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Every year I fill out this survey from Apple, for Apple developers (twitter.com/wilshipley)
429 points by twapi on June 12, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 280 comments

Ok, we'll change to that from https://medianatives.blogspot.com/2020/06/wil-shipley-every-.... Some people may find the latter easier to read though.

Even as just an app store user I find the ads for competitors extremely obnoxious.

Search "Overcast" -> top ad is some crappy competitor (not even a good real competitor, but usually some sort of near-scam).

It makes me think less of the competitor and Apple every time I see it, it also seems completely unnecessary. I obviously want the app I searched for. It seems like a feature entirely designed to trick old people.

The other suggestions are also really good, I'd love to be able to pay for big updates (though I personally don't really mind subscriptions for apps I regularly use).

I'm also not sure the web apps are really competition, when something isn't native I tend to think it sucks and choose something else if possible.

I'm sick of this. I'm so, so sick of this. I swear every time this happens, I think "oh, there is no app by that name" and then I have to double check make sure I really used the right search term and that the result is actually a first party app.

If I were searching for a genre such as "podcast" or "camera" app, I understand seeing paid ads. But when I search for a specific name, I see absolutely no reason whatsoever there should be an ad above my results.

There has to be a better way.

Although this gets tricky -- will everyone just start naming their app "Podcast player" and "Podcast 1" so that their app name is optimized to match a search term exactly? Maybe this already happens, but I can see it being hard to distinguish if the person is looking up a specific app called "podcast player" or a generic term

You're assuming that just looking for the title is everything a search engine does when it's not.

It's easy to create and train a model to distinguish between brands and generic words by counting how many times a single word appears over app descriptions, for example - there are countless ways to do this. This, in turn, can neutralize the effect of naming your app after a generic word when it comes to search ranking.

How do you know it's not competitors putting the product in their descriptions enough times that it will count as generic so they can rank above? I mean you can solve that too I'm sure, but it starts becoming more complicated than sixothree originally suggested.

> will everyone just start naming their app "Podcast player" and "Podcast 1"

This would be quite funny. I still see businesses called things like AAA automotive and similar which date back to optimising their telephone book listing order. Was this early SEO?

Yeah, there's a lot of motels from the 70s in my city that start with the letter A, but the Aalton Motel presumably won that arms race.

Someone could manually set some keywords too.

But if there's too much uncertainty then just don't do ads at all. The fallback shouldn't be ads for all search terms.

Your post seems like a rebuttal to the idea of "just show the app they wanted", but that wasn't the request. The request was just to leave the search alone.

Apple has control over that, though! They could easily reject applications with overly generic names if that were a concern.

They already do don't they. Only Apple gets "Maps", "Mail", "Messages", etc...

Among my feedback was a request to restore real search filters.

If one can click an “exact app name” box or similar, the results should always be as intended.

Of course I asked for more (like “no apps with more than $5 in-app purchases”).

That gives up control and they have no competitors in this market (iOS app stores), can’t see that happening without anti-trust.

I think they're trying to get $appname to bid high to ensure they're listed first instead of a competitor. Google Ads does this too on the search engine. I often query and see $companyname advertising for their name even when they are a large brand that is dominating the #1 spot. Problem with App Store adds is, apps don't typically have the ad budget and probably don't lose out too much if they do have name recognition. It really boils down to poor UX.

Like when you search Firefox and see an ad for Brave? (not hypothetical, seen it on the Play Store)

Especially when names are globally unique!

Apple should wind down their ads system (iAd) entirely. Advertisements are antithetical to what Apple stands for - privacy, premium experience, doing the right thing for users. They should lower their cut to 10% (not to 20, as the article states) and start offering curated experience bundles like they do with AppleTV.

Yeah I agree (at least on the ads piece, not sure about the rest of your comment) - I think the ads are an unnecessary dilution of their brand.

They can help developers with ad discovery in a bunch of different and better ways that are less hostile for devs and users.

*app discovery

Thank you for the funny typo "ad discovery"

"We curate the finest ads for your consumer experience.."

Ah yes - my bad, too late to edit :)

Ad discovery is more Facebook and Google’s business.

iAd was shut down years ago. Tracking ads might not align with some of the values Apple espouses but it seems a bit of a stretch to say a company famous for its ads (and often lowbrow-dismissed as 'just marketing' entirely) and advertising are 'antithetical'.

