a Panasonic TV. And I choose to buy Apple products. I don’t want them doing things the Google way or anyone else’s way. Steve Jobs has proved himself to be the smartest guy in the room enough times that I trust he knows what he’s doing and the second I’m unhappy with what they offer, I’ll stop buying. Let the pundits start their own companies, but the inventor choosing the fate of his own invention is not evil. This is not a potluck. You don’t have to come along.

bill

Yeah, but if I buy an apple device, I don’t have the choice to put whatever app I want on it. Even if I think it might be awesome, I am limited to what Big Brotha Apple says is alright. I am also told what network I can use a cell phone on and if I Jailbreak it and get caught, boom! they can disable the device so I can’t use it. I can’t upgrade any of the devices – heck, I can’t replace the battery on the Ipad, I have to send it in and risk them losing my data.
You keep talking about choice, well Apple is taking away some of that choice if you use their stuff…
Apple should let it be a free market where I can buy what I want. If i don’t like an app, I won’t buy it!

Matt

I guess I’m a touch puzzled about this holy grail of batteries. I’ve had a slew of products over the decades that didn’t have easily swappable (to people like yourself, bill) batteries. The last one I replaced was on a Palm m515, a feat that apparently is far too difficult for most people who can’t master a T5 screwdriver. Looking at tear-apart images of the iPad, it’s hardly difficult. I also think you need to alter ‘an apple device’. So far as I know you can install whatever you with on their desktops and laptops. As a final note, I find it rather laughable that Apple is even remotely evil. Union Carbide is evil, Balfour Beatty, Halliburton, WalMart and a bevy of others.

“Apple should let it be a free market”

Apple IS in a free market, and they have about a 3% market share. They don’t dominate a damn thing other than the mp3 market, and even then they only control what they built.

If we applied these ‘everything must be open’ standards to companies outside of computers it would be laughable. People have no concept of just how closed their world is, and Apple is hardly even a blip on the dial!

Matt Harzewski

“I think the idea that everyone feeling that they should have a say in how every company runs its business is evil.”

Ding ding.

If someone doesn’t like how a company does business to that point, they don’t have to buy the products. And sorry, a business isn’t “evil” until they’re killing people and taking all of their money for no return. i.e. medical insurance companies.

Shaun Snapp

I disagree. Overly privatized decision making is what is breaking the system down. Decision making should not be concentrated in the hands of few without the society commenting on it. What we are discussing is companies that would cheat and take everything for themselves. This is freedom of expression, and small people should have the same rights as Apple, Goldman Sachs, etc.. Secondly, you overestimate “choice.” People who work in Nike’s sweatshops don’t really have a choice. Companies that want honest consulting have to choose from a small mix of totally corrupt firms. I don’t and you don’t have choice in your cable provider. Generally, the concept of choice is totally overblown and oversold and is mostly a fiction pitched by conservative think tanks. There are tremendous monopolies in every area of the economy. I find that those who object to the value judgement of this or that being evil, essentially think might makes right. Apple has the right to call the shots because they are big right? BP too? Hey, we can buy Exxon if we are unhappy with BP. Wow what a choice. Anyone who is big and has a lot of cash seems to have the right to do what they like, ethical or not. Meanwhile the rest of us should shut up. Is that it?

najeeb

may be Apple is evil, but users are liking a more controlled and closed system. they are flocking to buy iPhones, so your argument has no merits. as for privacy Apple does a better job than Google/Android/Facebook folks.

Axel F

@najeeb I agree with you. People flocking to Apple is the free market system working gorgeously. There is no one holding up a gun to anyone’s head telling them they must by an iPhone, iPad, etc. There is also no monopoly created through a complex of lawyers (I.e., this is not the Wintel monopoly of the past which required PC makers to carry a license of and install as the only choice by default Windows on the PCs they vended). Longer term maybe Android will come around if, say, Apple makes a fatal error (such as massive privacy or security breach) but so far they’re making things that people want and desire and they’re not forcing it on anyone, and there’s no arch government behind the scenes, no conspiracy, so Fred Wilson’s opinion in this context is just another noisy OpEd that Gigaom’s gatekeepers thought was interesting but it really nothing more but noise.

