This is some pretencious bullshit if I've ever seen some. "Uhh, you like them 'pop' apps, go back to your herd you sheeple". Like what the hell even is indie app? Based on this context it's anything that isn't doing so well or is "underground" that's not what indie means, it just means "independent" as in it's few guys/gals doing it on their free time.
And what is actually preventing author from giving money to indie app developers "I would if I could", bullshit, have you actually contacted the devs and asked if they would setup a paypal for monthly donations? I doubt it. Sure there are some people who develop apps just for fun and don't want to feel obligated to update the apps (i.e. they don't want paying customers), but I'm sure many on your "indie app list" would be willing to take your money if you just offered it.
I doubt the author would admit it, but, I think a lot of hyperbole is due to long-standing "Mac devs" and the author's circle of friends and acquaintances being unable to sustain a living from (merely) writing their own apps. Which is especially frustrating for them as the audience has grown dramatically over the past 5+ years.
Sure, the supply has grown considerably, and with that there are more 'light, snackable, mass-market apps'. But, that's what happens when the barrier to entry gets lower, and supply increases.
It is a true shame when we lose gifted 'indie' developers and some truly fantastic apps. But, no one has a right to a living.
Interestingly, and perhaps a hidden message in this article, is that there are significant parallels to draw to journalism.
I don't think anyone then (i don't know for sure, because I know no one who actually put out shareware, personally) expected to get rich making software that spread like wildfire via floppy disk, but that's somehow changed (replace floppy disk with "social media"). I'd posit that the difference is expectations of grandeur that the startup culture (combined with pop culture) have created.
I think another difference today is that shareware, for the most part, was clearly separate and distinct from retail software. Today, the lines are much more blurred.
To your point though, I think the changing factors that would have made it much easier in many respects to operate a shareware business by the late 90s also led to a market dynamic where very few people were willing to pay for anything that wasn't nailed down. (This was always true to a degree of course but it was amplified once the mass market got online.)
On the contrary, I think that should be a basic human right.
But hey. Communism.
In this context though, the devs should change their strategy.
I don't get this. What makes an app "snackable"? Like: "Ohh, it's so easy to use, fuck that! Cool guys configure their apps in source code and compile them themselves". I've never understood why people feel that instantly something is popular it must suck or be bad.
I could easily make a twitter app that would require you to donate $5 to a charity, run a mile and press a button 100 times everytime you tweet. This sure as hell isn't snackable or mass marketable. Am I now part of the cool kids club?
In the Mac world, and now iOS which most of this article refers to, the term indie developers has a more specific meaning. It refers to a single developer or small team of a few developers that is self-funded. It almost definitely implies doing it full-time , and not doing this during their free time only (aka. hobbyist).
It has more or less the same meaning as used in the video games community, and similar to how it's used in film making.
That was always my understanding. Wikipedia could be wrong too, of course.
Secondly companies like Supercell aren't considered indie, despite being completely independent of any publisher.
Generally indies are defined as single devs or small teams, small budgets (usually little to no outside funding) and retain creative control.
App stores as simple store fronts may work as long as there wasn't a lot of content (like on the game consoles). But content-wise, the iOS app store is more like the world-wide-web, just with a shitty interface (or rather: it's more like AOL). Apple won't care as long as the overall revenue from the app store keeps growing, and they are the only ones who could solve the problem.
Also the curators are everywhere - they're called bloggers, tweeters, Etc.
That won't change the market for these apps though, there needs to be a way for curators to actually be featured in the app store itself. An example would be how Steam did it's curator-feature. Although it's not perfect, it allows you to follow a curator, or get suggestions for which curators to follow based on apps you have already downloaded. 
I see big opportunities for re-igniting the indie-market in this way, I'm just not sure there's an incentive for the app stores to go through with it.
Despite iOS being huge, the universe of good apps (and by extension good devs) is quite limited and tractable by human curators, especially broken down by category. No algorithm can effectively compile the variety of criteria that make up a good app (tho they can inform that compilation process). If I were ran the iOS/Mac App Stores, I'd incorporate select curators as a sort of second party relationship - independent from Apple, but chosen for their credentials in a category/area of expertise and their ability to write for a broad audience within that category. I'd give them first class treatment in the app store, with embedded commentary on why the app matters and for whom.
