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Apple and Google Face Growing Revolt Over App Store ‘Tax’ (bloomberg.com)
457 points by tareqak 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 457 comments



And they should. We are fast approaching a world where all markets are walled-in by a few international companies. I've had clients of mine go under because Amazon decided to close their accounts and they depend on the platform to sell their wares. Imagine how hard it is to sell stuff online if you're barred from ebay and amazon... and there is no legal recourse to appeal those bans.

Same goes for app stores, what happens if google and apple ban you for whatever reason? Your company is screwed and you have no appeal or legal safeguards.

I'm scared shitless of "gig economy" platforms. I see a future where one or two platforms rise to the top and all jobs are handled through them. A bad rating can destroy your entire career. The platform will never forget, there will be no second chances.

Scary stuff. We as a society need to start thinking about how we rate people. Right now we all shop for that 5-star rating and punish anyone with 4. We need to mature beyond that as it grows increasingly impossible to maintain perfect ratings.

Regulation is a very very touchy subject, but if millions of people depend on your platform for their livelihood, you can't pretend to still exert arbitrary power of life and death over them with some $5/hr customer service drone trying to go over your case swiftly to meet a daily quota. We need real due process.


My GF and I recently moved from NYC to Los Angeles and an Uber driver once asked her "Are you from NY?", "Yes, why?", "Because your rating is so low and people from NYC usually have really low ratings."

We checked her rating and it's 4.5 or so. But it's funny, she looks like a deadbeat here because of more discerning/critical NYC Uber drivers who gave her 4 stars 50% of the time.


Los Angeles has serious grade inflation across the board wrt social ratings.

Their yelp reviews are completely unreliable, everything is 4 or 5 stars. I'm used to Chicago where even a great restaurant can have 3 stars because everyone is so picky, and the 4 or 5 stars are reserved for the truly extraordinary.


Do you find Yelp helpful?

I find Yelp so strange with complaints about how someplace that really doesn't do someone's favorite food style gets some stupid reviews.... or they wish a place was more like a place that is 3x more expensive (how is that fair?). I just have no clue where anyone is coming from.

We had a Neapolitan pizza place open up in in our neighborhood. Great ingredients, amazing Neapolitan pizza. It was inundated reviews complaining about how thin the crust was and floppy the pizza sometimes is. .... they were basically complaining it wasn't some fast food style pizza place where they could stuff their face.

Eventually their ratings did recover and they've got reasonable reviews now, but ... people are dumb. I need some elitist type review system I think ;)

Maybe yelp and other review sites have changed but I've given up on them for a while.


> I need some elitist type review system I think ;)

Then you shouldn't "ask" random people you don't even know. That elitist type review system is anything from a newspaper with an established critic, to a Michelin Guide. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelin_Guide


I find this to be particularly bad with Americans and Brits. I don't really use yelp much anymore, but when you're on holiday and look at tripadvisor reviews of restaurants, it always seems to be the Americans and Brits complaining the otherwise great restaurants are bad because they don't do some awful shit that no one in their right mind would ever expect a really good seafood restaurant on the coast in Spain to do (e.g.).

These days, reviews on all platforms are more useful as a way to avoid genuninely awful places. As someone else said, ignore the average rating, but check a few comments to see if there's a consistent negative theme.


Yelp isn't particularly useful if you're dependent upon the average score. It's solid as far as locating local businesses (and drilling down into actual reviews to make a decision, assuming you're in a city where yelp has a presence).


Unfortunately that involves actually reading the reviews instead of looking at the rating.


It's a lot to dig though and not everyone is as obvious that they really want crappy pizza for $5 and went to the wrong restaurant as others might be.


My opinion is that everyone should get rid of 1-5 stars in favor of "thumbs up/thumbs down" ratings... Wonder if there's any research to support this suggestion...



I fully agree with you, but we all saw how that went for Netflix. Some people are still angry at them for it. But yea, I can't even with good conscience give anything 4 star or less, knowing that it will basically destroy their job. So I only even vote low if it's a truly horrible experience.


Netflix's system wasn't so much a thumbs up/thumbs down system that we all know and love - it was a frankenstein system where you couldn't see how many thumbs up/down a title had, rather you saw a percentage on how likely you are to enjoy that title based on the thumbs you gave others. At first glance it looks like YouTube's system but in actuality it was very different.

https://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-thumbs-rating-system...


In terms of impact on conversions the star rating has a powerful impact. People are highly receptive to the stars. I doubt that system is going away any time soon.


So we move towards a 5 star system, where anything other than 5 is considered a failure. Last time i looked lyft wanted their drivers to have a 4.8, and I've heard similar expectations from waitstaff and customer service call centers.

That's ridiculous, and only helps inflation to be normalized. For me, I've found it means it is hard to give credit for truly exceptional service. When I have to give 5s to those that just do the job like I wanted, I have few options to highlight when someone truly goes above and beyond.


has anyone tried competitive rankings? like hot or not ?


This is because giving someone less than five stars is a direct threat on their livelihood. Unless I think someone should not be allowed to continue in their line of work, they get five stars.


When recently buying a car, the saleswoman said we would be sent a survey about the sale and that anything other than a 5 out of 5 rating she gets hassled by corporate. Wtf is the point in even giving people options if only one option is considered 'good'?


Untrue. Chinese restaurants in the SGV are tough.

3 stars in LA crushes 5 stars in other cities in the US.

And yes, I’ve lived 10 years in the Bay Area and the Chinese food pales in comparison.


Hmmm, we are going to have to check your credentials. In your opinion what is the best Chinese restaurant in either LA or SF?


Dim Sum: Joy Luck Palace (Sunnyvale). LA, the one that’s very good is Five Star Seafood (SGV off of Del Mar). 888 in Valley a little east of that place. Don’t go to Elite, Ocean Star, or mission, IMO. They are kind of on par with Jou Luck Palace. Koi Palace(Daly City) and Flower Lounge(Millbrae), Mayflower(Milpitas) I would stay away from.

Seafood: Newport Seafood(SGV). The restaurants listed above are decent for the Bay Area with Mayflower a notch or two below.

Best Taiwanese street food: Sin Ba La (Arcadia). Southland Flavor Cafe(Cupertino)

Lastly, in LA, the 626 Night Market is lots of crazy street food.

(Bistro Na is great too.)


Your credentials have been accepted.


Bistro Na's


Good chinese restaurants in London (like my old place) end up having less than 4 stars because of service. I find that raging since the food is the only thing that should matter.


I wouldn't make a blanket statement like "the food is the only thing that should matter"; but for some Chinese restaurants, bad service is part of the fun.

My favourite is "Oriental Canteen" near South Kensington station. At lunchtime I would order takeway, and then go browse a neighbouring bookshop. One day, as I was heading back the manager (who was rude on the best of days) just wordlessly held the bag with my lunch out the window so that I just grabbed it from her hands without even setting foot in her restaurant.

An excellent combination of impoliteness and efficiency for busy people who are there to exchange money for food rather than to make friends.


Push the ‘impoliteness and efficiency’ to the extreme and you get the Australia Dairy Company in Hong Kong, a restaurant where the service is so bad that tourists come to experience it...

And I agree with how you feel about the Oriental Canteen. A really inexpensive place to get a quick meal. Can’t expect much more from it.


> A really inexpensive place to get a quick meal. . Can’t expect much more from it.

I reckon the food there is pretty good quality, especially by London standards. Though the menu is pretty basic. At least that was my assessment 10 years ago when I lived there.


If we’re sharing then:

* jiaba: for taiwanese food

* orient: best dimsum

* joyluck: good hotpot


If the food is the only thing that should matter everyone should be ordering for delivery. The service counts so much as the food in my opinion.


Eh, unless they're shitting on my plate I feel no need to be critical of service at all. Also, it's nice to eat out simply because it's away from your home.


Service is: Bring the right food, bring it on time, bring the check in time, be somewhat friendly, help with strollers/bring a baby chair etc.


Eating chinese with a large group is done at the restaurant. Food is at the utmost importance. If you are willing to go eat worse food for better service then you should not be rating restaurants.


Maybe people are over critical but the service and experience of a meal is not to be ignored. I'm sure you would agree that if they literally threw the food at you it wouldn't deserve a rating regardless of the food.


Rating the food, or rating the service? Rating them together is nonsensical.


Some Amazon 1 star reviews: "great product, delayed by the post."

Ratings generally have become nonsensical. Between paid reviews, influencer reviews, bot-generated reviews, one-dimensional reviews that confuse multi-dimensional experiences, friends-and-family reviews, bucket reviews where you can't tell which product of a range is being reviewed (Amazon...), and hostile fake reviews, reviews have become all-but useless.

FWIW I had to pick a removals company recently, and I crossed one company off my shortlist when I found they used a suspect ratings company for their review listings. It's possible they were fine, but any company that pays to hide or remove bad reviews may easily not be.

I'm not sure if it's even possible to create a reliable independent review system. It might seems like a trivial problem, but given all the issues it's actually incredibly hard to get it right.


That’s something I like about Airbnb, it will give you different categories to rate


both ways have problems. when I'm dissatisfied with a place I want to help people not go there but let's say there are separate ratings for service, decor, food, atmosphere. I don't want to lie so if the food tasted like garbage but everything else was a 5 then it will look like I'm helping to recommend the place with 5 5 1 5 average 4 out of 5. 4 out of 5 sounds like a recommendation but what I really wanted to say is "don't go here!"


Those ratings shouldn't be averaged together though, because the weighting would be different for everyone. Each category would have its own average, and when I'm searching for a place, I would specify what I care about.


That’s the worst kind of rating for me as I only care about the food.


I just had this discussion with my SO while traveling n Japan. Here google maps give a really good indication, but you really really have to check out restaurants with under 4 stars. We found several gems that had under 4 stars because these places where just really busy. From reading the reviews these places the bad reviews where all from really condescending assholes that would even sometimes claim that the waiters were racist. These people giving 1 star because they couldn't get a table or some other shit not connected to the food whatsoever. Other times we would go to places where the food where mediocre but service and facilities where superb and thus having 4 star + ratings. I don't mind waiting, and i don't mind sitting in cigarette smoke to get an authentic quality meal.

I really wish that google maps, yelp etc. would have 2 or 3 categories being

Food, Service and Facilities

5 stars are just too simple, i feel the same way about Netflix thumbs up and thumbs down. Are we really so fucking simple minded that we can't handle nuanced ratings ?


> had under 4 stars because these places where just really busy

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." -- Yogi Berra


Everyone in Japan uses tabelog, and they are very tough - a restaurant with 3 out of 5 stars is an excellent restaurant.


Why should only the food matter?

If I have to wait one hour to get the food, that is detrimental to the experience in my opinion


People eat at restaurants for different reasons. Even if my food took an hour if the quality was high enough then I would be happy. That's part of what's missing, having a single score for all types of diners doesn't makes sense.


There are restaurants across the globe that people wait for over an hour to eat at because the food is simply that good.


It's fair enough that people will rate according to their expectations.

Curt, even surly service is pretty much trademark for Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants in my mind. I find the notion of "good service" actually a little overbearing sometimes honestly


The best servers are there when you need them, are paying attention so you rarely have to wait or wave, and are wonderfully absent when you do not need them. The manager coming 'round to confirm quality of service is a bad sign (new place or struggling). Surly should never enter the picture unless it's a theme restaurant based on belittling the customers.


I love Chinese service. I hate feeling obligated to make small talk with the waiters. "Is everything fine?" Fuck off, I'm trying to talk to my friend here.


I hope you are exaggerating a little for fun. Asking if everything is fine isn't really small talk and definitely doesn't deserve contempt.


Yeah, of course I am and I understand it's their job to do that. I really hate it when waiters come interrupt you, but what made you think I'd actually say it out loud? I used the phrase "fuck off" as an expression of annoyance, not contempt.

Now, white people not realizing that different cultural norms are at play and calling Chinese waiters rude, now THAT is definitely deserving of contempt.


If everything isn't fine I'm just never coming back. Though I don't have that problem often because I have a high tolerance.