I'd say ads inside apps is antithetical to Apple's brand. Does anyone like those?

Inside apps? That's not up to them.

The app store is an app.

iAd is dead. These are search ads.

Lowering their cut is antithetical Apple. Apple should remain at 20% and perhaps go as high as google adsense. You agree it is a premium experience that comes at a cost.

Premium experience comes at a cost because it is expensive to produce. You need good materials, you need to hire the best people, you need to take your time, etc. And you need to be free from cheap "feature factory" thinking.

The above has nothing to do with Apple's cut on other people's work. That is just exploitation and is unrelated to increasing the quality of the experience for users. On the contrary, it makes life harder for developers wanting to bet on quality and instead encourages shovleware and deception. And this is exactly the outcome one sees.

The app store experience is what is antithetical to Apple. There is nothing premium about it.

The entire dev process with Apple is hardly ethical. No flexibility with payment options, the constant review and redevelop process even on apps that have already established a strong history. And the upfront and continuing costs... You'd have to buy every available iPhone version on market, a Mac, the programming license, the app store license, and hope Apple doesn't just rip off your idea for a future iOS feature then kick your app out of the store entirely. I may be off on some of this, but any of it is too much.


I think it would be naive to think that their stance is more than a marketing strategy. But it does mean they take a stronger stance on user data than others. They at least have incentives to protect user data so they can bash Google about privacy invasion in their marketing.

China and other oppressive regimes tend to be where the marketing gets in conflict with the law and China has a lot of leverage on any major electronics manufacturer.

Still a capitalist business so ideology or ethics don't really factor into it.

I think it is correct that Apple could benefit in amrketing from having no ad systems on their platforms. Not convinced it would be net positive for them though.

What stronger incentive? Their shit is closed top to bottom, it's not like you can check their statements. The best cause of action for the greedy bastards is to bash google AND do the same things themselves

Stop lying to yourself lol.

Apple exists to make money, first and foremost. Don't forget that.

Not like this they don’t. Traditionally they hit you pocket upfront then left you alone. Maybe it’s a minority that still want this, I definitely do.

The level of control they maintain over the devices after you have paid means I don't feel I am left alone. I feel I only have the rights of renter not an owner.

They do eventually use this power to force you to buy a new house. They use it to mark perfectly capable devices as obsolete e.g. why is a MPB i7/retina/ssd with discrete graphics now being marked as obsolete? Why is an iPad4 not allowed ad blocking with no chance to install an alternative open OS?

This bothers me on all search.

Search for <model> <year> of any product on google, 50/50 shot its a different company's item in the first (few) places.

Search bribes are user hostile but developer necessary it seems.

Yes, but Google is an advertising company, Apple didn’t use to be.

> It seems like a feature entirely designed to trick old people.

It's an old-school protection racket, particularly because they own both sides of the deal.

"It'd be a shame if anything happened to your app store listing. But, you know, if you just pay us $5/mo we can make sure that doesn't happen to _you_."

App Store search results aren't very good. Instead of trying to improve the interface or results, they added app search Ads to monetize their poor search functionality. Also, the App Store has prominent ads for their in-house services (Apple Arcade apps).

The entire OS has ads for their services :/

> I'm also not sure the web apps are really competition, when something isn't native I tend to think it sucks and choose something else if possible.

Coming from the android world there is a very high bar for a native app for me. I tend to assume the app is garbage if it could have been done just as easily as a web app.

I find this surprising and it makes me wonder if native android apps are just bad?

The difference between a native iOS app and a fake app that's really just a wrapped web page is obvious. Native apps are a lot faster. It's possible there is some selection bias here and you only notice the web apps when they're bad, but I really don't think this is the case. Native apps just seem categorically better.

If Facebook pouring immense resources into it couldn't get web based mobile applications to be good, it's probably because the technology just can't compete with native.

Native > web in general, but most Android apps are freemium garbage designed either to get you spend money on IAP, or as a vector for getting you to run a bunch of advertising SDKs, which promptly proceed to exfiltrate everything they can about you. This shifts the balance, because finding a non-crappy app on the appstore is so difficult that it's much safer to go with the web app.