I think Apple employee curators have their hands tied in not being able to provide real commentary or expert opinion, and thus are not able to pick winners in any sort of explicitly reasoned way (which doesn't really incentivize increased quality, just relationship building with Apple employees). The key bit is curating the curators to ensure their independence from financial incentive and their focus on broader appeal in a given domain, like finding the Mossbergs of different categories. The super niche curators will still have blogs and social media.
Of course the path beyond second party is the Steam example, where reviewers can sort of graduate to a superuser reviewer path. I think Apple has been reticent on this front given that the App Store hasn't been a priority, and that they've had trouble with social with Ping and now even artists on Apple Music.
One of the things I did at my education journalism company was build a near complete database of education apps  to help educators make sense of a large universe of possibilities. My experience is that if you're the one with the database + reviews, the best you can do is organize intelligently (according to user needs) and collect relevant data, but that because impartiality matters, your hands are tied when it comes to picking winners. This creates a mis-match with the user's desires, who want to find something quickly and be assured with decent, independent analysis. A solution to this I believe is second party curators.
First of all, customers have gotten used to buying software from individuals. On the app store, my app is sold alongside apps from major corporations.
Secondly, who cares if the app store is dominated by large companies? As a solo developer I don't need millions of dollars in revenue. I just need to find a niche that's worth 100.000€ a year, and there are plenty of those niches! And the nice thing is that these niches are not interesting for big companies, because the market is too small.
If you look for successful indies, you will find them. You won't often read about us in the media, since most of us make mostly boring stuff for small audiences, but we exist!
Fyi, the author seemed to be talking about the iOS App Store (phones/tablets) and not the Mac App Store (desktop software.)
In any case, are you talking about your PostgreSQL apps at eggerapps.at earning €100k? If so, that's awesome. To clarify, are you getting most/all of that €100k from the Mac App Store as opposed to sales outside that channel? 30% is a lot of commission to give to Apple and I'm surprised that a typical customer would discover that type of db app in the Mac App store as opposed to a google search or forum recommendation linking to your website. From there, they could download it directly without that Apple middleman.
And yes, I was talking about the apps on eggerapps.at, mostly Postico. I do sell my apps directly as well, and only around 20% of my sales are on the Mac App Store. Postico has a lower price on my website, but apparently there are some people who really prefer the Mac App Store.
And a majority of the sorted, popular and "highest grossing" apps are that way.
If i knew where to get quality apps that don't try to lure or force me into paying for using apps, i would gladly pay for it and install it.
And i think that even more people would - because most people i talk to are also tired and even scared of installing new apps because of this.
I also hear the arguments "We HAVE to do this to get money!", no you don't - if an app is good it's more important to market it and make people notice it.
This is why I built https://appapp.io , so it would be possible to search for apps in the App Store (it's IOS only at the moment) while filtering out those with in-app purchases. I'd like to also make filters for advertising models too, but structured data for that is much harder to come by.
I don't think smarter search will entirely solve the problem, but I think it's one piece of the jigsaw to help solve the problems of the App Store.
The biggest problem MAS have isn't that it's only pop apps but rather that it's 1) Not a destination for people looking for serious apps (google is)
2) Doesn't allow for fundamentally new types of apps to be developed.
Everybody says 'mobile first'. It just shows waterfall is not dead, just internalized to the point developers are taking app store requirements over the transom and tossing code back over and then doing their QA through the fortress of bureaucracy surrounding the users.
This, and the lack of trials. If I find an app that, for example, looks like a solid iTunes replacement but costs $25, well, if it works, that's totally worth it to me. But there's a very good chance it doesn't work.
Including trial periods would improve the ecosystem - the good apps could go for what their worth and I'd stop collecting $2 promising garbage.
For some reason this makes the author sad.
It’s perfectly ok to feel sad about that time passing. We don’t have to choose to also feel sad, but there’s absolutely zero wrong with the author’s sadness, and it’s not a particularly difficult thing to understand.
Larger companies have the advantage of doing everything at scale. Once an app or platform seems to be proven, they can move in and do what they are best at: carpet-bomb the battlefield.
On the App Store today you will compete against CandyCrushes, who can buy out a massive amount of ad inventory, making CPIs super-cheap. You can still win with an all-new app idea, but it gets increasingly difficult to come up with something totally new that others can't copy in a week.
Or you can do what you as an indie company are best at: experiment with app ideas on all-new platforms.
Or do you mean Smart TVs? I don't know much about the app ecosystem there if it exists at all.
Timing is key, and though I think the time for VR, smart TV, IOT or wearables hasn't arrived yet, I do think that indie devs should keep their eyes open.