This is the problem with crowd sourced reviews. Everyone rates things on a different scale. Even grouped scores like Metacritic aren't great for specific people. Rotten Tomatoes suffers the same problems. While it works in general, you are better served by finding reviewers who have liked what you've liked, and following them and listening to their reviews. Everyone likes different things, and it's worth while to be discerning with who you listen to. I've seen 4-5 star restaurants on Yelp in San Francisco that don't deserve 4-5 stars. I've seen the same with highly-rated hotels, too (Sorry, but if you are charged for Wifi or $3.50 for an apple, it's not a good hotel).

Find people you trust. Follow their reviews. Use socially gathered reviews as indicators when all else fails, and understand that half of them are probably worthless.


Well then the opposite will be true, 2 or 3 stars will mean the place is really bad.


I preferred the world when more things were like an xkcd comic, rather than like a Black Mirror episode.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosedive


I would add: we as a society need to start thinking about how to halt the service-ization of everything. The smartphone is a general purpose handheld computer that's been captured and turned into a rent-extraction device by being re-conceptualized as a "service." And the service-bug is spreading. Laptop and desktop computers are in the crosshairs, as are cars and various home appliances. Do we want to live in a world where every device is a black box that's only reparable by "authorized" personnel, where some hobby-level engineering skill won't help you prevent a 1$ dishwasher repair from costing 100$? Where every appliance comes with a plan, favors a "platform" and will make your life a headache if you disagree, serves you but also who knows how many other masters and economic agendas, and inexplicably goes dark because bankruptcy, bugs, hacks, your guess is as good as mine?

Generally we need to stop this because it's a major culprit in turning our world into an exhausting, low-trust, paranoid slog. Already, I mistrust non-OSS computing devices with their mystery-meat forced updates and non-removeable apps and barrage of legal agreements. If current trends hold, I'll have to second-guess my fridge because it's also serving a grocery-conglomerate, or the insurance company, my car is serving the insurance company and the state, my toilet works for pharma, and my washer and dryer... well, it goes on like that.

Constant wariness and justified cynicism are exhausting and dehumanizing and will do their part to sap an entire society. We know how this goes in the case of corrupt illiberal states, but ending up in that same place via a corrupt corporate culture/state is also possible, happening as we speak even, and halting that should be seen as another layer of defense for the liberal order.


>we as a society need to start thinking about how to halt the service-ization of everything.

People don't care unfortunately. Services are convenient and offer a better bang for the buck in the sort term. At some point though you lose your job and your music library is gone, you have nothing to watch because everyone streams and thus the movie/show selling market was never forced to solve it's copyright issues. You have no car because it was leased and you have no place to stay because the landlord kicked you out when you missed a rent( and buying an apartment or a house is crazy expensive across the board for some reason I still don't understand).

>Do we want to live in a world where every device is a black box that's only reparable by "authorized" personnel, where some hobby-level engineering skill won't help you prevent a 1$ dishwasher repair from costing 100$? Where every appliance comes with a plan, favors a "platform" and will make your life a headache if you disagree, serves you but also who knows how many other masters and economic agendas, and inexplicably goes dark because bankruptcy, bugs, hacks, your guess is as good as mine?

We need to find a way to make manufacturing electronics cheap. The cat is out of the bag and electronics and software will become part of everything. Maybe a smart fridge is a stupid idea now but it might make sense in a different context. I think Japan has been big on various home automation for many decades now before sv decided to reinvent the wheel but the cases I read about were much more respecting and user-controlled.

>Constant wariness and justified cynicism are exhausting and dehumanizing and will do their part to sap an entire society. We know how this goes in the case of corrupt illiberal states, but ending up in that same place via a corrupt corporate culture/state is also possible, happening as we speak even, and halting that should be seen as another layer of defense for the liberal order.

There is no liberal order anymore. Have you noticed how everything today is tense? Like every interaction has to be within very narrow and at the same time arbitrary limits? How everything even slightly political turns into a shitshow and not just online. Everyone has to be super careful of his/her personal ratings and there is no room to vent off and do your own thing because if society finds out it will tear you apart.


I'm curious about what a respectful and user-controlled smart household appliance looks like and how it's built. Thanks for pointing out that there is a non-BS vision of IOT, hard to remember that sometimes.


>what a respectful and user-controlled smart household appliance looks like and how it's built

Connected straight to your smartphone without a server in the middle or not connected to the internet at all. E.g. make your bathtub automatically fill up with water at your preferred temperature on a specified time every day and then maintain that for x amount of time. Flush it automatically after that time if you haven't pressed a button manually. I could see coming home after work and jumping straight to the bath being convenient and this setup doesn't even need connectivity.

Maybe some stuff could connect with each other only via LAN. E.g. night/day sensors that will turn the outside lights on when there isn't enough sunlight. Or a monitoring panel( basically a tablet) that will tell you if your fridge is struggling to keep the temperature down( maybe the underside needs cleaning). That could also be used to create various profiles for your smart lightbulbs so you can get the exact type of light that you want. Slowly increasing in luminosity to wake you up or getting a red led-like light profile for when you want to watch a movie. Maybe a more blue oriented light to help suppress melatonin when you have to stay late. A coffee maker( using regular grounded coffee, not capsules) will notify you when the internal coffee storage is low. I hate it when I run out of coffee without realizing it and I have to leave the house early in the morning without any caffeine.

The possibilities are there but those that make these devices need to look and listen to how people actually live instead of just trying to impress with useless and dangerous gimmicks or try to get extra money by extracting data.


Nice to peek into personal preferences. It seems a lot is revolving around immediacy, basically small mundane actions treated as time-wasteful.

I find all of the seeming incoveniences are often interaction points, chances to bump with the world around us. Ran out of coffee? ... hmm, dig out an old stash of tea (it may even taste better), or stop by a coffee house, maybe meet a love of your life, or just live a 'different' day.

On the other hand, commute/traffic jam is indeed life-wasting -- it would even upset the smart bath-tub.


It really depends on the person I guess. For example I live close to the sea so I get to swim a lot in the summer. As a kid we didn't have air conditioning in the car so when I arrived I was super hot and I jumped straight into the water. After we got an air-conditioned car a bit part of the appeal went away. Nowadays when I go to the sea I make sure to turn the air conditioner off for the last few minutes before I get there to get some of the extra satisfaction.

Notice that e.g. on the coffee example I specifically didn't suggest ordering coffee automatically for you or something. I buy fresh grinded(is that the right word?) coffee myself that I buy from a local coffee shop so all I would want is a reminder-maybe a specific text file where I input the stuff that I need to buy and the coffee machine adds coffee on it automatically. Then I can sync that file to my phone when I go shopping( maybe a couple of QR codes?).

Anyway the point of home IOT for me would be to get ease the mental load of keeping up with the house and maybe save some time with e.g. the bath tub( maybe if you decide to connect the system to your smartphone with e.g. a key exchange via lan you could tell the bath tub to extend the time that it keeps the water ready).


We should stop calling it smartphone. It has very little to do with a phone. Its more of a spy device with an organizer (PIM), flash light, and various radios one of which can provide a limited always-on connection.


> The smartphone is a general purpose handheld computer that's been captured and turned into a rent-extraction device by being re-conceptualized as a "service."

Services are indisputably a good thing and they are absolutely the way forwards. There is no reason for anybody to own much of anything and with global middle class approaching 4 billion it's simply not possible for the extremely wasteful concept of "ownership" to survive. Metering is the only way forwards besides catastrophe.

> Already, I mistrust non-OSS computing devices with their mystery-meat forced updates and non-removeable apps and barrage of legal agreements.

You've stumbled upon the actual issue which is nothing more than compelled business (in Europe and Asia) and what I guess the US calls a "coercive monopoly" [1]. The fundamental problem with Apple's App Store is that there is no reasonable alternative. Individuals and businesses which purchase IPhone devices are forced to do business with Apple if they want to actually utilize those devices to their full potential. Similarly developers who wish to provide services around IPhones have no choice but to do business with Apple.

> We know how this goes in the case of corrupt illiberal states, but ending up in that same place via a corrupt corporate culture/state is also possible, happening as we speak even, and halting that should be seen as another layer of defense for the liberal order.

Ironically, if you want to see a government who gets this "right" take a look at China. Chinese governments have moved aggressively to prevent monopolies and the laws were modified ten years ago to draw a clear distinction between a market (where all businesses interact freely and there is fair competition) and a platform (where a single business dictates virtually all the economic terms). This, along with the relaxed IP framework, is why the Chinese market is much more competitive and dynamic than anything else going on out there. At this point I don't think anybody seriously expects America's ultra-right-wing Supreme Court to break Apple's monopoly, but earlier this year there were a lot of indicators suggesting that Apple's coercive practices were not welcome [2]. (Though this issue might solve itself if Apple's market share in China continues to plunge.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coercive_monopoly

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/business/china-apple-app-...


I don't know why you're getting downvoted. I'm not sure I agree with you about ownership, but it's a point worth considering, as are your other points.

Also, I like the idea that it's not services themselves that are the problem, but rather platforms being used to force them down people's throats. Coming up with policy to discourage services seems much more conceptually difficult than rediscovering serious antitrust, a simple oldie-but-goodie.


It's really screwed up even as a consumer. E.g. for things like Uber I've taken to always rating 5 stars regardless of my experience, because even if I have something bad to say do I really want to so nonchalantly be a cog in the machine of potentially robbing someone of their livelyhood?


Yeah, the way Uber ratings work it seems like there are only two ratings: "I had an acceptable experience" or "This person should lose their job".


It's the same for restaurants in low-volume areas. That under-4-star death knell is a killer for sales.

On the other hand, I love perusing those 3-star restaurants as I find so many hidden gems covered in the tears of LLC owners and bored hostesses.

If I were a lesser man, I totally am, I would write a book concerning that social theory called the Star Divide.


Hopefully it would be better than the related Black Mirror episode (Nosedive), which started with an interesting premise, but handled it in a very crass and immature way, more reminiscent of stupid Hollywood teen comedies (e.g. American Pie).


I'd read that book.


I want to value 5-star ratings like this: 1 star = -3, 2 star = -1, 3 star = 0, 4 star = +1, 5 star = +3. Works the same for restaurant tipping: $0.02 = you should be fired and this place should be closed, 0% = you suck and I won't ever come back, 10% = you blew it this time, 15% = median performance, 20% = you did better than most, 20% and yes we will also order booze and/or desserts = you're at least 98th percentile.

I dislike systems that end up being like this: 1 star = -8, 2 star = -4, 3 star = -2, 4 star = -1, 5 star = 0.

I need to be able to express when things are good as well as when things are bad. When everyone and everything has a 4.5-star average rating, there's no way to tell when anything stands out as being better than similar things. You can only see when things are significantly worse.


What else matters when choosing a car hire?


I'm not opposed to it being a pass/fail rating, but that should be made explicit. It's perfectly reasonable for a user to think that a 3/5 star rating means "I had a perfectly fine experience, no problems, nothing exceptional" when in reality if a driver gets too many 3 star ratings they are booted from the service.


I think the same goes for peer reviews. If I have negative feedback for one of my colleagues, I'd rather share it with them personally instead of going through a system where it ends up in their HR file, and thus might affect their future career at the company.


That's one of the reasons I put my neighbours' address as my home address on Uber/Lyft (the other being I don't really trust them as a company, especially Uber).


That is how I play it too. These systems will not end well in my opinion.

Someone above mentioned due process. I second that. What we have right now is no where near robust enough.

So, I will have a friendly conversation with someone. The human means, ways, methods work well and are time tested, production proven.

5 stars, unless it is really bad, and they do not have some cause for that being the case.

Honestly, the income is thin, many of these people are working their asses off, and is that not harsh enough?

Not much to like in all of it.


I can't think of a good counter argument to balance this. There are forums filled with people who have essentially been blacklisted from the 'internet' after being barred from Google search for whatever reason.

Some removed without explanation and assumed it is because they competed with Alphabet in some way.