Facebook was pouring resources into their HTML5 mobile apps ten years ago. I’m not saying web apps on mobile feel native now by any means, but I don’t think that’s a good example of a big company trying and failing anymore.

But what makes you think html+js+css performance have improved enough over native in the subsequent years where this isn’t relevant?

The Facebook html5 example predates react-native and all the other under-the-hood features and apps powered-by-JS that people don’t notice now.

More money doesn't mean good web app though. Most big websites ironically google's doesn't follow their own accessibility, speed, UX, UI, inclusiveness etc guidelines they recommend for getting into search results.

They are also the biggest abuser of UA agent while chromium team is trying to get rid of it. There are so many things they get wrong that they preach or push themselves.

Also, there are technical limitations especially around tracking lol. Web apps can't run processes in the background or access your files without your consent everytime.

> It seems like a feature entirely designed to trick old people.

This. I've experienced this exact problem in helping elders install commonplace apps like Gmail.

Why wouldn’t they just use the native mail app?

Exact search results are getting bumped by paid ads


This is also very frustrating with branded searches on Google. It's basically extortion, where you have to buy the ads on your brand or someone else will. They excuse it by pointing to how cheap it is on a PPC basis, since the clickthrough rate and resulting quality score is so high. Great, you're only extorting a nominal amount. Thank you.

The only way we effect change is by ORGANIZING.

Right now, Apple can do whatever they want because they pick us off one by one, and ignore us. Google does exactly the same thing. If we organize as a large enough group, they have to listen. I firmly believe what Apple does is anti-competitive and they need to be regulated firmly by the government. I also think Google and Facebook need to be firmly regulated by the government as well.

Apple needs to allow other people to create their own App Store or they should be regulated by the government. We need to organize as a group of software developers and sue Apple and lobby our politicians, because that seems to be the only way Apple will listen.

I also agree that subscriptions are NOT the way to go, and having paid upgrades are the best way to go. Driving down the costs such that things are freemium has ruined our industry as far as I'm concerned. I want to pay good money for a good piece of software, but even $0.99 is "expensive" for most people these days. This needs to stop otherwise iOS app development will become the sweatshop of the 2020s.

> even $0.99 is "expensive" for most people these days

In my experience, this is not really true - most people (including myself) just cannot find these apps and instead see only subscription ones which seems to be the new trend.

The last 7 apps I downloaded on iOS wanted a $5-10/mo monthly subscription, and I literally _cannot_ purchase the app. And I'm talking about really basic zero-infrastructure apps:

- 2 transcriber apps that use iOS's native speech recognition functionality only (no server).

- A Snapchat equivalent that puts beards and other funny things on a picture of your face.

- A photo collage maker.

- A photo effects editor.

- An app that turns live pictures into gifs (really?)

As a developer, Apple is heavily, heavily pushing us to adopt subscriptions, even for apps where it makes no sense. We get contacted by developer relations folks several times a year, they even dragged us to a seminar to espouse the joys of subscriptions. We do a camera app.

All we want is clearly-marked trial versions (not "free apps with in-app purchases", users think that's bait-and-switch and give you 1 star reviews), and upgrade pricing. Apple refuses to adopt those.

Subscriptions always make sense because it aligns developers costs with customer usage. Small developers were dying trying to support apps forever on one time purchases. Subscriptions enable developers to be compensated for maintaining and upgrading their apps.

Trial versions are a bad user experience.

Upgrade pricing would be nice, but fir most apps isn’t really necessary since subscriptions solve the same problem in a better manner.

Customers hate subscriptions, and small developers don’t like them much, either, because they create the expectation that the app will be upgraded very regularly.

This expectation is fine for companies like Adobe, who are going to be cranking out a new version on a regular basis. But it’s onerous to a smaller developer.

My understanding is Apple is now discouraging developers from using the subscription model unless their app has periodic new content / updates, but I haven’t confirmed this yet.

-Wil Shipley

Charging for upgrades creates perverse incentives as well, Adobe before they switched to subscriptions was a good example of that. Every new release had a ton of features to encourage people to pay for the upgrade. Few of these features were of much value.

At least with a subscription you are incentivised to keep existing users happy.

I think the key takeaway that is that the process of selling applications lacks flexibility. Subscriptions, paid upgrades, one time fees and ads all make sense in some situations. It depends on the type of application, the developer, the business, and the needs of the customer. I would prefer if Apple just got out of the way completely but since that can’t happen, they could at least offer more options for developers to choose what method is best for them and their customers.

