Apple: The Most Hated Company On The Internet

I was going to post this blog about why Apple is the most hated company on the Internet first thing yesterday. But my Mac crashed and ate the post, so I spent most of the day re-doing my work. I think that might be a sign.

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

January 29, 2008

9 Min Read

I was going to post this blog about why Apple is the most hated company on the Internet first thing yesterday. But my Mac crashed and ate the post, so I spent most of the day re-doing my work. I think that might be a sign.I was gobsmacked by a survey by Internet Evolution that found that Apple is the most hated company on the Internet. The results made no sense to me -- people love Apple! But then I read further and it all came together, when I found that Apple also ranked as second-most-liked company on the Internet.

According to the very unscientific survey, Apple was ranked most-hated company by 30% of respondents, even more than hated Microsoft, which was listed as most-hated by 22% of respondents.

Google was named as the most-liked Internet company by 32% of respondents.

Other findings: Nobody has strong feelings about Yahoo. People love free services. And more people hate Facebook and MySpace than love them.

Finding out that Apple is most hated and well-liked seems contradictory, at first. But in fact, Apple is a company that inspires strong feelings. People either love it or hate it, very few people just shrug and say, "meh."

Of course, on the Internet, you can get hate mail for anything. We got some of the most hateful messages we've ever received over a mild blog post my colleague Alex Wolfe wrote about the death of '70s musician Brad Delp, of the band Boston. Good thing we didn't say anything bad about Daryl Dragon.

But, still, Apple seems to inspire special venom. I see the Apple hatred every time I post a blog about Apple. If I post something positive about Apple, I get called a "fanboy." If I post something negative, I'm a "Microsoft stooge."

I still cherish the memory of being called a Microsoft stooge and an Apple fanboy on the same day. And I also cherish the memory of the day I was called an Apple fanboy for a post I made that was actually critical of Apple.

Still, Apple earns special hatred on the Internet, I think for several reasons.

Apple and its user and developer community are perceived as smug and arrogant. Some of that is unfair -- every company in the world claims that its products are the best ever, and they'll change your life, and people who use them are better people than those who don't. That's just how marketing works.

But Apple is over the top. Remember the "Think Different" campaign? Just because you bought a Mac doesn't mean you're in a league with Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi. You don't need to be a crazy genius to buy a Mac, you just need a couple of thousand dollars.

Apple applauds individuality in its marketing campaign, but it stifles individuality in its behavior. Longtime Apple developer Jens Alfke recently quit Apple. In a blog post, he explains the reasons for leaving, and one of those reasons is Apple's lack of respect for individuality:

"Apple's lack of individuality bugs me. I don't mean internally: within the company, communication is reasonably open (modulo confidentiality issues) and there's lots of room for self-expression. But ever since the return of Steve Jobs, the company has been pretty maniacal about micro-managing its visible face, to make it as smooth and featureless as an iPod's backside. (In my darker moments I've compared it to the brutal whiteness of "THX-1138".)" It's deeply ironic: For a company that famously celebrates individuality and Thinking Different, Apple has in the past decade kept its image remarkably impersonal. Other than the trinity who go onstage at press events -- Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Phil Schiller -- how many people can you name who work for Apple? How many engineers?

The iPhone is a closed architecture. Ironically for the "think different" company, Apple keeps a tight leash on extending the iPhone, and doesn't care how hard it jerks that leash if people try to go off it.

Apple only lets you use the iPhone on one network in America -- AT&T. Apple doesn't authorize third-party applications for the iPhone. That will change next month, when Apple plans to release a software development kit -- but even then, apps will have to be authorized. By Apple.

And if you try to break those rules, Apple "bricks" your iPhone. Nice.

That $200 iPhone price cut. Apple shaved $200 off the price of the iPhone in September. The first people in line to buy a product always pay a premium -- it's called an "early adopter tax." But the iPhone had only been available two months. Consumers and Wall Street cried foul.

The $100 rebate offered by Apple only partially mitigated the ill will it got from the price cut, partially because it was after the fact, partially because it was only $100, and partially because it wasn't cash -- it was store credit.

Apple is a bully. The company sues college kids who leak information about their products and tramples free speech in the process.

Sometimes it doesn't "just work." And now we come to my crashing Mac. Apple and the Apple community are fixated on how Macs "just work," especially compared with Windows, which often doesn't.