Scary to think two or three companies effectively have total control over your digital business and you have basically zero rights without any course for appeal, you're absolutely at the mercy of good will if there is any (often none).

Regulation is needed here, the old 'regulate thy self' is a sham soundbite, proven time and time again.


In part I think it's important to think about how to make and keep a healthy culture of labour unions. There needs to be counter balance to corporate power. Especially in blue collar sectors.

I guess gig unions could be a thing? Can we build apps for worker coordination? What if there was a way for all Uber drivers to coordinate global strikes?

We should be open for regulation that protect the rights of workers to unionize.


One of the big problems with forming a gig worker union is the same problem with gig work in general; you're disconnected with your coworkers and other firm participants.

Uber can press a button in response to a strike and send out a push notification to potential scabs offering a bribe to cross the digital picket line. The strikers both don't know and can't efficiently tell who scabs are, and as such can't put pressure for solidarity on them.


Some Uber drivers also use the Lyft app. Would they use a “DriveTogether” app for labor organizing? Is digital labor organizing more or less work than old-school organizing of workers in factories across a large geographic region?

Edit: looks like this is now legally permitted, https://tcf.org/content/report/virtual-labor-organizing/

”Due to a little-known, but far-reaching change made by the NLRB last year, virtual labor organizing by employees is now sanctioned by law in many situations and could possibly be transformative in the workplace ... NLRB recently reversed years of legal precedent that allowed employers to ban the use of workplace e-mail for organizing or communicating about the terms and conditions of work. Last year, in its decision in Purple Communications, Inc., the NLRB emphatically endorsed the right of employees to use workplace e-mail for such activities. It held that “employee use of email for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their email systems.” The NLRB added that: “Employees’ need to share information and opinions is particularly acute in the context of an initial organizing campaign.”


One major barrier is that you don’t have to meet any of your coworkers unless you explicitly seek them out, and your employer certainly isn’t going to help you. So yes I would say that labor organizing across a gig platform is considerably harder than for factories across geographic regions. The social fabric is a lot harder to construct


Many drivers (in NYC anyway) are members of online discussion forums, so they are connecting already. I read many a multi-hundred page threads of drivers ranting and deciding to strike several years ago over Uber forcing black cars to accept UberX rides. Them joining together is a major reason Uber backtracked that policy per Uber’s public statement about it.


I guess that the missing piece here would be better ways to organise strike funds and pay. Regarding the social aspect there's mostly a way if there's will.


Can anyone who drives for Uber/Lyft/Grab chime in here? Do you know your peers?


Some would say this is the killer-app of gig platforms - the picket lines and scabs are almost invisible, and workers are completely disconnected from each other unless they seek each other out. Makes organization and striking very hard


I'd argue that what people need is a "meta"-union with gig-specific chapters. Regardless of the type of employment, all people are human beings with needs, desires, and limitations. You could argue that government and political parties are supposed to be just that, but here we are.


Yes! Meta unions should be there for managing strike funds. This infrastructure seems like something that could be packaged in a reusable way. I don't think this should be part of the political establishment at all. Just as corporations should be kept separate from the state. The mechanics of labour unions are quite different.


See the case study of Nidan. They setup unions in India for informal workers. A union of unions so to speak.the centre that did the case study is one of the best to understand Systems change

http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_SF17_Case_Studies_02_Nidan_...


> Regulation is a very very touchy subject, ... We need real due process.

What scares me even shitlesser is that the legislative and regulatory momentum is pointing in the wrong direction. Governments and political movements are calling on platforms to policing their users more tightly along various axes. They are doing little or nothing to help folks act independently on the net.

I share your intuition that any good solution will involve government action. But if we just shout "there oughtta be a law" then law we get will do the opposite of what we want.


Most non game apps shouldn't be apps. They should be web pages. It would be faster development and you wouldn't be dependent on the app stores.

A torrent remote app would never be allowed on the IOS app store, but going to https://remote.vuze.com and pairing your Vuze app can't be banned....


If it was easier to pin a web page to your home screen, I think this would catch on more. I run a website and I get requests a lot saying "you should have an app!" I ask what the app would do, and they say "what the website does, but stuck on my home screen."

It's also unfortunate that web pages have the disadvantage that they have the browser UI around them, so it reduces the space available to the page versus an app, and web pages don't have permissions that apps do like sending notifications. Some people view this as a good thing and I tend to agree, but it's still a big disconnect that my weather app can send me a notification saying there is a tornado in my area whereas a weather website needs me to actively be checking it.


> If it was easier to pin a web page to your home screen, I think this would catch on more

On iOS, this is literally a two-tap process (share sheet -> add to home screen). I can't speak for the masses, but the reason I don't do it more often is because so many web apps are just bad on mobile. Slow, poor rendering, no attention paid to extended usability...


Modern Progressive Web Apps mostly fix these issues.

When you visit a proper PWA multiple times, your browser is supposed to notice and ask you if you want to save it to the Homescreen.

But you're right, web on mobile is still miserable in general.


Safari has supported “add to home screen since day one.” As far as web pages supporting notifications. It’s already being abused for spam.


No notifications on iOS safari, btw.


I just checked and Chrome on recent Android offers it.

I just pinned a few sites I use.


Modern web browsers have already solved all these problems.


Until they start blocking URLs because of... well, they'll find a reason ;)


> The platform will never forget, there will be no second chances.

Or worse. This reminded me of this recent comment:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17694032

The paragraph in question:

> After an agent had been terminated, their punishment points would decay over time until such a time they reached zero (or another configurable threshold depending on how desperate the company was for warm bodies), at which time they would be sent an e-mail to their personal e-mail (which was collected during the application process), inviting them to “re-apply”. Being an early telephony company we also would send them a robo-call with the “good news”. This process was known as a “life-cycle” and it was common in certain labor markets for employees to have many such lifecycles.

Seriously, give it a read and cry, if you haven't...


That gave me absolute chills.

I can't help but think of a platform like that but international and for all jobs. Hellish reality.


Can we discuss alternative to these big platforms? This is the only long term solution to the problem. Decentralization is need of the hour. Why isn't etherium based solutions gaining traction even after repeated backlash by these big platforms on multiple fronts.


> Why isn't etherium based solutions gaining traction even after repeated backlash by these big platforms on multiple fronts.

Because the problems that need to be solved aren't technical ones and won't be solved with technology. They are meatspace-based cultural, economic and social problems.


There is a lot of disinformation about ethereum due to the economic incentive that I think is discouraging well established engineers from looking to ethereum as a good piece of infrastructure to use moving forward. It's also just missing link in understanding between a consensus service like zookeeper and a cryptographic consensus service like ethereum, meaning, it's not easy to see the huge gains over what some would say are mundane differences. That's also Not to say that ethereum doesn't have problems, but not being open and not being a quality engineered product and not part of the issues.


Unless you're thinking about the next Silk Road, then, you're not solving the real problem here.


The gig economy is getting unreal. With the silicon valley boom it used to be that you would become a software developer or some IT related profession and you would be almost guaranteed a top of the line paycheck. That paycheck represented almost nothing in terms of costs compared to how well software scales across the board. And yet corporations will find a way to take that away too, make some of the last high-paying jobs turn into a race to the bottom market. And brand it as "innovative" on top of it.


We engineers could also develop more intelligent and robust rating systems.


Perhaps old ratings should be removed or down-weighted in the system as time passes. This would make the ratings better reflect current levels of quality, (a) helping people learn and recover from mistakes and (b) keeping people from coasting on past success while reducing quality.

Not sure how to get general users to rate with 1-star = bad, 3-stars = ok, and 5-stars = great. Sounds like a social engineering problem. It may be more reliable to use trained evaluators, like the system used by Consumer Reports or the Michelin Guide.


Meta reviews would be great, but are expensive due to having to basically repeat an experience.


Have a look at Steam. Their recent view is brilliant, and they'll flag it for the user if a long time solid title suddenly gets a barrage of negative views.


The most scary part of this story is a minor line item:

... except China. In other words, China is just stealing EVERYTHING FROM EVERYONE and not even Apple or Google can stop it from happening.

This article is about pushing Google and Apple to lower percentages -- perhaps 5% from what once was 30% and that these two giants are the dangerous entities in the world? Let me know when Google and Apple shut down the wikipedia or block news about Tienanmen Square or block pictures of Winnie the Poo.

Until then I hope Apple and Google get stronger. If you want a balance against the central state, then capitalism might be your best option.


Well, they should also let us know when China invades tens of countries all around the world (and not its own citizens or immediate neighbors they have some beef with), topples their democratically elected leaders and so on. From 2001 till now, 4 ex-sovereign countries have been bombed and invaded into hellscapes, and it wasn't China doing it. Just some old friendly "whataboutism" (/s) to put things into perspective, I'm tired of the pots of this world calling the kettles black...


It effects entire countries. With the power of the app store ZTE was crushed overnight if you can't ship the app store you can't sell your phones. The level of leverage is pretty breathtaking.


ZTE was crushed because they were banned from essential parts for electronics (think Qualcom SOCs etc...)

Companies in China do fine without the Google App Store.


And yet these stores aren't considered a monopoly? There is no competition and no one can make an app and distribute it outside the store in Apple's case, but no you can go to Google where the situation is virtually the same. Regulation is the only thing that can possibly fix it. If it's a touchy subject for people, people need to be less sensitive and ask themselves what else could possibly be a solution? Do people really think that the industry will regulate itself or something equally implausible?


It's a trust, not a monopoly. Antitrust law should apply.


> We as a society need to start thinking about how we rate people. Right now we all shop for that 5-star rating and punish anyone with 4. We need to mature beyond that as it grows increasingly impossible to maintain perfect ratings.

I couldn't disagree more with this sentiment. The answer is not to intentionally sabotage competitive market forces that are driving better outcomes for consumers. That's the equivalent of a jobs program. If you can't compete, you don't compete. Businesses are inherently risky and some people will lose.

If an inordinate number of sellers are failing or struggling, that reflects a failed assessment of market risk and ill-informed decision-making. The answer is to improve the decision-making capability of participants or otherwise improve the social safety net for people who are facing new realities of economic obsolescence.


I didn't downvote, but I think cptaj's point was to "unsabotage" the rating system.

Ideally, the 5-star rating system should work like:

  - 1-star means Awful
  - 2-star means Bad
  - 3-star means OK
  - 4-star means Good
  - 5-star means Excellent
That means no one should have any problem using something rated 3 or above. However, by "[shopping] for that 5-star rating and [punishing] anyone with a 4", the rating system ends up meaning:

  - 1-star means Couldn't be worse
  - 2-star means Awful
  - 3-star means Bad
  - 4-star means There was a problem
  - 5-star means OK
Because we all know that's how the rating is treated, no one gives a 3 when the experience was normal and tries to reserve that 5-star for when a service was absolutely phenomenal. We just give a 5 when a service was OK.

Being more accepting of 4-star or 3-star ratings is not sabotaging competitive market forces; it's trying to use the 5-star rating system like it should be.


This does not follow. Even in a system where 3 stars means excellent, 4 stars means once in a lifetime, and 5 stars means Platonic Ideal, I'm still going to look for restaurants (or drivers or network routers or whatever the thing is) that are as close to 5* as possible. Do I subdivide between 4.45 and 4.47 stars? No. But in general I'm going to sort my results by some measure of quality. I'm also optimizing over other variables, but to the extent quality is one of those variables, there's no reason to settle for OK when Excellent is available.

I'm definitely not going to voluntarily get worse food so I can protest the idea of ratings.

And as long as that's the case, there will always be pressure for people and services that aren't "Excellent" to go for the 5 star anyway, and as long as they're going for it, there'll be a social pressure to provide it.

The problem isn't linguistic, it's game theoretic.


I don't think you've thought this through entirely, primarily because your analysis here though misses out on a cost function for stars.

>I'm definitely not going to voluntarily get worse food so I can protest the idea of ratings.