> Few of these features were of much value.

Then why were users upgrading?

The same reason people started buying cars with fins in the fifties. Clever marketing made people think they need to upgrade to the latest and greatest.

I don't quite believe that this was the case for Adobe, though. Cars are status symbols—people want ones that look cool so they can show off too their peers. No one (well, very few) is showing off their copy of Photoshop.

Subscriptions only make sense for apps which you are using on a regular basis and where you would expect frequent updates or a regular service provided by the app developer. I am not willing to pay regular subscriptions for an app, which I might not use for a longer period of time. With upgrade pricing, you can decide whether you want new features/maintenance, or just keep continue to use the old application. Which is especially important with respect to your data. With a subscription model you might effectively loose access to your data once the subscription runs out. With the paid upgrade model, you retain access to your data, even if you don't regularly use your app.

It is another problem of the Apple universe, that applications often stops working some time after no update, because Apple keeps breaking old applications. This is one reason which locks me out of Catalina.

I would be much happier paying to upgrade on my own terms than being held hostage every month with subscription fees. Subscriptions add up fast and for most things if the app is good enough now I don't care too much about continuing support.

And even if subscriptions are small, the hassle of tracking them adds up fast too, because each subscription is an unnecessary relationship with a third party, a relationship I don't want to have. When I buy bread, I don't enter into a relationship with the baker or the supermarket. I want the same to be true of software.

I refuse to use them, even when it pushes me back to the default apps that came with the device.

How on earth are trial versions bad user experience? My #1 wish when I browse an app store would be to look for apps (especially games) that offer trial versions. I don't want to try games that shove ads down your throat or monetize through in-app purchases, I won't pay for a subscription for some mobile game I just play to pass time waiting for something, but I'd like to try the game before I pay for it since lots of games I tried were a lot less fun than I thought from the store page. Trial versions would be perfect.

> most people (including myself) just cannot find these apps and instead see only subscription ones which seems to be the new trend.

Yes!! The App Store search function is useless. I want affordable paid apps without ads, subscriptions, or IAPs.

This really kills discovery. Seeing an upfront price without the ability to trial the app really dissuades the user. On top of it, refunds are tedious to obtain and you can do it only so many times.

i cant tell you how many times i could not reactivate an in-app-purchase when getting a new mac; might as well just paid upfront... i think apple really messed up iap by having the dev-side do all the transactions/authentication...

I agree about ORGANIZING. If end users formed a large powerful organization then we can effect change more easily.

I think end users should have some rights with how they use computers, how they use software, how the social contract of the web is maintained, etc.

Thought experiment: Let’s day that Apple banned an app by both Black Lives Matter and “Focus on the Family” and they both complained about it to the government. Which one do you think the government would be more likely to force Apple to carry?

It continues to amaze me that anyone wants the sane government more involved in technology whose leader wants to “shut down Twitter” and wants all of the data it can get to spy on citizens.

In English, the government doesn't necessarily mean the executive. If Congress passed a law stating how platforms must treat the developers, them one could sue Apple to enforce it.

Congress only comes up with broad guidelines. The actual implementation of laws are done via departments like the FTC, FDA, FCC etc. (of course I am just giving examples). Those committees are run by unelected officials. If someone wanted to get those laws enforced they would go before unelected judges with lifetime appointments - again chosen by the executive branch. The Justice Department is also suppose to be independent, but again is heavily swayed by the executive branch.

Ayyy the main reason I named my App Store company Sweatshop : https://apps.apple.com/us/developer/sweatshop/id974916840

Is it wrong of me to think "vote with your wallet" and don't buy an iPhone?

More like don't develop for iPhone or Android. OP seems to be suggesting that developers organize against the de facto app store duopoly.

> Google does exactly the same thing

Apple is paying developers nearly $30B a year, that dwarfs all these minor complaints fir most developers.

That $30B number is meaningless on its own. You don’t know how many people it’s going to or how it’s divided amongst them.

Also, they’re not paying us at all. They’re taking 30% of our gross for the privilege of having an entry on their store, and then they run ads against us.