Except Macs often don't work either. They're computers. They break. All computers (including Macs) are prone to breakdowns.

I'm a primary example of the imperfection of the Mac.

This is a funny story.

I've been using a text editor called TextMate for writing the past few weeks.

I've gotten in the habit of leaving documents open on my desktop while I'm working on them, and, because the Mac really is more stable than Windows, I sometimes have files open on my desktop days or even weeks at a time.

Sunday I downloaded, installed, and ran the latest developer preview of the next-generation Second Life viewer (the "Windlight" viewer). After a few minutes, the viewer turned my display into a patchwork quilt of colors -- I couldn't see any windows or anything I typed. After a few hours waiting for things to clear up on their own, and trying to activate the "Force Quit Applications" tool, I finally had to power down the Mac and power it up again.

Which worked fine -- except that I didn't realize TextMate is not configured by default to auto-save documents. So the text files that were open on my desktop when I shut down the computer were gone. Those include this blog post, another article, notes from a meeting with my boss, and notes from a Friday-afternoon press conference (ironically enough, with Second Life developers Linden Lab).

Backups? Well, the Mozy remote backup service doesn't back up files until you save them to disk. The same is probably true for Apple's new Time Machine backup utility -- I can't say, because Time Machine stopped recognizing my external backup hard drive a few weeks ago. I've been meaning to look into that....

My point is that the most common cause of failure for any computer is the doofus sitting in front of it. And, sadly, that component is common to every operating system and platform in existence.

Macs freeze up. Individual applications hang, and have to be killed and restarted. It happens less often with Macs than with Windows, but it still happens often. And that comes as a surprise to most switchers -- because Apple and the Mac community only talk about how it "just works."

Apple even has a page on the subject of "it just works:" "Your toaster doesn't crash. Your kitchen sink doesn't crash. Why should your computer? Think of the countless hours you would save if your PC worked on your time -- not the other way around. Then think about a Mac.... It just works. Letting them do what they want to do. When they want to do it. All the time."

No, it doesn't. Not all the time. Most of the time it does. More often than Windows, certainly. But it sometimes doesn't.

By the way, when I describe this as a funny story, I mean it's funny for you. I ain't laughing.

Apple is still being punished for bad behavior in the '90s. Every tech journalist who was working in the '90s can tell you that if you wrote about Apple in anything less than adulatory terms, you would receive a shipment of really nasty hate mail. No other technology generated that kind of bad behavior from zealots, until OS/2 came along a couple of years later.

Today, the Apple community is more decent and civilized, but it's still carrying the stigma of earlier vile behavior by some Apple zealots.

And yet, some of the venom directed against Apple is still baffling. Network World recently did a piece by a guy who used to love Macs, but switched away. He makes some valid points: Windows has caught up with Apple functionality (he said) and he doesn't like Apple's closed hardware architecture.

He seems to be basing his evaluation of Apple software on a comparison of Windows 95 vs. what Apple had to offer back then, which is ridiculous. Both Apple and Microsoft have come out with a few products since then. Also, Seinfeld went off the air and Bill Clinton isn't president anymore.

The author's dislike of closed hardware is more valid. The desire to choose among multiple hardware vendors is a valid consumer decision, and if that's important to you, then you don't want to buy a Mac.

Still, there also are valid reasons that you're willing trade off hardware choice. Macs are well-designed machines, and hardware/software integration contributes to Mac's overall stability.

Multiple hardware vendors vs. a single-vendor solution isn't a choice between good and evil. It's a choice between two equally valid consumer options.

The author can't resist some name-calling. The headline is, "Confessions of a former Apple Zealot," the author describes himself as having been "de-programmed off Apple" ... "no Apple fan boy anymore."

(And, of course, if choice is important to you, you don't want to buy Windows at all -- you want Linux.)

Why should you love Apple? Well, it makes great products. When all the annoying behavior by the company, misleading marketing, and bullying tactics are done, when you buy a Mac, iPhone, or iPod, and start to use it, you're more likely to have a satisfactory experience than with the competition. At least, that was true in 2005 -- and I bet it's still true today. And in the end, that's the most important thing.

What do you think? Do you hate Apple? Why do people hate Apple? Do you hate any other companies? Leave a message and let us know.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights