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Apple Developer Program Membership Fee Waivers Now Available (apple.com)
166 points by Nuance on Jan 3, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

I wonder if I count as a nonprofit since I've spent way more in Apple developer fees than I have made from any of my apps?

I have the suspicion that this is likely the case for well over 90% of registered Apple developers.

I also find it incredibly disingenuous every time Tim Cook comes out at WWDC and announces how many billions of dollars Apple has paid out to developers, when the vast majority of that money is going to big organizations skimming gambling style microtransactions through massive mobile games.

It just feels like they're not being honest and selling luxury pickaxes to gold miners a decade after the California gold rush.

>when the vast majority of that money is going to big organizations skimming gambling style microtransactions through massive mobile games.

Citation needed.

Look at Top Grossing: https://www.appannie.com/en/apps/ios/top/

You might be more charitable than me with the microtransaction models in games like Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, and Candy Crush, but you don't even need to drop 20 places to get Slotomania, then DoudbleDown Casino, Slots Casino, World Series of Poker, 8 Ball Pool.

That's 5 out of 150 (free, paid, and grossing) or 4 out of 50 top grossing. And that''s including a solitaire and a pool app in it.

Hardly "big organizations skimming gambling style microtransactions through massive mobile games" -- assuming even all those casino apps are from "big organizations" to begin with. "miniclip.com", for example, is not exactly EA.

Those are the ones where there it is so blatant, that there is no argument, and this the top grossing of the platform.

But if you include the monetization models of the most popular games such as Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and the other games at the top, they are doing the same thing with a top layer of misderection. Drill down and their top sellers $99 IAPs of 'gems' or what have you in games aimed at children.

That is where the bulk of the app money is coming from, and it's not new or a secret, it is just not emphasized by Apple. They've gotten rid of Top Grossing lists to obfuscate this on the platform, but here, look at Jack Black explaining the tactic of app store games years ago.


It hasn't changed.

Grossing is the only list that is relevant to anything. The other lists don't measure how much money an app is making.

But if you could do that you would then start making a profit, so would no longer qualify as nonprofit ;)

If you're spending more in developer fees than you're making from the apps it might make sense to make them free/ad-free so you can qualify as non-profit. You would lose the possibility of turning a profit in the future, though.

Edit: Just realised it's not available to individuals/non-profit businesses, which is a shame. If it was it could increase the number of free/ad-free apps and maybe the quality of the app store as a whole. Plus, who says one person can't run a non-profit. Surely they have to start somewhere like any other organisation?

> If you're spending more in developer fees than you're making from the apps it might make sense to make them free/ad-free so you can qualify as non-profit.

That's not how you form a non-profit [0]; not deriving revenue from products is neither necessary nor sufficient to establish non-profit status.

> Plus, who says one person can't run a non-profit

One person can run a non-profit, but it still probably needs to be incorporated as a separate legal entity, and may (in some states) need a three-member board.

> Surely they have to start somewhere like any other organisation

Yes, they have to start somewhere, but that “somewhere”, in some jurisdictions, involves more than one person overseeing operations.

[0] as a starting point, see: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/form-nonprofit-eight...

who says one person can't run a non-profit

I'm guessing: the IRS. A non-profit is a specific type of entity, not a business model.

That's irrelevant as to whether one person can run it.

Like an LLC -- one person can run one, it doesn't take 2.

Right, but an LLC is still a separate entity. nsgi's question, as far as I understood it, is why an individual can't be a non-profit without incorporating it.

A, that's true then. A non-profit is all about being registered as one (incorporating etc) and not about intentions (or for that matter, not being into it for profit).

The exact definitions vary by country, I am not sure how it is precisely in the USA. In Australia, basically it means the company is not for the benefit of any given person and you cannot distribute profits by taking them and chopping them up - and you must distribute any leftover funds if the organisations winds up to a like-minded not-for-profit organisation., You can still however make money, pay employees (even if it's a large amount) for work done, etc.

Not-for-profits are also sometimes conflated with Charities. In Australia they are two different things, a not-for-profit can be a charity and vica-versa but they don't need to be both.

haha same here. I was spending $100 a year just to run an app on my phone that I didn’t want to release

In case you don’t know, I believe Apple lets you do this for free now.

Builds expire after 7 days though. If you forget to build it again you'll be stuck with a non-working app that crashes back to home screen as soon as you open it.

You could resign the app using Cydia Impactor. This avoids the rebuilding process, and keeps the app data on the device.

Interesting, I'm not familiar with it. Still have to do this every week though? And I assume it only works over a USB connection, not over wifi?

Yes, and yes.

Hm, I honestly don't plug my iOS devices into my computer much anymore, but I bet that process could be automated to run when the computer detects the device which would make it less painful. Thanks for the heads up!

Oddly enough, not always. I have a just-for-me app working on my phone that I last built on December 3rd.

Cool. Since when?

Honestly, this has been kind of a bummer for me when I've thought about trying mobile development.

Since Xcode 7. See “Free On-Device Development” here.


Although technically if you distribute an app to yourself only, you are supposed to use the enterprise license, which costs another $200 a year. Which is why the webapp route is the way to go unless you really need access to hardware.

wow, nice job milking your users Apple (getting someone to pay you for something that they made).

I don't know why advanced users use Apple products...

>wow, nice job milking your users Apple (getting someone to pay you for something that they made).

I'm pretty sure they didn't make the iOS API, nor the iOS App Store, nor it's documentation, etc, all of which they're getting access to.

>I don't know why advanced users use Apple products...

Because they're not knee-jerk reacting to a company, but value the product. And most of them are not against "capitalism" and "profit" themselves either.

I have made a few apps in my time, and have easily made tens of... dollars.

It's a tough game.

I wonder how much the company really needs those fees.

The company gives the reason of membership fee as a way to deter low quality apps.

I wish they would just make the ad-hoc distribution mechanism actually useful, by extending the expiration to say, 1 year. This would make it easier for students/hobbyists/indies etc. to build apps for their own devices. Currently, if they build an app for themselves, it only works for 7 days before they will have to reinstall via Xcode.

If they later want to publish to the App store, I think it's completely okay to ask them to pay $99 then.

I wish they'd let anyone run whatever they wanted for whatever lenth of time they want. Anything beyond that is a gross misuse of power.

I don't understand why this is getting downvoted. Not being able to control what you run on your own computer is kind of ridiculous.

Another thing is the long term impact on developer skills. The majority of the current stock of programmers came to programming before locked platforms became widespread (basically until 2010-ish), often in their teenage years or at college.

But now between tablets, smartphones, ChromeOS, and a clear intention by both Apple and Microsoft to phase out their open OS for a locked down version (iOS, Win10 S), new generations will not have much opportunity to tinker with their device, create their own executables. Of course a minority will always get into linux or whatever will be left of Windows and MacOS in 10 years, and go around that. But for the overall population, isn’t it going to dumb down users, and reduce the pool of future software developers (while the demand for more software is only ever increasing)?

The car analogy is an interesting argument against: you needed to be an engineer to operate early cars, but not anymore, and that didn’t reduce the supply of engineers and mechanics expert on cars. But I would argue that cars is an extreme in term of standardisation, where few engineers are required to design a fleet that satisfies the whole market. While software is highly specific to many different applications, and you need tons of software designers for each corner case (even if we reinvent the wheel way too often).

Cars lack the recursive properties of computers and computer programs.

Do you control what you run on a game console?

How is this even an argument? Why is it that someone always trots out the "well other company/industry does it" argument?

Actually, yes, I want to control what I run on a game console, a smartphone, a router, a computer and even my refrigerator.

If that's your desire you are free to buy an NVIDIA Shield for your game console, an Android for your smart phone, any computer, a well known easily hackable router, etc.

Vote with your dollars.

>Vote with your dollars.