WOW, that is a gross reversal of the sales model. I thought Apple had a warped sense of their role but here you believe that Apple is entitled to 100% of the sales from the developers apps, and are graciously paying the devs 70% of money Apple is entitled to, instead of the reality that Apple is taking 30% of the revenue from Developers for the "privilege" of access to consumers that already paid apple thousands of dollars.

Apple is a Payment processor, that is the service they provide. a "Fair" amount for a payment process is maybe 5%, not 30%

Apples App Store service does far more than payment processing, and it’s disingenuous to compare them to one.

They host and distribute petabytes of data.

They have a large team hosting and maintain marketing sites for developers in dozens of languages all over the world. Another team develops and distributes mobile apps for store access in all those languages.

They have a large team providing developer support and developer tools.

They have a thousand employees screening app submissions for malware to help ensure customers feel safe buying your apps from the App Store.

They have hundreds of employees marketing the store and promoting developers.

They do all these things for free if you distribute free apps. So he developers have distributed hundreds of terabytes of free apps without paying a dime.

Clearly Apple makes a profit from the App Store, but also clearly it wouldn’t be able to remotely cover these costs at 5%, their break even is closer to 15%.

Developers long for the day some government or court will force Apple to reduce their profit share, but as a iOS developer I warn those devs to be careful for what they wish for.

Apple taking 20% or less is a recipe for developers getting nickel and dimed by Apple. They will start charging hosting and bandwidth fees, submission fees, support subscriptions, etc, etc, and Apples profitability will be back where it was. Free app devs and small developers however will take a huge step backwards.

>>They have a large team providing developer support and developer tools.

Many devs would disagree with you here, Apple Dev support while better than Google is not much better. It is normal large faceless company with impersonal legal responses not customer service

>>They host and distribute petabytes of data. ... They do all these things for free if you distribute free apps ...

Ohh cry me a river... They made that choose so they could CONTROL the echosystem, they then can not turn around and claim this a bullshit justification for their fee extortion. They do not give anyone the option to use anything other than apple for app distribution so no I will not give them points for this

>but also clearly it wouldn’t be able to remotely cover these costs at 5%, their break even is closer to 15%.

Show me the money.... Show me the citation for that claim

>>Developers long for the day some government or court will force Apple to reduce their profit share

I long for the day when the government or courts ban Close ecosystems and stop allowing companies treat a product they SOLD to customers as if they still own it there by merely renting it out

Oh dear lord. Hosting and data are so incredibly cheap. I have my own web site that hosts vastly more data than my App Store listing, and it only costs around $10 per month. Moreover, there are other places on the web where you can host apps and data for free: Github for example.

The App Store is also FULL of scamware. As an iOS developer yourself, you should know that App Review is a complete joke. The point of App Review is actually to protect Apple's "intellectual property" more than anything. It's not to protect the users. We know that App Review only has time to spend a few minutes at most on each submission.

I've contacted App Store "support" several times; it's slow, crappy, probably low paid. Mostly canned responses that show only limited reading comprehension abilities.

As for "free" (to download) apps, everyone still has to pay the $100 per year developer program fee, and free apps still have to compete against iOS App Store Search Ads of other developers, so clearly Search Ads are a way of Apple generating revenue even from those.

>Clearly Apple makes a profit from the App Store, but also clearly it wouldn’t be able to remotely cover these costs at 5%, their break even is closer to 15%.

So, in their simplicity, they only apply a mere 100% markup on costs, if I get this right.

Depends how that money is distributed among developers. If only a few actors are being paid massive amounts, then complaints are perfectly valid.

No. I do the same. When enough of us will do then they'll listen, but by then will be too late. Until then this crap will continue.

I assume you're rocking a GNU/Linux smartphone then? ;-)

Or did you just go for a feature phone, or a vintage Blackberry/webOS/Windows/Firefox phone? (rip)

Actually I don't have a smartphone at all. And for those rare occasions where I need WhatsApp or smartphone only apps, I use an Android emulator. And yeah, I understood your question is a sarcasm, don't worry, was not lost on me.

It can only work if you buy/develop for GNU/Linux phones.

Yes, because the alternative is only slightly better in that regard.

I'm not an app developer, but I am equally frustrated as a user on several of Wil Shipley's key points:

1. Ads for competitors. Sure, show me ads. But don't replace my exact match with an ad that takes up the whole screen. As a user who searches for apps, I find this outrageous. If the App Store was solely an advertising network I would understand. But Apple takes a 30% commission! Get out of my way and let me find what I'm looking for, then take your commission.