Yeah, but most people (maybe including you) certainly will "voluntarily get worse food" if you consider the price difference sufficient. In a system where 3 stars means good or excellent it can be expected there will be a non-linear increase in cost and skill requirements to hit 4 or 5 stars. They will be rarer, likely less convenient, and certainly more expensive. For a special occasion sure, maybe you go for the very best. But in general many people will be perfectly happy with a lower starred establishment that is more affordable and convenient and still perfectly decent. Sometimes people just want to fill their stomachs for the purpose of continued survival in a reasonably pleasant fashion, not have a magical gourmet experience. Scale compression removes visibility for this basic tradeoff right?

I mean, we can even find a direct example of this in the food world right now: Michelin Stars. It's a 1 to 3 scale and even a single one is a big deal. But the standards necessary to qualify and maintain it are not cheap for the restaurant. I remember reading of a very nice restaurant in a more run down area of France that had earned a star, and were very proud of it, but ultimately decided to give it up because it resulted in them being priced out of the general range of locals. Conversely there is nothing bad about going to even a 1 Michelin star restaurant, it'll still be likely to be very good.


Read this story in December when it happened and was absolutely shocked but it makes so much sense.

https://www.eater.com/2017/12/27/16821648/chef-returns-miche...


Deciding what star level to accept should not be the rating-reader's problem.

The reviewers need to have their own ratings statistically analyzed, so that their median rating is adjusted to 3 stars out of five for the purposes of averaging across multiple reviewers.

If you only rate things as 5 stars, you have no dynamic range. I want your reviews to all be 3 stars in the average I see.

Another optimization could be to change the aggregation function such that reviewers that rated well the same things I rate well, and who rate poorly the same things I rate poorly, and those reviewers I explicitly mark as having helpful reviews, would be weighted more heavily in the number I see. That would effectively filter out bots that rate their brand as 5 stars and competitors as 1 star, because that pattern is so dissimilar from normal consumer behavior. The bots see cheap white-label crap as 5-star because the recommendations of their fellow ratings-gaming spam-bots dominate their own aggregate rating. If you rate a microwave oven as 1-star because it shipped in 3 days rather than 2, I don't really want your reviews polluting my averages. If you rate a cheap-ass USB cable as 5-stars because it "works good i had no problems", I don't want your reviews polluting my averages. If you rate a USB charger as 1-star because it "Violates USB 3.0 spec and will probably burn your house down; I am an electrical engineer and here's how I figured that out..." then you're danged right I want that reviewer's reviews to have more weight.

I don't see how a system like that would be any more complex than Google's ranking algorithms for search. If they can discover the most useful sites and weed out SEO gaming attempts by analysis of links and traffic, so too could Amazon put an actually useful rating value on the products it ships, and so too could Uber show you what drivers and riders are really like.


There is another big negative about using ratings when dining out that no one talks about.

My friends and I were recently discussing how we haven't had a bad experience in any restaurant in awhile. But now we are so used to really good restaurants that it is extremely rare to get amazed by any restaurant.

If we compare this to our experiences in pre-Yelp era, it was so exciting to discover an amazing restaurant. Sure we ate at a lot of mediocre restaurants but joy of finding something amazing was greater back then.

I am not sure what the solution is. Stop looking up ratings?


I don't know. Sounds like the ratings might just be working.


"App Store fees got you down? Meanwhile at Epic, they lowered their take on the Unreal Marketplace from 30% to 12% and retroactively paid back years of fees.

"Epic said this is due to the success of Fortnite. If only Apple and Google had successful products to rely on for income."

https://twitter.com/agilethumbs/status/1029804861477412865


Additionally, Unreal Engine 4 charges only 5% gross on revenue exceeding 3,000 USD per quarter. Epic's CEO tweeted about these markets taking 30% where other transaction facilitators only take 2-5%.

https://mobile.twitter.com/TimSweeneyEpic/status/89831654549...

It feels like in tech there are a ton of leech-like companies attempting to leverage their way into middleman positions and then rest on their laurels while dictating terms to the supply side as they hold the customer side hostage. I'm not a fan of it, and I'm glad that in the past few years there seems to be a growing awareness of it.

Tim Sweeney and Epic have been hugely supportive to other developers and I wish other companies tried to offer as much value and support to the developers that their business rests upon.


Calling Apple a transaction facilitator is a ludicrous way to try to downplay what they actually do. They aren’t just a transaction processer, that’s the cheapest and easiest part of their job. They also host petabytes of apps in hundreds of geographically dispersed and localized app stores, and covers all bandwidth for distributing and updating those apps. And unlike google Apple actually reviews every release of every app by hand, keeping huge amounts of malware off customer devices, and maintaining the high level of confidence developers need to get customers to buy apps.

Now Apple doesn’t need 30%, but they’d lose huge amounts of money at 5%. A more reasonable guess at App Store break-even is that it requires at least 10%.


And Apple forces you into this exchange. You can't ask them to simply host a product page like Amazon and leave everything else to you, the app developer.

There's many good UX reasons why Apple does this, but you can't seriously think that they're charging app developers anything reasonably close to the cost Apple incurs because they have literally no incentive to do that; they have a monopoly on iPhone users (much as Google does de facto for Android users).


> They also host petabytes of apps in hundreds of geographically dispersed and localized app stores

So they run a CDN. In the US and Europe, Fastly charges [0] a maximum of $0.12/GB. A messaging app like Threema is 41MB and costs 3CHF (~3USD) where I am. That's ~$0.005 for distribution of a $3 app.

For a 4GB app (the largest Apple supports), you're paying $0.48 but you're also usually charging on the order of $20 for the app, so this is ~2.5%.

Actual bandwidth costs much less. You can buy decent transit for 0.17c/Mbps/month [1] ($0.0005/GB if you max the pipe).

> and covers all bandwidth for distributing and updating those apps

Let's say incremental updates cost 5% (~2MB) each time and you send them once a month for 10 years. That's 240MB of extra download, for a total bandwidth of 281MB/user. That's $0.0372/user for a $3 app, just over 1%.

> And unlike google Apple actually reviews every release of every app by hand, keeping huge amounts of malware off customer devices

That primarily benefits Apple. Apple's policies also cost entire classes of apps _100%_ of their revenue, since Apple prohibits them completely.

[0]: https://www.fastly.com/pricing [1]: https://www.ixreach.com/services/promotions/global-10g-trans...


First, You made a good run at the per user costs, but whiffed on how many users there are. Apple supports billions of downloads per year.

More importantly, Apple isn’t a mere payment processer, and it certainly isn’t a mere CDN.

Then entire storefront, updated constantly with new marketing programs in hundreds of country specific stores, and in dozens of languages. Then there is the technological infrastructure behind it, from XCode to TestFlight, to crash reporting, to all the payment systems, etc, etc.

And overall developers benefit greatly from App Store review.The average iOS user downloads more apps and spends far more on the App Store in a great part because of the greater safety and security of iOS apps.


Apple made $11 billion from apps in 2017. I doubt they spent more than $1B on app distribution. You d have to add research costs to go up to 10%.


I guarantee they spent more.

The host over 2 million apps, in hundreds of geographic locations. With updates, they are distributing billions of releases and updates a year. And some of those apps exceed a gigabyte in size.

Outside of raw bandwidth and storage costs, someone has to run those tens of thousands of servers across the world, and manage development of the distribution software.

Then you need sales and marketing personnel to build and run the App Store, and hundreds of similar staffs to build and manage the hundreds of international stores in dozens of different languages.

Then you need software development teams to build and maintain the - payment processing, including server infrastructure, the iOS, Mac SDKs, the APIs, etc - software distribution and updating infrastructure, from tools to manage thousands of servers, as well as track and report, and more Mac/iOS SDKs and sever APIs. - The App Store itself, with custom app pages, search, advertising, Mobil app versions, web versions, account management, support, etc. - App Submission infrastructure, including XCode, Swift, Automated App Analysis tools, Bitcode, the Bitcode server infrastructure, crash reporting, TestFlight test distributions and infrastructure, developer accounts including security profile generation/management, ItunesConnect account management including sales and legal reporting along with App distribution interface and controls.

And then there is - Sales and marketing costs, advertising, developer co-marketing - Customer support

And finally, developer support. Apple likely has at least a thousand people working in developer support, mostly on app submissions. And they are all in Cupertino, meaning Apple is spending well over $100M a year just on payroll costs for that department alone.

$1B? I’d be surprised if it’s less than triple that. They likely spend close to half a billion on App Store/Developer advertising alone.


You wouldnt count ios development as a cost that apple pays for developers, its the price they pay to lure developers. Just like MS develops windows APIs for free. Developers work for apple, not vice versa, the question is if apple is paying them enough.

App ecosystems or platforms were since decades free for developers, because platforms need developers more than viceversa. Apple’s case is unique, and it comes from their preexisting culture of a cultish, high-paying customer base. It is unfortunate that google and ms. copied their model, i think android app distribution should be free. At this point, i dont think they even did it for the money, but more for appearing to be ‘serious’ in their offering. It was a marketing decision.

If it had been free from the start , companies wouldnt have invested so much on building increasingly higher walled gardens. Apps would be on the web, and some third party would have done a better job of organizing and reviewing them.

I doubt app stores are a big cost as you say. It is pretty obvious from their quality that these companies just dont care about them. They use them to lock in developers.


>And they are all in Cupertino

Do you have a source for that? I'm 99.9% sure this isn't true. I've had apps rejected where the screenshots had non-english characters in the status bar, and rejections because the app had no daily content because they were testing at like 3:00 am our time and we publish our daily content around 10:00 am.


EC told Google that income from PlayStore should be enough for them to make money on Android.

Edit: EC == European Commission


Who is EC in this context? The Epic mentioned above, or something else?


Probably the European Commission.


European Commission I imagine


I really like that. I think the first thing people should do when making a startup is finding a consistent revenue stream and business model. Most companies are actually more about the model than the idea. Hell, even Nike only makes about 6% of profit on their $100 shoes. They can do this because they have a consistent and reliable business model (aka not advertisement income). It's not even the shoes anymore. it's the idea of the shoes.


Just to provide a reference on the $6/Nike shoes, because I didn't believe it....

https://solecollector.com/news/2014/12/how-much-it-costs-nik...


Thank you for that. I believe the source i read included marketing in the expenses, but that was long ago.


6% profit after paying the salaries of everyone involved in manufacturing, marketing, and administration, including retailer profit, is quite a lot.


It's just less than people would think because all they get to see is the $100 price tag.


Epic's is a useful reference point. The retrospective angle was particularly surprising, but also shows how successful Fortnite has been in terms of revenue.


Doesn't Valve take 30% from games on Steam? But they're complaining Apple taking 30% is too much?

I also don't really think the Apple/Google fee is that unreasonable. Considering the resources, tools, marketplaces, tutorials, payment processing, all the other All dev stuff they provide in general. Yes if your app goes big, they make a lot of money. But for every big app there's something like 9 that fail completely (it's murky due to how many apps aren't intended to profit in the first place, and are just made to attract customers to a brand).

I don't know the numbers though. Maybe they could charge lots less. But just from my single viewpoint, it doesn't "feel" unreasonable.


Steam does not sell me a locked down hardware platform preventing me from buying the software directly from the publisher. Nor does Steam force me to buy DLC through Steam, I am free to buy the DLC directly from the publisher. Steam gets a cut of what I buy from Steam and I am not locked into buying from Steam in order to make my PC useful.

Apple sells me a locked down hardware platform that requires me to go through them for all software purchases and all data purchases made with that software.

> But just from my single viewpoint, it doesn't "feel" unreasonable.

It seems unreasonable to me that Apple should get a cut of my Amazon Video purchases. Apple adds no value there; they just get in the way and try to take a cut. I already have a relationship with Amazon and when I download a video from Amazon, it costs Apple nothing.

The entire thing where I have to make a purchase through the Amazon website rather than the Amazon or Amazon Video app and then download it with Amazon Video app is just stupid.


Steam is also adding a lot of value for that rev-share. A social network...kickstart-esque backing of projects...cloud saves...great search and discoverability. There is a reason why developers choose Steam even though they operate on platforms that don't require it.