Ziggy

@Axel F I believe Fred wasn’t commenting on the Apple platform per se, but more on the way Apple handles the app store and developers in general. See the current debacle with the 15-year old kid that snuck a tethering app into the appstore. The app ran up skyrocketed in sales before Apple pulled it from the app store. That wouldn’t happen in a truly “free market” system.

Matt Harzewski

@Ziggy: You’re making the common mistake of confusing the App Store with the free market. The free market is people choosing to buy an iPhone over a competitor. The App Store is Apple’s own ecosystem and is not a free market. It doesn’t pretend to be, and it shouldn’t be. It’s kind of like Steam, actually.

Alex

…Wait, Fred, I’m confused. Is deciding what’s best for people on their behalf good or “evil”?

Ricardo

That is disingenuous. Either you are advocating for free and open markets or you are belly-aching that Apple is being the bad parent that tells everyone what to do. Do not be hypocritical.

Adam

Lady GaGa is the number 1 artist. Jersey Shore and House Wives of ______ are the hot shows…

People dont buy quality, they buy what other people buy…

Tanya

Well said! Couldn’t agree more. Most consumers don’t know what the difference is between Apple or Microsoft. They base their buying decisions on looks and popularity.

PXLated

Someone has to be evil in the minds of geeks – Microsoft is irrelevant so it’s Apple’s turn – Google will be next :-)
Geeks can just never admire success for too long.

hortron

It’s just like in the real world: some people believe in freedom for freedom’s sake, they are not interested in outcomes. You can make 1000 parallels between this and politics.

Greg

I agree with his comment on Apple. They need someone else to make it an even playing field or we will only be left with what Apple wants on their products.

rick

“…we will only be left with what Apple wants on their products.”

Yeah how dare they control what’s in their own products…

Fred

No, how dare they control what you have on the device you purchase…

Mike O

If you don’t like what Apple sells, DON’T BUY IT! It just so happens that tens of millions like the safety and stability that the walled garden provides. Beats the pants off of the crashes, malware, spyware, and viruses that plague more “open” platforms.

I will bet you that Apple will come out shining once Android malware starts spreading like wildfire in a year.

Jim

yeah and years ago people could have said the same thing with Microsoft. “if you don’t want it to come with IE, don’t buy it!”

But they had to change because the govt. slapped them around…

BTW, do you really think that Apple’s products are safer? How naive. If someone make malware, or a virus, are they going to make it for what 90% of people use, or for the minority of 10%? As apple gets bigger of course they will get more viruses and malware…

Khürt

Wait .. Jim I’m confused. Apple is too big and controlling but has a market share so small that malware writers ignore them?

Jim

no Khurt, talk about willfully trying to misunderstand what was said. look at what I wrote, and look again at what you wrote. Where did you come up that?

Apple WAS smaller (past tense here Khurt, past tense), therefore they didn’t get as much malware. As they get bigger, they are not immune from people trying to create malware for their products. In fact they will probably start to see more the bigger they become.

A report was just released by a security firm Secunia that shows that Apple has more security holes than MS. And you know, it isn’t the first such report I saw this year. Check for yourself.

So let me make it clear for you. A smaller company will not have as much of a problem with malware. As said firm gets bigger they will. Apple used to be smaller, and a lot of their problems went unnoticed by the majority of people because they were smaller. NOW (notice the present tense, Khurt) that Apple is a bigger company, what was acceptable on a smaller scale is not as acceptable on a larger scale. SOme of the problems that were not noticed will be noticed by more people and malware will become more of an issue.
I hope I made it clear enough to end your confusion.

fred wilson

hi Liz

i hope you enjoyed the conversation with John Battelle. we agreed last night that we would try to make it lively and fun and that i would do my best to be controversial. i guess i succeeded. i do believe at some level in everything i said, but i was also purposefully trying to be out there.

on the twitter scaling issue, i also did say they have now amassed a large and excellent engineering team with equally excellent leadership and they are making a lot of headway on the scaling issues. i think they are getting caught up on their “technical debt” very quickly now.

Liz Gannes

Thanks Fred. The conversation was definitely entertaining — and gave me something interesting to write about. I think it goes without saying that you said nice things about Twitter.

Comments are closed.