2. Upgrade pricing. I'm tired of abandoned apps, especially those I paid for initially. I don't expect developers to work for free (nor do I want to have 100+ subscriptions). Let me upgrade to major new versions.

3. Subscriptions for everything. Ugh. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to buy something outright and use it for its useful life. There are many apps I never use because I don't want yet another subscription, but I would have happily purchased.

4. Trials. Not on Wil Shipley's list, but how on earth do we not get trials? I don't want in-app purchases to "unlock" the app. I just want to try it out for a couple weeks before I buy. I have foregone many possibly great apps because I couldn't be confident they would work for me. And I've wasted money on apps that looked like they would work for me, but didn't.

EDIT: I see trials have been possible for 2 years! I had no idea. I guess I haven't encountered any, which seems odd.

As a user, I feel that Apple has created a race to the bottom and they've made the app ecosystem way less valuable to me. I would be happier if upgrades and trials allowed me to spend more money to get more valuable iOS apps. Instead I regret some purchases, avoid some purchases, can't tell how much apps actually cost, have to find new apps when old ones are abandoned, and don't trust that I'm able to discover and buy the best apps.

On point 4, what you want (and I, as both a user and developer) still doesn't exist. The trial functionality that Apple offers is only for auto-renewing subscriptions. (It's not particularly flexible, either.)

There are workarounds, but nothing that's really built in to the App Store as it should be.

For #4, I think a Steam Style Refund policy would also work, If you do not have X number of hours/minutes app usage or X days since purchase you should be able to get a full refund

> 4. Trials. Not on Wil Shipley's list, but how on earth do we not get trials? I don't want in-app purchases to "unlock" the app. I just want to try it out for a couple weeks before I buy. I have foregone many possibly great apps because I couldn't be confident they would work for me. And I've wasted money on apps that looked like they would work for me, but didn't.

I would be surprised if Apple didn't have in place a policy similar to the Google Play store (and others, like Steam), where you have a limited amount of time (a couple of hours) during which time you can "return" the software and not incur the cost.

That's true in my experience. It happened maybe twice, but I got pretty much immediate refunds for purchases from previous day that I wasn't happy with. There wasn't anything wrong with the app itself, it just wasn't what I expected I'm getting.

Trials would only make sense if the applications were more expensive. My downloadable software gets single digit perentage conversion rates, that wouldn't add up on something that cost a few dollars.

Honestly, many applications on the app store are too cheap. I am happy to pay a reasonable sum for an app, which I could test, so I can verify that it works at all or even works for the intended promise.

People who are worried about Apple's review process being arbitrary and onerous have no idea what's in store for them when VR/AR becomes more mainstream. Facebook's Oculus store is more of a "don't call us, we'll call you" and it's not getting better - they're actively training users to want this type of curation.

The smartphone era will quickly be seen as the Good Old Days where publishing was self-serve at all. Basically what I'm saying is, we need to nip this in the bud, or indie development is over.

The "don't call us, we'll call you" model already exists in the form of game consoles. Nintendo is probably the most restrictive in this way. If you don't have a pile of money for the development equipment, don't bother calling.

I don't think this is as true for Nintendo anymore. The switch store is full of tons of stuff. Maybe they're not letting everything through, and they certainly aren't letting everyone make physical games, but the digital store seems like it must not have a big filter.

I don't own a Nintendo console: what's a physical game and how does it differ from a digital game?

There are some games where you can't buy a physical cartridge and Nintendo actively encourages players to buy digital versions of games that are stored on the switch by offering a discount. Personally I refuse to buy digital versions whenever I can after what happened with the Wii, but some titles I can't actually get.

To add on/clarify. A physical game for the switch is basically a memory card --- put it in any switch and you can play. A digital game is a download, tied to your device and/or account.

Ah! The downside is that you can trade memory cards but you can't do the same with downloads?

Yes, exactly.

I thought a nintendo dev kit was about $100 bucks.

I believe for 3DS it was closer to $1000, definitely at least double the regular console cost, whatever it was.

No surprise here. Apple and Nintendo are cut from the same cloth.

Big marketing budget, medium quality product, high price.

