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What could Elon Musk’s financial losses be if Apple removes Twitter from the app store?

The dispute between the two companies rumbles on and could be very expensive for Musk if the relationship continues to deteriorate.

Apple threatens to remove Twitter from App Store
DADO RUVICREUTERS

After a month of uncertainty and rapid change, Twitter is facing an existential threat to its position as one of the most significant media companies in the world. New company owner Elon Musk claimed on Monday that Apple had “threatened” to remove Twitter from its iOS App Store.

In a series of tweets criticising Apple, and company CEO Tim Cook, Musk said: “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why”.

There is no real suggestion that this extraordinary move is close, but Musk clearly feels threatened by the possibility. And given the huge bet Musk has waged with his purchase of Twitter, anything that hurts profitability could be disastrous.

Earlier this month Yoel Roth, formerly Twitter’s head of trust and safety, authored an op-ed in the New York Times outlining the control that Apple and Google wield.

Roth said: “Failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter’s expulsion from their app stores and making it more difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter’s services.”

If Twitter were to be removed from either leading app store, even if only for a brief period, it could fundamentally damage faith in the platform.

For now the issue is that Apple maintains that it is committed to ensuring “a safe experience for users”, while Musk promises unbridled free speech above all else. It remains to be seen how a balance can be struck between the two.

How much could Twitter lose in a conflict with Apple?

Twitter will not publically confirm the proportion of its users that utilise mobile apps. However in Twitter’s annual report for 2021 the company made clear that the planned release of new products “is dependent upon and can be impacted by digital storefront operators”.

This can be taken to mean that certain elements of Twitter’s continued development are reliant on the continued availability of the app online. It added that a decision to restrict Twitter’s mobile app “may harm our business”.

Another financial concern brought about by the dispute with Apple is advertising revenue. Apple has been one of the largest advertisers on Twitter for years and spent more than $100 million in ads on Twitter in 2021.

In the first quarter of 2022 alone Apple spent $48 million on Twitter ads, comprising nearly 5% of Twitter’s total revenue over that period. However advertising spending has fallen dramatically since Musk bought Twitter. Apple may be looking to issue a warning to Musk in the form of reduced advertising spending, before being forced to restrict access on the App Store.

For now Musk is continuing to poke at Apple and CEO Tim Cook on Twitter, but unless he can bridge the rift between the two companies it is the Twitter owner who stands to lose out financially.