And mobile stores offer search, promotion, distribution, and analytics.


In the absence of any alternative methods of developers getting their apps into users hands, it is difficult to say whether "search, promotion, distribution, and analytics" offered by Apple are really valued at what Apple is charging for them. It is also difficult to separate these things from things Apple is doing for its own sake, since they increase sales which benefits Apple directly.

I strongly suspect that, given enough time to compensate for the existing momentum of the App Store, if an alternative App Store was an option, Apple would either improve its offerings, lower what it charges, or see a mass migration of publishers away from the App Store.

Edit: Clarity of meaning.


You're completely ignoring the hit to both the brand and experience that something like that would cause. There's a big reason why iOS users tend to spend more money on the platform than Android users do on the Google platform and a huge part of that is the trust built by Apple with their users.

You can go into the Google Play store (which most people would think was the "official" and "safe" method of getting apps) and still get malware and/or a virus on your Android phone. Now imagine that Google offered both an official Play store and an alternative open Play store. Which do you think the majority of users would use and have a positive opinion of?


You seem to be suggesting the only alternative to the App Store is a janky Apple-run Open App Store. All Apple has to do to offer an alternative is let people install Apps on their phones outside the App Store just like they can do on their Macs. People will still trust the App Store, but maybe a competitor comes along and maybe Netflix/Amazon etc use them or maybe they don’t.


I didn't suggest that at all. I suggested that it was a possible alternative simply because that's the only way something like that would be considered "official" still while allowing for any apps to be published.

There's no reason for Apple to offer that on their phones since it dilutes the customer experience. Anyone that would care about doing that can still do that via XCode by side-loading the apps.

Case in point - where's the competitor for the Mac App Store on macOS? There's not. Users have to do all the legwork themselves. That's literally no different than side-loading your own apps.


Wait What. Steam is a "competitor" to Mac App Store. Homebrew is a sort of competitor to app store. Heck any website which has more that 1 Mac OS "app" is a sort of an "app store ".


>Case in point - where's the competitor for the Mac App Store on macOS? There's not. Users have to do all the legwork themselves.

Yeah, double-clicking that DMG and dragging the .app 30 pixels to the Applications shortcut is a lot of work.

>That's literally no different than side-loading your own apps.

Yup, clicking and dragging is the same as configuring a different machine to properly build and provision.


Stop being obtuse. People have to find the software they want first and then download the DMG from somewhere which usually involves ignoring a billion fake "DOWNLOAD NOW" buttons. The App Store is a trusted platform with literally one click find an app and one click to install.

You're being purposely disingenuous.


What? First of all my main argument was that installing outside the App Store is much easier on MacOS than it is on iOS.

Second: many, many sites host their own DMG downloads, with zero fake download buttons. I don't think searching for an app's website on Google is significantly harder than searching for an app in the App Store (also I'm not sure typing in search terms is "one click", but whatever). I'll admit that using the App Store is slightly less work to install stuff, and somewhat more secure.

But from a user standpoint (I use a Mac with one or two App Store apps and dozens of DMG-installer-based apps) it's not a huge difference. And from a developer standpoint, that's not worth 30% of my revenue.


> All Apple has to do to offer an alternative is let people install Apps on their phones outside the App Store

This exists now and is free. I’m not saying it’s a good user experience (especially the one week limitation), but it’s definitely possible and legit / legal / free.


Sideloading on iOS is a bad enough user experience to be effectively useless.


Depends on the use case. For the intended purpose it’s not useless, but far from great either.


> not saying it’s a good user experience

Why do you think that is?


I apologize, but I don’t understand your question. Can you clarify?


Search: yes, but to counter that: the App Store shows ads of your competitors ABOVE your own app, even if someone searches for your app by name.

Promotion: only the ones that seem to be successful anyways. Mostly no niche apps

Distribution: yes

Analytics: Not everybody needs this and they're pretty basic, too.

They also introduce hurdles: Rating system (can be easily abused), or in the case of the App Store: review process (sometimes somewhat arbitrary), no insight into payments (you can't even issue a refund).

One service that is indeed quite useful: They handle all payment processing and country's tax. You just get a single payment wired to your bank account. Makes your own taxes a lot easier. This and distribution are probably the biggest benefit for most apps (especially niche apps), but does this justify a 30% cut?


As I understand it, if you already have a subscription for Amazon Video through the web, then download the Amazon Video app and login to your existing account, Apple doesn't get anything.

Which is why the article emphasized Netflix trying to get customers to sign up through their web site, and not the app.


Correct. Apple gets a cut if a customer subscribes through the in-app one-click subscription, which is extremely convenient for any iPhone user (and thus app publishers) because it’s a single click rather than having to insert credit cards, 3D secure and whatnot. In this case the cut is 30% on the first year and 10% afterwards. If the user subscribes through the website, Apple gets nothing. I find this fair.

What is more unfair is that Apple forbids apps to open/link websites where subscriptions can be done to “workaround” the iTunes subscription. If you take Spotify for instance and login as free user, there are absolutely zero mentions that you can upgrade to premium, because they decided to lose those potential customers and rather let them know through other channels of their purchasing options (eg: emails).

On the other hand, this creates a very safe and simple environment for iPhone users. Absolutely NO app asks for a credit card, ever. You either pay one-click safely through iTunes, or nothing. There is no phishing, no mismanaged credit card handling, no credit cards “stolen by hackers from the app I installed into my iPhone”. I’m not saying this fully justifies the above unfair rule, but it’s at least a partial positive side effect.


I would also note that being able to painlessly cancel a subscription at any time is a big incentive for users to buy subscriptions through the iOS App Store.

Having recently jumped through the series of hoops necessary to cancel an NYTimes subscription, I am strongly biased towards App Store and Amazon-Prime-based subscriptions, even though they are arguably unfair to the providers.


What is more unfair is that Apple forbids apps to open/link websites where subscriptions can be done to “workaround” the iTunes subscription.

Slight anecdote, because of that policy, Amazon doesn't support links to Amazon from Kindle Books. Which is fine 99.999% of the time. Until you buy a book about AWS and you can't click on any of the links to documentation on Amazon's websites....


This is 100% what I'm saying. I think that it does fully justify the rule that people are saying is "unfair". I have yet to hear a good argument that doesn't amount to something totally incorrect like "Apple doesn't provide any value and is just a middleman" or just an opinion like "Apple shouldn't take part of the purchase just because they own the platform" because while it may be a valid opinion, it looks at the situation from only the perspective of the 2 companies in question (Apple and whoever) and not the end-user.


it's 15% in future years, not 10%.


You are correct in that if I subscribe through Apple, that Apple gets a cut, and if I subscribe via the web they do not get a cut. This makes sense, since Apple is providing a subscription service. I don't have any problem with this model. It's convenient and I've used it in the past.

However, Apple also wants a cut if I were to purchase a movie through the Amazon Video app. Amazon has disallowed such purchases for this reason. Instead, I have to go back to the web, make the purchase, and then I can view it with the app.

Some may argue that this is a fair price for having your app hosted on the app store. However, since Apple prevents any other means of me getting apps on my phone, I find it unfair rent-seeking.

Worse, Apple very clearly wants subscriptions to work just like in-app purchases.


IIRC this is how the Kindle app works for iOS. You can't buy books, but if you own books on your account you can read them.


One can even download free samples of the books which makes it very convenient to pay on kindle or the website later. But it is sad that Apple decided that apps cannot even mention that purchase has to be done at the website.


You can wishlist and download samples from the app on iOS, but any purchases have to be done from the website. On android, you can buy/download full books directly from the app.


> Apple adds no value there

Other than inventing the modern phone, writing the operating system and developer tools, running the store, manufacturing the phones people are consuming Amazon's product on and convincing people to buy them...you can argue about what's "fair," but Apple's certainly adding value.


All of those except 'running the store' are value paid for in the purchase of the phone, not the software on it.


Money is fungible. I would be very surprised if Apple didn't regard revenue from the App Store as partially due to their investment in the iPhone.


Why? Is it wrong to sell a phone at low cost and charge more for apps? Video game consoles sometimes are sold at a loss in order to make money from games.

It's similar to Fortnite's model: sell the game at a low cost (free actually), and then make money from inessential addons (skins).


It's fine for a company to sell hardware/os at a loss and recoup the costs with apps, if they predict that they'll make more money that way. However, it's not reasonable for them to, say, refuse me service on the os because all I bought was a hardware+os, not any apps. Nor is it reasonable for them to make me, an app-maker, bear the brunt of the os, since I have nothing to do with the os, just the app store.


If I buy a smart fridge, even though it has a computer in it, I don't expect to be able to install arbitrary software on it in a supported manner. Apple doesn't advertise as a computing platform for everything, they advertise as having a whitelist of apps, and that's what they provide. I don't want a phone with a whitelist, so I don't buy iOS phones. But some people do want that type of product, and do buy them.

You do have something to do with the os. Your app is running on the os.


If that were the case, no, nothing wrong... But apple is making a huge markup on their $1200 phones. They aren't making up a loss with their app store. They're just piling on the cash.


Would it be wrong of apple to make the app store fee 5% and then increase the phone price whatever percent is necessary to make up that loss? Would that be considered piling on the cash?


At least then, buyers get a more realistic view of total cost of ownership up front, rather than hiding the rest of the profits in the pricing of other people's apps.


> Other than inventing the modern phone

Come on now.

> writing the operating system

Which OS, iOS, that the phone purchaser inherently paid for? Or macOS, that the computer purchaser inherently paid for?

> developer tools

Which you need to purchase a developer license for to be useful.

Apple is adding value, AND double dipping. Most of your examples are things they've already been compensated for.


Just because they've already been compensated to some degree doesn't mean they've been fully compensated. Video game consoles are sometimes sold at a loss in order to make money on games.


The richest company in the world, with the largest cash reserves in the world, is not being fully compensated for their efforts?


I mean they might not be fully compensated if they remove the app store fees.


Come on now.

They invented the app ecosystem, which is far more important than just inventing a phone. Without Apple, the application market would still be controlled by Sprint and AT&T and Verizon.

Not defending Apple or attacking it, just pointing out the facts.


And how is Apple's walled app store any better than the alternative of at&t controlled app store?

They can keep their 30% cut if they allow me to sideload apps from external sources.


> And how is Apple's walled app store any better than the alternative of at&t controlled app store?

I don't know if you've used an iPhone, but do you really think AT&T's walled garden would have anything approaching the quality of the best apps on the App Store?


He or she is probably just young. No one who was there would ask a question like that, even rhetorically.

Sadly, people have forgotten how much life sucked for mobile developers before the iPhone. Apple's contribution is reflected in various peoples' prejudices and agendas, but not in history books. Only Nixon could go to China, and only Jobs could have stared down AT&T from a position of weakness.

I'm not an Apple partisan, and I'm definitely not going to defend the concept of locking a general-purpose computing platform away from its own users, but I'll always give him credit for that.


> but Apple's certainly adding value.

Do roads add value? Should trucks pay a 30% of their cargo retail price in road tolls?

I agree with your point that Apple adds value. I just do not see that as a justification to take a 30% share of all apps that run on their devices.


Trucks pay fees based on the load they're carrying...


The weight, not the price.


As trucks account for a high (90%ish) amount of road wear, they actually probably should pay a high fee. Accurate costs might also make the rail freight industry more cost competitive, leading to better market diversity.


Comparing distribution of physical goods is a poor analogy as the variable costs are high, and low or zero for App Store developers. We know from tariffs that a 30% fee on mining or manufacturing increases costs and reduces trade, but despite Apple’s 30%, the cost of an app has been driven down. This suggests that a high revenue share of a software sale is viable in a way that a high revenue share of a truck load is not.


> This suggests that a high revenue share of a software sale is viable in a way that a high revenue share of a truck load is not.

This is a good point. But I would rather see this apps more highly taxed than to allow monopolistic empires to grow.