I hate this saying. It's such a bullshit saying. a) There is no viable competition and b) It's incredibly profitable to lock people into an ecosystem, so even if you do "vote" with your dollars (hint: you're not voting) every company that you've now "voted" for has an interest in locking you into their ecosystem. The very act of "voting with your dollars" is part of the problem. This requires a principled stand and a demand, not more consumerism.

I gave you plenty of examples. There are plenty of Android manufactures with some phones more locked down than others. There are plenty of routers - some more hackable than others. There are plenty of alternatives to dedicated game consoles.

> an Android for your smart phone

There are but a precious few of these that allow you to unlock your bootloader or acquire root access.

There are many that allow you to unlock the bootloader. If all you want to do is run your own apps, pretty much all of them allow it.

Are there any cheap phones with unlockable bootloaders? I've only found it available on relatively expensive models, like Moto G5 (yeah, that's expensive to me).

All Android One devices allow unlocking the bootloader, and they are meant to be inexpensive.

Any of the Chinese ones based on MediaTek SoCs. They're not only unlockable, they come that way by default.

Not in every case, I have a cheap MediaTek MT6572-based phone which I've so far failed to unlock. It's something to consider though.

Definitely check out the OnePlus 5T. Sweet phone, very good price, and uber hackable by its owner (if said owner wants to).

Side note, just was delivered a Shield.

They are horrible. - Constantly hijacking HDMI from other sources - Remote has a sticky down button - Voice turns on and off for no reason and starts operating.

I think they are great for how old they are, price and their capabilities - 4k, HDR, HEVC decoding, inbuilt Plex server, etc.

Switch off CEC (this should stop the HDMI jacking). The supplied remote is truly awful. I use either my home cinema amp remote and/or TV remote (but this requires CEC enabled) and have no problems. Check the r/ShieldAndroidTV/ there's lots of good/cheap remote recommendations in there.

I do, actually. Mostly because I use older console that have been reverse engineered enough for this to be possible…

You do have the option of running an older phone that has been reverse engineered too.

Comparing a game console to a smartphone is a nonstarter, IMO. That said I'd very much like to control what runs on my game console.

The reason Apple doesn't do this is they want to make the AppStore a safe-place and a worry free experience. If anyone can run whatever they wanted for whatever length of time they want, then it opens the door for malicious apps to exist. It's a trade off between safety/experience and flexibility. For folks like my Dad, who I took away his PC and replaced with an iPad, it's been great. I just don't worry about malware, viruses, or trojans he might install on his iPad because the odds are he can't get into too much trouble.

I don’t believe a single second that they prevent you from sideloading your own app in the interest of security. It would be trivial to allow you to manually register your device and be exempt for this particular app, that wouldn’t weaken the platform in any way. This is purely milking users.

GP was clearly referring to letting developers run apps on their own devices, not to letting them put malware into the app store where your dad can find it.

> I think it's completely okay to ask them to pay $99 then.

Sure, just like Linux distributions charge developers before allowing them to enrich the Linux ecosystem while getting little in return. No, wait...

Or, you know, charge ONCE instead of yearly. The "membership" should be an entry barrier, not a revenue source.

You need to buy Apple hardware to develop for iOS, is that not a barrier enough?

It's an ineffective entry barrier given the App Store has so many junk apps like Flappy Bird clones or fart sounds.

The apple app store is astonishingly bad. Searching for the exact name of an app doesn't give you the app half the time. the only reliable way to get an app is to search the web for it, find the developer/publisher's home page, and then click an itunes link from there.

That's why I'm so baffled that quality is used as the excuse for ripping off developers and further closing off their ecosystem.

Why not when they know you'll pay it? You can make whatever ethical plea you like but not much will change the fact that entry into the Apple ecosystem is apparently so valuable that people will shell out a hundred bucks without thinking about it.

Hell people shell out $1000+ for a Mac for the sole purpose of developing iOS apps. If anything Apple is probably under-pricing this 'service'.

One thing people keep forgetting is that $99 does get you two code level support cases with Apple Engineers per year.

It'd be nice if that were a separate package instead of an excuse.