Wouldn't it be a travesty if a bunch of developers in ivory towers decided that the customer is wrong and that he actually needs expensive, carefully-engineered apps with features that he doesn't want? There's thankfully no Software Developer's Guild, so the real outcome of this approach is that no one buys your apps and your competitors eat your lunch.
>Others will continue to rage against the pop-ificiation of the App Store. There'll be more tweets and more editorials about what Apple has done wrong or should be doing better, on how developers "gouge" even while "racing to the bottom", and how customers are cheap, entitled, and, often, assholes. And I'll be joining them.
The customer is always right. If you need his money, the customer gets to be as much of an asshole as he wants. If the customer can get a more primitive, but sufficient, alternative cheaper from your competitor, he probably will. If BigTechCompany can make a competing app and sell it for less than indie devs, then it looks like the invisible hand found a more efficient way to produce the product, good! Anyone who thinks it should be otherwise, is it not they who are acting entitled to the customer's money and interest?
The app business is as healthy as Hollywood or TV, with all the good and bad that implies. You could even say it's the "golden age" of apps. Clash Royale just launched world-wide and immediately rocketed to #1 the same day -- the first blockbuster app launch?
And yet, some indies still do well! There are indies in the top 50 paid (if not grossing) apps list right now. It's an extremely interesting time in the app business. But he's missing this fascinating transition story.
I'm sure he'll rile people up. Unnamed indies, but surely any of his podcast listeners could guess who, wringing their hands because "the value and esteem is gone." What does that even mean? The obvious guess: they can no longer make a living from their note-taking or podcast-player apps. I'm sort of riled up! I bought Overcast. I bought Vesper. Etc. I like indies!
But markets move forward. And this is a very natural progression, from an immature market where anyone could set out a tent and do a brisk business, to a mature market that demands a lot more than just the best mousetrap.
Another note: the successful indies in the top 50 lists are mostly making games. Not utility apps. Not note-taking apps. Not podcast apps. The app store is mostly an entertainment venue. Games are at the fat end of the revenue curve. The indie podcast / note apps are squarely in the long tail.
It wouldn't be the same as working for yourself, but it wouldn't be the same as working for some faceless corporation either.
If the very product they're trying to sell needs to disappear, then your recommendations of "consolidate into worker co-op" or "create a larger company" does not have any useful meaning.
You've got cause-&-effect of product and business structure backwards.
What happens in the real world:
1st) have a viable product that sells for sustainable revenue ---> 2nd) amount of incoming money helps guide decisions about structuring the company to be sole-proprietor vs traditional incorporated vs workers cooperative.
The reverse direction of...
1st) organize a workers co-op ---> 2nd) sell something-I-don't-know-what-it-could-be-but-your-current-apps-need-to-disappear.
... is an academic dead end. If you're going to hand wave away where the money comes from to pay the salaries of the workers owning the co-op, it doesn't matter that they formed a co-op for better working conditions.
The article was about sustainable revenue in the long tail of the app store. A workers co-op is an unrelated tangent and doesn't solve how to survive in that long tail.
Your core assumption seems to be that changing the ownership model is enough to counter the lack of autonomy that comes from spending all day in a hierarchical business with other people. I'm actually struggling to imagine how you arrived at this point of view.
There's a list on wiki (not all USA):
Those days are OVER.
It's fairly appropriate that App Store apps are sold through iTunes - because the issue facing indie developers is exactly the same as the one facing indie musicians. If you don't have a massive promotional budget to drive traffic to your new thing, you'll need to get better at online promotion & connecting with your customers.
It's still an improvement over the indie software ecosystem of twenty years ago, where either you were big enough to get shelf space for a boxed product (good luck!) or you were hoping enough people would get tired of the nag screen and pay the shareware fee...
1) Release your app for free, but make the non-trial features be a single in-app purchase for whatever the price of the app would have been.
2) Release a free or lite version, and also release a full paid version. Users can use the lite version to see if they like it, then they can buy the full version if they do. Often the lite version will inform the user they could do more if they upgraded to the paid version.
Both of these currently exist. What is the impediment that makes developers think this isn't possible?
>"... the non-trial features ..." "...lite version...full version..."
>"What is the impediment that makes developers think this isn't possible?"
It's possible to you because your idea of "trials" is crippled version vs uncrippled version.
Other developers are talking "trials" in terms of time-limited-trial. The timed-trial is the full version with all features except it quits working after 30 days or whatever.
But, by god this writer sounds so entitled.