Sorry, are you saying you’d like App Store software taxed enough that sales are low and it’s not viable for Apple to make money, forcing them to allow an unregulated open market if they want a meaningful number of apps on their phones? It’s an interesting idea, but I think the opportunity cost early on would have been that entire software market. And the opportunity cost now would be killing a large percentage of businesses that sell software to that market that can’t afford to handle distribution themselves. This quickly gets into the debate about whether it’s better to have large and many small companies or no large and few small companies.


> Sorry, are you saying you’d like App Store software taxed enough that sales are low and it’s not viable for Apple to make money, forcing them to allow an unregulated open market if they want a meaningful number of apps on their phones?

No. :)


:)

Well, what are you saying? I seriously don’t understand what you meant.


> Other than inventing the modern phone

IBM Simon, 1992.

Applr popularised, they didn't invent. Ironically given the target of their 1984 ad.


The ridiculously tall screen was certainly ahead of its time.


Anything is fair, but I don't like things that only allow app stores as a first class way to get software on my machine.

I have voted with my wallet. But it is getting harder to do so, soon only linux will be left.


That's fine but you're not really the intended market for the App Stores. App Stores are for the people that click "Yes" to everything and end up with Internet Explorer as a strip of their screen because they have 42 toolbars installed. Those people undoubtedly like app stores precisely for being the only way to get software on their machines.


I dunno - I much prefer the Microsoft app store on Windows for simple applications that I don't need to customise much. It's quicker than finding the right exe and keeping it up to date myself.


That's not really a fair comparison since Apple has to curate the App Store and is 100% responsible for the service as well. It's not like you're buying an iPhone or iPad without knowing that all your apps come from the App Store and that's part of the value - unlike Android, you know exactly where the app is coming from, what it is and isn't allowed to do, and have an expectation that the app has been reasonably reviewed so it's not a danger to you or the device.

Steam is almost exactly the same way because it's not like you can take your Steam purchase and use it without Steam. Yes, you can buy DLC and other add-ons directly from the publisher if you wanted to but that's moreso because of how the publishers have created their products rather than how Steam works as a platform.

As for your Amazon example, Apple does absolutely add value there. They manage and keep track of all your purchases and payments so that there's a single, unified method for both paying and resolving issues. Additionally, since Apple functions as the payment processor, you're also paying for the security functionality. The only reason you have to make a purchase from the Amazon website is because Amazon wants to control the purchasing and doesn't want to pay Apple for their payment processing.

It's just a difference of whether you prefer the consistency of the experience that Apple prefers at the expense of other companies or whether you prefer to deal with several different experiences that could potentially open everything up for fraud and problems. People who aren't as tech savvy or who don't want to have to wade through a bunch of BS just to make a purchase may prefer Apple's method. Others may prefer digging through and doing all that in order to have a broader pool to choose from.


I think your first paragraph is a result of you viewing this from the perspective of someone knowledgeable about technology. The vast majority of people using Android phones get their apps exclusively from the Play Store and assume Android is exactly the same as iOS in that way.


> Apple adds no value there

I like having all my subscriptions in the same place so I can easily see what I'm paying and cancel.


Apple sells me a locked down hardware platform that requires me to go through them for all software purchases and all data purchases made with that software.

A. You can choose to buy an Android phone like 80%+ of the smart phone world.

B. You can buy content outside of the Apple store and use it within the app (Amazon, Udemy, Spotify, Google Play Music, every video streaming service, etc.)

It seems unreasonable to me that Apple should get a cut of my Amazon Video purchases.

They don't, in fact you can't buy Amazon content within the app.


Amazon does not offer you the option because the only way they could offer it is if they gave Apple their 30% cut. Same super annoying reason you cannot buy books in the kindle app.


I don’t think Apple sells you anything. You buy stuff from them. You are free as a bird to buy any other products you desire


They add value by creating a product that has massive scale, reach, usability and quality. They add value by having branded stores that fix the device for you. They add value by developing stable software that gets updated regularly. If you don’t like the product, don’t buy one, it’s that simple. Go buy a cheap Chinese knockoff that doesn’t have developer support for millions of apps, has lousy quality control, if it breaks you’re shit out of luck. It costs 1/10 the price of an iphone, but the experience is lousy. I value my iphone because it adds more value to my life than it costs to buy, and the company that makes it is entitled to charge whatever they want for it. Apple makes money because they add value and I see no reason why a company that adds value to the marketplace should not turn a profit.


> They add value by creating a product that has massive scale, reach, usability and quality. They add value by having branded stores that fix the device for you. They add value by developing stable software that gets updated regularly.

Your rant is misplaced and you've missed the point entirely. I never said Apple adds no value. I think they add quite a bit of value, which is why I've bought a number of their products. I am talking about a specific case for which Apple thinks it is due 30%.

Apple does not add value by inserting itself into a transaction I am trying to conduct with Amazon. I've already paid for all the value. First to Apple for the device, and then to Amazon for the data. Am I or Amazon supposed to pay Apple for my use of the device as well? And if so... where is the value added?


It’s really hard to feel sorry for Amazon, or you, given your whine is you have to go to a web browser to complete your transaction.

In truth, The App Store is far more than a mere payment processor, though it might be best in the world at that. The costs of hosting, distributing and updating two million apps across hundreds of localized stores, and also vetting every release and update for those millions of apps, is immense.

All their work makes the App Store easy and safe to use anywhere in the world and that helps developers sell more apps.


I would bet that Apple would probably rather you not have a relationship with Amazon Video at all, getting your TV and Movies from iTunes instead.

But Apple doesn't have a majority of market share (by number of devices), so, in my opinion, antitrust regulators have completely discounted their behavior.

On the other hand, the experience of using Apple Pay is miles beyond Google Checkout/Wallet/Pay/Android Pay/whatever marketing's new name-of-the-week-is, and only allowing One Blessed Way of taking payment on Apple devices is a big component of that. Having one consistent flow that I can execute in three seconds from muscle memory really does make buying-from-random-apps-and-retailers experience much nicer and more predictable than it is on the web and on other mobile platforms.


Apple Pay and app store/itunes payments are completely separate. I had apple pay set-up for awhile and when I went to purchase an app, itunes wouldn't accept apple pay and I had to re-enter all my CC information into itunes.


Apple does not sell to us, we buy from Apple :)


Valve takes 30% of direct sales through steam but allows developers to generate and sell separately steam keys where they get a 0% cut, as I understand it. For instance when you buy a game on humble bundle and get a steam key for it, valve makes nothing off that transaction.

Unless Apple and google start allowing sales outside their stores I don’t think steam is comparable.


Google Play and the Apple App Store are completely different beasts. Unless you jailbreak your iOS device, there is no way to install apps outside the App Store. On Android, you can install entirely separate stores, like the Amazon one, and several OSS-focused stores.


>Unless you jailbreak your iOS device, there is no way to install apps outside the App Store

Technically this is not correct. Practically it is. You can install Apps on iOS devices without the app store (called sideloading, and it's a PITA): https://beebom.com/how-to-sideload-apps-iphone-ios-10-withou...


That’s not completely true, as I understand it. You can (or could a couple of years ago) get an ‘enterprise’ developer account that allows you to sign and provision apps to be sideloaded via a web link. Though iirc it’s more hassle for the end user as they have to explicitly allow it on their device.


DINKDINK’s reply above is more relevant. If you try using an enterprise cert to allow general public users to install your app you’ll quickly lose your enterprise cert. The enterprise cert is only to be used for internal company apps.


This is accurate but they've started getting antsy about free steam keys. I think it's due to pay-what-you-want bundles but they haven't really given any official statements, it's just second-hand from various developers. I suspect the policy on free keys may change now that literally anyone can toss a game up on the store and we've started seeing people maliciously manipulate the system (games that mine bitcoins and have in-app purchases designed to defraud users). They already made changes to filter out reviews from people who got game keys "for free" because of that sort of manipulation.

I suspect they'll either put a limit on # of free keys or start charging per key, something like 5% of your listed retail price.


There's a bigger difference: Steam competes on "open" platforms (i.e. the major OSes), where "open" means anyone could launch a competing service (and I fully expect another one to challenge Steam in the near future considering the way Steam is heading).

No one can launch a competing app service on iOS. Apparently you can on Android, but I'm not sure why no one succeeded yet. Maybe the same reason as no one succeeded yet replacing Steam either, you need some kind of critical mass and that takes time to build.


People keep saying Apple adds no value but bringing millions of paying customers and a trusted storefront does in fact have lots of value for most apps. This is exactly the value Steam brings on PC. Being locked down or not is a red herring to the value argument, people sell on Steam because of simple math: the millions of additional paying customers outweighs the commission Valve demands.


Yes, but there comes a point when it just becomes rent seeking. It's digital nature for there to be one portal that leads you to everything.


Valve has competitors in the PC games storefront market. On iOS, there is (for all practical reasons) no other storefront. People would be stuck on the App Store even if they were to charge something ridiculous like 50%, because there's no where else to go.


I’m surprised there is no backlash from independent iOS developers. Not only do they have 30% taken away, they have the yearly $100 fee,they need expensive Apple products to make the app, apps have be priced low because consumers expect low priced amazing apps. Then you have to market the app to stand out.


> Valve has competitors in the PC games storefront market. On iOS, there is (for all practical reasons) no other storefront.

Predictably, this is where the goalposts have moved[1] but it's really orthogonal to whether there's value or not. Also as pointed out elsewhere, Steam is in a competitive market and charges the same commission. Also in Apple's favor is the well attested to value of the App Store vs Google Play and others in terms of raw revenue.

[1] 'Predictably' as in "Being locked down or not is a red herring to the value argument" in grandparent


Yes, but if that were the case, there would be no apps on the App Store.


Being locked down is the source of the value on many cases. Being locked down and curated means that when someone looks for an app they find that app, and not that app and a dozen lookalikes with similar names, half of which are outright malware. Being locked down and curated means that stuff just works and does so predictably, and will continue to work.

That’s the value add IMO, not the aluminum case, the Apple logo, or anything else. A locked garden isn’t perfect, but it’s better than an open sewer.


> Being locked down is the source of the value on many cases. ... Being locked down and curated means that stuff just works and does so predictably, and will continue to work.

The Apple App Store does not fill all those conditions. In fact, I can safely say it does not do some of things you say, including the part about stuff just working.


The Apple App store isn’t perfect, it just works better and has less malware than any App Store in the history of the world.


The modern marvel that are credit cards or debit cards run at low single digit percentages. And they are getting a ton of margin out of those; so much that in the EU, they capped fees at 0.3%.

And those transaction fees actually pay for something, like customer protection, SLAs (not a shitty status site) and no, the credit card company doesn't add unskippable ads on top of the checkout process or advertise a scam clone version of what you are trying to buy to you.

You tell me if the app store fees provide 100x as much.


In your analogy, the App Store is the store, not the credit card terminal. As somebody who sells on Amazon, I can tell you that they take more than 30% of what the customer pays.


Valve has several big competitors in the PC market. Several hugely successful games are not available on Steam.

I'm not sure it's possible to create a hugely successful iPhone app that isn't on the App Store. Apple has a monopoly and is using it to squeeze excessive fees from developers.


Using a monopoly to squeeze excessive fees that happen to be exactly the same as the fees for a competitive market? There seems to be a logic breakdown there.


> Using a monopoly to squeeze excessive fees that happen to be exactly the same as the fees for a competitive market? There seems to be a logic breakdown there.

Valve gets 30% of apps distributed using Steam. In other words, only companies that value Steam at the 30% premium will use it -- and many of them don't. Meanwhile Steam has to be responsive to customers because it has competition, so it's forced to be a better product than monopoly app stores.

It's like saying that $25 is "the market price" for eight ounces of tuna fish because there are restaurants that charge that price and some people patronize them, so a monopoly that charges $50/pound in all cases is not charging unreasonable prices.


The critical differences here is that computers don't come with Steam games pre-installed with the Steam Store being the only way to install new ones

Whereas most Android phones come with Google apps and the Play Store as the only ways to get new apps.


