Meta says Apple has made it ‘very difficult’ to build rival app stores in the EU

Mark Zuckerberg testifying at the Senate hearing titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”
Mark Zuckerberg. | Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Thanks to new regulations, Apple is technically enabling the creation of alternative iPhone app stores in the European Union. But that doesn’t mean large developers like Meta will bite.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his company’s view on Apple’s new policies during Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday:

“I don’t think that the Apple thing is going to have any difference for us. Because I think that the way they have implemented it, I would be very surprised if any developer chose to go into the alternative app stores that they have. They’ve made it so onerous, and I think so at odds with the intent of what the EU regulation was, that I think it’s just going to be very difficult for anyone, including ourselves, to really seriously entertain what they’re doing there.”

While Apple maintains that sideloading represents a security threat, the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) has forced the company to open up the iPhone in the region. The devil is in the details, however, and Apple is introducing new fees that would cripple the business model of free apps like Meta’s if they are distributed outside of the App Store.

Zuckerberg’s comments echo complaints from other noted App Store critics, including Spotify, Epic Games, and Microsoft. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has called Apple’s approach to sideloading “hot garbage.” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said it’s “a new low.” David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and CTO of 37signals, called the setup an “extortion regime.”

European regulators have said that they will study Apple’s implementation of sideloading after March 7th, when the DMA goes into effect. The EU has the power to fine companies in violation of the law up to 10 percent of their annual revenue.