I doubt it'll happen. They already went the other way, it used to be 90 days, now it's just 7.

'Nonprofit organizations, accredited educational institutions, and government entities based in the United States'

US only...

"Fee waivers for other countries will be added as they become available." https://developer.apple.com/support/membership-fee-waiver/

Yeah. I see zero reasons why this can't be extended internationally -- just flag these developer accounts as unable to charge or profit (in any way) from apps, including having the review process exclude anything with in-app ads (which, IIRC, are already flagged/audited in some way).

The delay may have something to do with complying with local laws. I suspect that since this is limited to non-profits, Apple is claiming some portion of this $99 as a tax deduction. If this is what is "funding" the program, then they need to make sure the legal framework is in place in other countries.

Purely curiosity, but surely that can't be how it works? It kind of makes sense at face value, but seems like a monster loophole[1], too -- I'd be curious if anyone could point me towards more reading on the topic.

1 - Bob wants tax deductions. Bob decides to sell pencils for $50k each. Bob discounts them to $0 for non-profits. Can Bob deduct $50k per pencil, for each sold to a non-profit?? Maybe Bob can only deduct his cost, or something?

From what I remember of working with a non-profit, there are limits to "gift-in-kind" donations. Apple sells the license at $99, but they can probably only claim $50 or so since that's what the actual "cost" of an iOS developer is.

So in your example, yes, Bob could only deduct the cost of the pencils, not his inflated "value".

IRS lets you claim "fair market value" on donations.


Does this imply certain open source projects could setup related nonprofit associations then waive the fee?

Could be interesting if an “app archive” nonprofit starts up to bring back abandoned indie projects (assuming the original developer decides to open source)

Why do they charge this fee at all if they're taking 30% of purchases?

1. It's a nominal fee that keeps a certain kind of crappy app out of the store. 2. Apps can be released for $0, yet it costs money to host those apps.

Apple have to approve every app before it is release so the cost to them is really the approval process.

So charge for approvals. Why am I paying $99/yr to deploy apps to my own phone when I am already forced to buy their phone and their computers.

I doubt anyone actually forced you to buy their phone and computers.

If you want to deploy and iOS app, then you definitely have to. So long as Apple is vertically integrated from hardware to OS to marketplace and it's a 100% walled garden, they will effectively be charging developers a tax to do anything. The fact that they charge a tax on top of all that is what I take offense to. Especially since Google lets anyone make Android phones, lets you develop on any platform and install from any source. And access to publish to their app store is a one-time fee of $25.

He probably means "in order to develop iOS apps"

Nobody forces you to develop iOS apps either. This is the point I think people are missing. Access to Apple's walled garden is valuable enough to people that Apple can charge for it and people will pay it.

If only they held their own system apps to the same standards

This is not wrong, but for the majority of developers isn't it something like make people subscribe to Amazon Prime even if they only buy one book each year?

I feel most people aren't so upset about the idea or reasons behind a yearly fee so much as the yearly fee being so high.

The cost of developing and supporting an app is so much higher than $100/year.

So have the registration fee only when you submit an app to the store.

Oh wait I'm sorry that would be good design. Apple doesn't do that.

The membership fee is $99/yr. That's the equivalent of $330/yr in App Store sales per developer.

The opportunity cost of having developers NOT sign up because of the fee seems negligible. People still come flocking to Apple because they think they need to build an iOS app (and because of Apple's lackluster adoption of progressive web app support, that's still the only good way to get iOS users on board).

EDIT: Also, as others have mentioned, having a lower or zero fee would lower the bar, potentially flooding the App Store with even more low quality apps.

How did you jump from $99/year to $330/yr in sales per developer?

I think it means that 30% of 330/yr , Apple would lose revenue unless each developer did that per year.

99 / 0.3 = 330

It's what a developer would need to create in sales for Apple to make 99 bucks from their 30% cut.

He's talking about revenue for Apple. Apple takes a 30% cut. 30% of $330 = $99.

With Apple's tax, a developer needs to sell that much a year to break even on the membership fee.