You can install new apps onto android from other stores like amazon or download straight from the web. Fortnite just did the latter by avoiding the play store and selling their app direct from their website.

For IOS though, fortnite launched it in the IOS store because there is no real practical way to get users to install their app outside of Apples app store.


There's no logic breakdown at all: publishers can get better terms by going with an competitor to Steam, such as GMG, GoG, Origin, Microsoft Store, or just release the app on their own website/platform.

It's functionally impossible to release an app on iOS without paying Apple.

Compared to the 0% of self-publishing, Apple's fees are excessive.


Sure, they can get better terms going through a competitor but then they don't get any of the value or services that Steam offers. They're paying a percentage to make use of all the benefits you get through Steam both as a company and for the end-users.

Apple's fees aren't excessive because they offer their services and provide their value to every app published through their store. Yes, they could offer a way to publish the app without those features and not charge the fee but that would further complicate the experience for users. I mean, technically, companies are absolutely allowed to host apps for users to side load themselves. It's just that no one wants to do that because it's not worth it when the costs Apple are taking are actually reasonable.


A business making an app has one choice for delivering that app to iPhone users. The iPhone owners could choose to switch to Android, but that's not a choice the business can make for the consumer.

The business could choose to launch on Android only, and hope that convinces consumers to switch, but that's about it for options.


Apple has a “monopoly” on their own products, not smartphones or apps, or anything else. It’s like complaining that Ford has a monopoly on cars made by Ford. There are other phones, other ecosystems, other cars. A monopoly isn’t “I want an Apple product on my own terms, and if I can’t get that, it’s a monopoly.” This trend of claiming Apple is a monopoly or Facebook is because you don’t like the alternatives is puerile and incorrect. You have a right to competition, not the premium product. You have a right to the marketplace of for example, cars, not a right to a Mercedes.

I’m getting very tired of the phrase “de facto” bandied about in front of monopoly as a way to use the latter word in a way that has no legal or technical merit. Words have meanings. Apple has a walled garden which competes with similar products, it’s just that Apple’s is better in many ways. They have a valuable audience, they don’t suffe from the security issues of their competitors, and that may make you want to use them. So use them, or don’t, and accept the trade-offs.

Don’t like Apple? Try android, their competition in the same space.


Apple does have a monopoly on their own products. No need for scare quotes. They also have a monopoly on iOS app distribution. One of those bothers more market participants than the other, and for the same reasons monopolies can (but don't always) cause trouble for the markets in which they exist.

As per usual, competition is a good answer. Competition in making iPhones is nonsensical. Competition in distributing and selling iOS apps isn't, and would be good for the market. Or at least it might be good for the market. That's the whole premise of this discussion, and for most discussions about monopolistic tendencies.


The monopoly they have isn't phones, it's iOS app distribution. It's a different market -- and the market isn't combined with apps for other systems because they have disjoint sets of customers. You can't use Android apps when you don't have an Android device.


Right, and WalMart has a “monopoly” on WalMarts, but that’s not actually a monopoly. If they had a monopoly on supermarket, that would be a legal issue. Apps is the space for competition, and Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on apps, or phones. In fact you can almost always get the same apps on multiple platforms.

People just want something they can’t have, so they play word games to make themselves sound righteous rather than selfish or petulant. No amount of talking around the issue or downvotes changes it, and it’s why an AG will laugh in your face if you claim Apple is violating antitrust regulations with their system.


> Right, and WalMart has a “monopoly” on WalMarts, but that’s not actually a monopoly. If they had a monopoly on supermarket, that would be a legal issue.

Which is likewise why Apple doesn't have a monopoly on phones.

> Apps is the space for competition, and Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on apps, or phones. In fact you can almost always get the same apps on multiple platforms.

The market isn't the app market itself, it's not that there aren't a hundred flashlight apps, it's the distribution market. All the flashlight apps have to come through Apple.

It's as if Walmart is the only retailer in California. That there are arbitrarily many manufacturers or that other retailers exist in Florida doesn't mean they don't have a retail monopoly in California.

And the fact is you can't get an app for your iPhone from the Play Store. They aren't the same market because they can't be substituted for each other.


This is why I think we need a new way of identifying market abuse because you can make anyone a/not a monopoly based on what definition you use.

IOS device software distribution -> apple has a monopoly

High end phones -> apple probably has a monopoly

Total revenue of phones sold -> apple probably has a monopoly

Number of phones (in use?) by OS -> android has a monopoly

Number of computers by OS -> nobody has a monopoly http://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share


> This is why I think we need a new way of identifying market abuse because you can make anyone a/not a monopoly based on what definition you use.

Which is why it matters if there are close substitutes or not.

> IOS device software distribution -> apple has a monopoly

There are no good substitutes for this. There is no viable alternative for distributing apps to the people with iOS devices. Distributing apps to people with Android devices isn't a substitute because they're different people, in the same way that distribution in the Northeast is not a substitute for distribution in the Southwest.

> High end phones -> apple probably has a monopoly

There are high end Android phones that are probably adequate substitutes. But if there weren't (or you think they aren't adequate substitutes) then sure.

> Total revenue of phones sold -> apple probably has a monopoly

The market you've specified is "phones" which is obviously not something Apple has a monopoly on. Whole Foods doesn't have a monopoly on food just because they have high margins. There are tons of non-Apple phones if all you need to satisfy to be part of the market is to be a phone.

It may even be a weak market definition because it's too broad -- a feature phone isn't a very good substitute for an iPhone. A better market definition might be smartphones, but even then they still don't have a monopoly. It's not about revenue or margins, it's a question of whether the consumer has a reasonable alternative supplier of something sufficiently equivalent.

> Number of phones (in use?) by OS -> android has a monopoly

The market in that case is would be "phone OS" but then Android has the obvious competition from iOS. Also, Android isn't a company, it's a product. It's nearly impossible for a piece of open source software to have "a monopoly" when literally everyone is allowed to supply it and anyone can do so at trivial cost. All the Android phone manufacturers are each independent suppliers of it.

> Number of computers by OS -> nobody has a monopoly

The market in that case is "computer OS" which is a poor market definition because desktop and phone operating systems are poor substitutes for each other.


I agree that there are substitutes for everything except the IOS distribution one. I also agree that most of these metrics are not true monopolies. However, I'm using the term "monopoly" in the way the EU sees it when enacting antitrust fines to curtail this type of behavior because what they basically use is >50% in some arbitrarily chosen metric (percent of of smartphones running an OS used for the EUs recent 5 billion dollar android fine on google) as that is what the EU is currently using to fine companies into "behaving" despite IOS being a much more abusive platform IMO.

This is why I think we need a new way of identifying market abuse.


The problem with what the EU is doing is that they aren't interested in applying a rigorous standard. It's perfectly possible to define markets or abuse in various ways, but if all they're really doing is to backfill reasoning to justify enormous fines on American businesses there is no point in arguing about what is in practice a rationalization, and the response if they continue to use such ambiguous rules probably ought to be something like lobbying the US government to negotiate a truce (or retaliate in kind against EU businesses).


Wow, I cannot upvote you enough.

> The problem with what the EU is doing is that they aren't interested in applying a rigorous standard.

Yeah, this is what I and a lot of other people have a problem with these EU antitrust laws and even GDPR . In the google case, they literally had the android play clauses set from day 1 when they had 0% market share and instead of telling google that they could no longer bundle chrome/search to the play store now that they reached 50% market share in mobile OS (their magic antitrust metric), they waited 7 years and then threw a ridiculous fine at them. If the laws were clear, this wouldn't be a problem.


Agreed. Instead of rectifying this via monopoly abuse laws, there should be regulations applicable to all hardware providers for allowing alternative software distribution mechanisms.


You want to make it illegal for someone to make a piece of hardware that can only run binaries signed by the manufacturer?

I can’t understand this at all. If I go through the trouble to create a product and I want to control the user experience for that product, that’s my right and privilege. The market will decide if they want to purchase my product or not.

Consumers have spoken, and spoken extremely loudly, that they like Apple’s approach. Why would you want to deny the right for this product to exist?

It’s an amazing product, and what Apple has accomplished with their App Store is nothing short of incredible. I love their approach and I think they are 100% entitled to charge what they want on their own marketplace.


> You want to make it illegal for someone to make a piece of hardware that can only run binaries signed by the manufacturer?

I'm not sure why this is supposed to be controversial. It's not a prohibition on checking signatures, it's just a requirement to give the user the option of doing something else.

Once you sell something it's not yours anymore. Companies shouldn't be allowed to stick up everyone in an ancillary market just because they have more market power.

> I can’t understand this at all. If I go through the trouble to create a product and I want to control the user experience for that product, that’s my right and privilege. The market will decide if they want to purchase my product or not.

That's assuming that markets are perfect. What you're saying would be true if there were two versions of the iPhone, one that could only run signed apps and one that was exactly the same but can also run unsigned apps and the customer chose the first one. But that isn't the case, and because that isn't the case you end up forcing someone who wants an iPhone for a reason other than mandatory signing to accept mandatory signing (and the consequent app store monopoly) even though they don't want it. That isn't the market deciding, it's the manufacturer deciding for the market.

> Consumers have spoken, and spoken extremely loudly, that they like Apple’s approach.

This is not really supported by the evidence. The large majority of phone customers chose Android and even among iPhone customers there are multiple other reasons (hardware, UI, status signaling) to choose an iPhone even if you don't want or don't care about app gatekeeping.

The fact that customers don't want it is the whole issue. The first time most users are given a choice between installing an app they want that isn't approved or not having the app, they're going to install it. And given a choice between a distribution method that restricts apps and then charges 30% more and one that doesn't and has lower prices, they're going to pick the lower prices. Otherwise Apple wouldn't have to lock all the doors and windows from the outside -- you could just choose to never install anything outside Apple's store, even if you had the option to do otherwise.


>> Consumers have spoken, and spoken extremely loudly, that they like Apple’s approach.

> This is not really supported by the evidence...

This isn’t about Apple vs Android or market share. The success of iOS speaks for itself, and in particular the success of the App Store speaks for itself. It is self-evident from the billions of dollars that apps have earned (is it tens of billions now?) that the model is successful and widely used both by developers and consumers. Apple users are much more prolific spenders on the Apple App Store than users of the Android market as well, the majority of that money going directly to developers. This is partly demographics, but also partly the security, reliability, and trust provided by the walled garden.

> And given a choice between a distribution method that restricts apps and then charges 30% more and one that doesn't and has lower prices

As long as apps that are not sold through the Apple Store do not use any Apple APIs to operate, that would be fair.

But if you want to use the massive infrastructure that Apple has built [1] then I think you have to play by Apple’s rules.

The iPhone is a device which you own, yes, but it is also a massive collection of services which Apple spends 10s of billions of dollars developing and supporting in order to deliver the overall experience.

As an app developer, the APIs, services, documentation, training, support, and marketing combine to justify the 30%. The “App Store” application itself, and all the search, discovery, reviews, auto-updates, billing, services, and support is just one piece of the massive infra that Apple provides to all the apps running on its platform.

[1] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17823937


> The success of iOS speaks for itself, and in particular the success of the App Store speaks for itself. It is self-evident from the billions of dollars that apps have earned (is it tens of billions now?) that the model is successful and widely used both by developers and consumers.

Requiring everyone to use something and then claiming that everyone wants to use it because everyone uses it is a bit circular, isn't it?

> This is partly demographics, but also partly the security, reliability, and trust provided by the walled garden.

But why do you need the walls instead of just a sign that says "now leaving Apple's garden"? If being in Apple's store means you're trusted and make more money then go be in Apple's store. That still doesn't explain why it should be prohibited for a user to install an app outside of it. And then we would find out which factors actually make the difference, instead of claiming it's this and then taking an action inconsistent with it -- if nobody wanted to install apps outside the store then there would be no reason to prohibit it because no one would be trying to do it.

> As long as apps that are not sold through the Apple Store do not use any Apple APIs to operate, that would be fair.

