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An Open Letter to Apple

by Richard Ziade on Feb 21, 2011

Dear Apple: It’s your friends from Readability. Remember us? You put our technology into your Safari browser last year. We’re writing this open letter because – well – we’re a little upset right now.

Last Friday, you notified us that our Readability iOS application was rejected. In explaining the rejection, you pointed us to 11.2 in the App Store Review Guidelines:

11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.

We’re obviously disappointed by this decision, and surprised by the broad language. By including “functionality, or services,” it’s clear that you intend to pursue any subscription-based apps, not merely those of services serving up content. Readability’s model is unique in that 70% of our service fees go directly to writers and publishers. If we implemented In App purchasing, your 30% cut drastically undermines a key premise of how Readability works. Before we cool down and come to our senses, we might as well share how we’re feeling right now: we believe that your new policy smacks of greed. Subscription apps like ours represent a tiny sliver of app sales that represent a tiny sliver of your revenue. You’ve achieved much of your success in hardware sales by cultivating an incredibly impressive app ecosystem. Every iPad or iPhone TV ad puts the apps developed by companies like ours front and center. It was a healthy and mutually beneficial dynamic: apps like ours get exposure and you get to show the world how these apps make your hardware shine. That’s why we’re a bit baffled here.

To be clear, we believe you have every right to push forward such a policy. In our view, it’s your hardware and your channel and you can put forth any policy you like. But to impose this course on any web service or web application that delivers any value outside of iOS will only discourage smaller ventures like ours to invest in iOS apps for our services. As far as Readability is concerned, our response is fairly straight-forward: go the other way… towards the web.

Since we re-launched, we’ve already seen a significant amount of usage across a wide range of browsers, operating systems and devices via the Readability web interface – for both mobile and desktop. Looking ahead, we plan to redouble our efforts to deliver the best possible reading app using the latest best-of-breed web technology.

The new Readability is fueled by the free-form nature of the web. Just as content pumps through the web’s piping, apps like ours thrive as nodes on the web – unencumbered by levies or barriers imposed by others. As we said months ago: “for us, the web is the right bet.”

Still, we’re always looking to give readers the best possible reading experience and a native iOS client would help us do that. We hope you’ll change your mind. If you do, we’d be happy to resubmit the Readability iOS app. Regards,

The Readability Team

P.S. We’d we be glad to deliver Readability for iOS – with in-app purchasing – if you’d carve out 70% from your 30% fee and share it with writers and publishers, just as we do.




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