That's what I thought but wouldn't that be $165?

How did you end up at $165? That's $99 / 0.6, not $99 / 03. Apple's "tax" is 30%, isn't it?

$165 is your breakeven point where your profits after "tax" are equal to the annual fee, at which point you are in the black and making a profit on incremental sales.

Oh wait that was dumb, the 30% tax means the breakeven point is $141.43.

Also it seems possible now that the GP was speaking from Apple's perspective, not the developer's.

Oh wait, you're the GP. Sorry, I was confused about the point of the discussion.

Wouldn't that be less? Apple gets the 30%, the devs get 70% so they'd have to sell less than $330 to break even.

It's about Apple, not the developer.

For Apple to make $99 of your sales (not accounting for taxes etc), you'd need to generate a volume of sales of which 30% would amount to $99, i.e. $99 / 0.3 = $330.

If you're asking "how much does a developer need to make in sales every year to recoup their membership fee" that's different: $99 / 0.7 ≈ $142 (rounded up). But that's kinda orthogonal to Apple's interests.

$99/(1-.3) = $141.43

$99 your cut used to cover the program fee

$42.42 Apple’s cut

The ratio of the two is almost exactly 70:30

Avoids people becoming "developers" who just want to side load apps by installing developer versions.

It's also an easy way to fight spam by reducing to serious accounts and allowing manual review.

I hate the one step thinking here.

Have the fee when people submit an app for review, not before.

Best of both worlds. Lots of developers, rich ecosystem, high hurdle for spam.

The yearly fee also includes 2 developer tech support incidents where Apple developers can help debug a serious problem in your code that prevents your app from shipping.

I just don't understand why Apple should care at all what people do on their phones. It's paternalism to the extreme.

Paternalism: the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates' supposed best interest.

> accredited educational institutions

Would this also extend to students of said institutions wishing to distribute free apps that they create in, say, an iOS development course?

From what I understand, the "catch" (trade-off) is the "will distribute only free apps".

As an example I would think that a University teacher would release his/her app with the classroom material thus free app, mainly for the students - no point charging as the whole effort is not a "for profit".

Same for various orgs/NGOs who would need to reach out to provide news (e.g. United Nations).

This for me (who pays the $99) is honorable and shows that apple does indeed separate the for-profit efforts from the non-profit efforts.

There is a bit of a background to this that I don't see mentioned in any of the comments.

Since last summer's WWDC, Apple's policy regarding "templated" or white-labeled apps has bounced around quite a bit. At one point they suggested that cities (for example) would be required to develop their own "custom" app rather than purchase an appropriate white-labled app from a vendor. They imagined that the functionality could be provided via an SDK that the city would use to build their own custom app. Pretty much a non-starter for all but a very few large cities with a significant IT department.

In any case, they have landed on a policy that requires the apps to be published by the municipalities directly rather than via the vendor. This isn't entirely unreasonable as it provides a strong signal to users that the app is "official" and lets the city promote their own brand rather than the vendor's brand.

So apparently as a concession to the administrative overhead that this change introduces for thousands of apps and organizations, they have introduced this fee waiver.

All in all, I think they ended up in a reasonable place but the last six months have been pretty frustrating as Apple figured this all out.


Why don't make this permanent and for everyone? At least add indie developers to the list.

Yeah some sort of revenue metric like 50k would be nice.

But they have the fee probably as a slight deterrent to just anyone uploading anything or abusing many accounts/company setups as there is a cost.

I think this will be interesting. But the biggest cost to these institutions would probably be developing the app that would be published, rather than $99/year to get it published. But that’s not accounting for volunteers...

I wonder if MOOCs and other non-profit coding schools could use this to get their students apps distributed. Perhaps the risk would be too much, but would be cool to see Udacity or someone allowing first time progammers to release for their first time.

Oh this is great!

Unless you're a non-US non-profit. Thanks a bunch Apple.

Finally, after this long time...

Apple development fees are wayy too big compared to value of the google and user experience..

Good Apple!

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