They don't even allow that. If they did you would soon have alternate APIs from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Canonical, Mozilla or others. But Apple encouraging that would be like Microsoft encouraging use of Sun Java. Apple gets more from people using their API than the people get from using it instead of an alternative.


Whether this is your right and privilege is determined by laws and regulations. At the moment, it is. At the same time, there are clearly different opinions as demonstrated by this thread, and your 100% agreement may or may not reflect how society overall feels about this issue or whether it's a good idea.

Neither does my opinion, of course. And either way, the fact that people like the Apple user experience doesn't mean they like or are even informed about the benefits and drawbacks of the iOS App Store model. They may have spoken for that model, or they may hate that model but still buy iPhones because they communicate with the rest of their Apple devices, or because the hardware is innovative and superior, or because they don't want to be tracked by a much scarier surveillance machinery. Without separating the parts and letting each compete on its own, we'll never know what about it is something consumers want and what about it they'd rather pass on.

I'm not calling for an end to products like Apple's. I think it's great that people have access to devices that follow clear policies and security practices which are guaranteed by a trustworthy party.

I do think, though, that this decision should be made by the user in the end. The opportunity to set defaults is already an extremely strong lever for the first-party vendor, and people such as yourself who like it as is have no reason to change anything about it.

I also think that competition can and should happen on different levels, and that control of e.g. hardware or system APIs should not automatically translate to exclusive control over the third-party ecosystem, unless the user explicitly wants this. One possible approach to regulating this, without preventing actual highly integrated products, could be to require the vendor to allow third-party app stores if the product ships with an app store itself. If the iOS experience is actually better with iOS App Store compared to a third-party app store with e.g. lower fees, better search and less stringent controls, why not let them battle it out and let the consumer decide?

It's important to recognize that Apple has created world-class products. It's also important to recognize that the existing duopoly is an extremely strong detractor against competition. It's like the government inviting bids for a giant construction project - if they require the bidders to do everything and the kitchen sink, then only the largest consortiums will be able to apply, whereas if the project is split into several reasonably-sized parts then smaller companies can compete as well and the end result will be cheaper, better executed and more accountable. I think we all agree that competition is a good thing, the question is how large to draw the boundary of what constitutes an integrated product and what should be considered out of scope, to compete in a different market. I think we owe it to society and to future businesses to ensure that a superior product still has a chance of succeeding in the marketplace.


No, Walmart owns those stores. Phones, on the other hand, are owned by the people who purchase them. And those people who own the phones have the full right to do whatever they want with them.


Apple does not support these rights, of course. They'd be happy if you were only leasing the use of an iDevice from them.


You can do whatever you want with your iPhone too, including rooting it, or throwing out of a moving car. Apple can then choose to support it, or not. In the same way that you can buy a given make and model of car and mod it into a dragster, or a tractor if you want to. Apple sells iPhones, and own their store which you can choose to access from your iPhone, or not if you prefer. In addition you can get all of the benefits of “phone” and “app” from another platform if you prefer.

I can buy a Mercedes, and if I want to I can pay a Merc dealership $1400 parts and labor for an ignition coil when the similar part andlabor for a Toyota would be $200. I can also go to a non-Merc shop and seek repairs (and take some risks) for less money. What I can’t do is buy a Mercedes, then turn around and demand that Mercedes sell their parts at Toyota rates and claim that Mercedes has a monopoly on Mercedes.

I mean I could, but I’d rightly be an object of scorn and ridicule. To go back to the WalMart analogy, they have their own store brands as well, and they’re only sold in WalMarts. Why not force them to sell from other outlets, since they’re a monopoly in your fantastical estimation? It’s legal and frankly ethical to restrict sales that way, and a world of other options exist; it’s not WalMart mayo, or no mayo ever again.

By contrast for a real illegal monopoly see Standard Oil or AT&T. If I wanted to use the phone lines, I could pay whatever they wanted or train carrier pigeons. My access to “phone” was entirely a function of whether I was willing to play their game. It wasn’t a matter of having different choices of providers and platforms and marketplaces, it was have a phone with AT&T, or don’t have a phone.


> You can do whatever you want with your iPhone too, including rooting it

Not according to Apple.

> Why not force them to sell from other outlets, since they’re a monopoly in your fantastical estimation?

They're not a monopoly because the other stores already have products that are adequate substitutes. People can buy a different brand of laundry detergent from a different store without having to replace their washing machine.

> If I wanted to use the phone lines, I could pay whatever they wanted or train carrier pigeons.

Not true -- if you wanted to use phone line all you would have to do is go to Canada where they have non-AT&T phone lines and use them there.

Obviously it isn't very practical to leave the country every time you want to make a phone call, but how is that any different than needing to buy a new phone every time you want to buy an app?


The problem is it's clearly a monopoly (or duopoly). How did they settle on 30%? Why did Apple and Google come to the same 30% number - is that a coincidence? They could easily provide the same service for less than 1/3 of the cost, but the percent never budges because it doesn't have to. There's zero competitive pressure. In fact they could move it up to 60% if they want to with nothing stopping them. Some people have managed to build a business on these app stores but in my opinion they should only be leveraged as part of an existing independent business, otherwise you're building a business on quicksand.


"Why did Apple and Google come to the same 30% number - is that a coincidence?"

Google copied Apple?


Right. If this were a competitive market, they'd both be constantly refining their cut to find the optimal value. In practice the 30% was plucked out of the air and has never been changed.


Keep in mind that the price they charge doesn't really have anything to do with the actual infrastructure despite the costs. They're not selling infrastructure, they're selling access to an audience no different than really any other publisher.


What? They're complaining about Valve too.

Bethesda, for example, recently announced that they're launching Fallout 76 on their own personal launcher (https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/08/fallout-76s-pc-versio...).

I've noticed this trend in the game industry. Any game company that is large enough will work on their own launcher (look at Blizzard, Epic Games, EA, etc.)


Don't Apple and Google take 30% of all in-app sales as well? It's like your phone and internet company saying, "Well, guess we're gonna take 30% of all business you do over the phone or internet" or your rental company demanding 30% of your income.


30% seems a lot when BlueSnap/Avangate/FastSpring provide most of the same services for 6-8%.

Of course Apple would argue that they are connecting you to their customers. When there are a million apps in the store I'm not sure how true that is.


But Apple's customer base is more valuable, which is why people still publish there despite the cost. Apple and Google aren't selling infrastructure, they're selling an audience.


That's fine, it makes sense to me that you would develop for Apple before Android because those customers are more affluent and willing to spend on software.

However I question whether the App Store is connecting you to those customers in any meaningful way when there is so much competition in there. Sure if you are lucky enough to get to the front page then you can do OK but most don't.


Apple also has a large and growing editorial staff writing articles and highlights for their App Store; it's virtually becoming a house magazine. So being in their store potentially offers exposure and marketing for free that's immensely valuable. (Whether it's 30% valuable is debatable, of course. Personally I think they should drop it from 15%/30% to 10%/20%, but "Apple: always more expensive than you think they should be" has worked for them for a long time.)


potentially is the key word here.

If you are basing your business on getting exposure in the App Store then you are building it on shaky foundations.


There's a reason I put it in italics, to be sure. :)


BlueSnap/Avangate/FastSpring develop a free OS that's used by 85% of the smartphones in the world?

The fee is paying towards the development of Android. Your comparison of "same services" isn't remotely valid.


Is it? I though Android was subsidised by advertising.


Payment processing is the smallest part of what the Google and Apple App stores provide, your comparison is ludicrous.


What other function do you think they are providing for the average developer?


Distribution is the biggest part.


>Doesn't Valve take 30% from games on Steam? But they're complaining Apple taking 30% is too much?

Nobody is locked to valve on PC. Large game publishers have their own PC stores precisely to avoid getting ripped off by Valve. EA has Origin, Ubisoft has Uplay, Blizzard/Activision has Battle.net. MS has the Microsoft Store. There are many little indie stores with their own handling of profits, like itch.io :

>itch.io costs nothing to use. You are free to create pages and upload your content without ever having to pay anything. Advertisements will never be placed on any of your pages.

>You get to decide how much you want to support itch.io by choosing what percentage of your sales should go towards our operational costs and continued development of the platform. We call that open revenue sharing.

Subscription MMORPGs also all have their own payment schemes and external launchers that bypass Valve's little greedy hands.

Being locked to a single app store on any platform is a mistake. PCs are great because we don't suffer this, for now. Until MS decides to make Windows S the default and lock people from freely switching to a normal version of Windows.


If every app I downloaded were several to several 10s of gigabytes of data, I might be more inclined to cut them some slack. 30% on a 5MB download is pretty tough to justify. The cost of storing and transferring that file is a rounding error.


What makes you think the 30% cut is to pay for the bandwidth of the file transfer?

The entire platform the app runs on was created by Apple. The hardware, the OS, the programming language, the SDKs.

Thousands of APIs used to build the apps, maybe a million pages of documentation on those APIs.

All the toolchain to develop, build, test, and deploy apps for purchase in hundreds of countries including customer profiles, billing, and support.

Billions of dollars of iCloud infrastructure for backend services to support everything from push notifications, data sync, backup, automatic updates, etc.

Then you get into the actual app store and you have all the work that went into the UX there for discovering, installing, buying and reviewing apps. In-app purchases and subscription services to support different business models. Family sharing, parental controls, parental approval requirements for kids’ phones.

I could go on for hours and probably still miss huge swaths of functionality that Apple invested millions of dollars into, just so that you could pull up chair and with a few lines of code start writing an app that can reach billions of devices.

Not to mention all the marketing and training and support Apple does to prime their customers to be big users of the App Store.

Yeah, and the bandwidth to download the app as well.

Personally I think 30% is a steal for what you get in return.

Oh, and I’ll just add one more thing; you can distribute your app for free and you pay Apple nothing (or nearly nothing) for the benefit of all their hard work and infrastructure and support.


Does Steam take a cut for in game purchases? I think the major issue here is with companies having app stores inside app store. All the companies mentioned i.e Amazon, Steam seem to allow in-app purchases at a scale quite different than normal apps. It does seem weird that if I am purchasing an item through Steam's app store, Steam has to pay Apple.

I mean it would be like Amazon paying Apple a cut, if I buy a TV from amazon. AFAIK, it is only for digital goods that Apple charges, but I am not sure how the demarcation works.

On the flip side, if Apple/Google allow any app to use in-app purchases without a commission, then all apps will use in-app purchases for everything.


> Does Steam take a cut for in game purchases?

Yes. That's why they cut out remote control purchasing feature from their iOS app, to avoid hypocrisy charges and to avoid the sticky situation where a steam app tried the same (letting you make microtransaction purchases by remoting in to your phone or something).

Same as why Epic dropped their marketplace cut down from 30% something like one week before their "30% is unfair" press campaign which in turn was used to take the spotlight off criticism of Fortnite's release on Android as a timed exclusive with Samsung's new flagship.


> But for every big app there's something like 9 that fail completely

Actually the ratio is more like 1 to 500k. There are millions of apps in both stores, but I'd bet less than 1000 make significant income exclusively from the app stores.


I agree. There's a lot that people take for granted with these App Stores, especially with Apple's. The alternative is to pass this cost onto the consumer instead and I think that's a terrible idea.


Many major PC games publishers and developers have chosen either to not to use Steam or have reduced their support including EA, Epic, Microsoft (including Mojang), Riot, Activision Blizzard and Bethesda.


Steam’s 30% is also too high.

There’s a reason the new Fallout 76 is skipping Steam and will be sold through a Bethesda launcher.


I don't know if you have a "fair" argument here. Who needs that 30% more Apple or an independent app developer? Though the same could be said for Valve, at least it's the purpose of Valve where apple sells computing devices not software as their core enterprise.


> Doesn't Valve take 30% from games on Steam? But they're complaining Apple taking 30% is too much?

They're complaining Apple is taking too much without alternative. If the app store provided 30% worth of value, it would be voluntarily chosen like Steam is. Why derail with such a ridiculous equivalence?

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