I do my part in capitalism by purchasing products that are quality.

Both companies are famous for the high quality of their products, but are also often criticized by some due to the specs of their hardware for the price. Is that what you mean by “medium quality”?

Because the easily quantifiable specs of a device are usually a very poor indicator of quality, and quality is much more nuanced in reality.

For instance, the Xbox has always had higher specs than same generation Nintendo devices, but does that mean the quality is better? The Xbox One has almost no significant exclusive games, whereas the Switch has a huge number of critically acclaimed exclusives.

"critically acclaimed exclusives."


BOTW wasn't even an 8/10

When the iPhone was first released there was no App Store. Many people asked for one. Eventually Apple relented and told developers to... make web apps for the iPhone instead. This wasn't enough, so eventually eventually they released the App Store. Somewhere alone the line the iPhone was also jailbroken and users with the jailbreak could install their own software.

The point is that a general purpose computing device without apps is a highly unstable situation. The bigger the potential for apps, the louder the demands get.

I don't think they released the App Store because people asked for it. It just wasn't ready on launch day (or would've had any apps in it)

Nope, not true. Steve Jobs initially envisioned the iPhone as a device with no 3rd party app support. Even internally, Apple execs at the time had to lobby him to change his mind: https://9to5mac.com/2011/10/21/jobs-original-vision-for-the-...

Let me copy/paste what I wrote the last time this perspective on iPhone apps came up:

Remember they were literally defining everything at the beginning - OS, UX, APIs, core features, hardware, first party apps, market positioning, etc etc. Needs of third party developers weren’t nearly as important as nailing the basics and ensuring a risky project was a success. The html5 app bit was a way to test the waters for developer interest and demand but very much an interim solution.

Jobs’ hot takes aren’t the end-all when it comes to product intent at Apple. He was basically an embodiment of strong opinions weakly held. His superpower was focusing teams on what the right set of features would be to create a product that made sense to the market, and ignoring everything else. The phone / iPod / internet communicator trifecta was example of this - nothing but nailing those three mattered at launch, and any effort elsewhere was wasteful. Without that kind of leadership, eng teams will often dither efforts over many things that don’t matter to success.

The history of Apple is filled with examples of this dynamic. iPhone was a group effort among many talented and influential people and I doubt Forstall and others driving software had same opinion on third party apps. They just didn’t pick that battle before it made sense to. Every other computing platform at the time (including Windows Mobile, Palm, and BlackBerry) supported third party apps, it’s not like the use case was novel or difficult to see, and the webs limitations were considerable. Adding apps was a default path temporarily set aside.

I don't see how they would've had the SDK released in 9 months (and the App Store in 13) after the first iPhone if it wasn't in the plans (at least partially) the entire time.

No, there were jailbreaks that got native code execution and everyone wanted those kinds of apps.

that's how I remember it as well. The first app store on iOS was third party hacks to be able to install 3rd party apps.

Steve Jobs was against native apps. If I remember correctly Apple execs had to plead with him to change his mind.

I was also one of the people who lobbied for the original App Store. Obviously, we won that fight. (But also I knew more people at Apple back then.)


Honestly I prefer a curated store. I’ve had discussions with people who work at the Apple App Store about having only curated apps show up by default, but anyone “rejected” from the curated list can still put their app up, they just have to give the direct App Store URL for people to find their app.

I’d love this, myself, as a customer and as a developer. But, also, I’m arrogant enough to assume I’d be one of the curated.


Or just throw it up on Steam.

That misses the largest and fastest-growing market for VR: self-contained systems like Oculus Quest, which has had no real competition for about a year now.

They ask that you pitch them with marketing materials and get permission before you start working on anything, so they can "compassionately" tell you not to even start:

* https://developer.oculus.com/blog/submitting-your-app-to-the...

* https://developer.oculus.com/quest-pitch-form/

> If we feel that your app is not a fit for Quest, we'd like to let you know that early in the development process, before you've made significant production investments, rather than at the end.

Steam also has an approval process that is becoming more and more controlled.

I was curious about the arguments for not including upgrade pricing on the App Store. Apple maintains that upgrade pricing is a relic of shrink wrapped software and subscriptions are better.

I lean softly towards Apple on this one. A few reasons I can think of for why subscriptions are preferred over upgrade pricing:

- The app developer can keep making money over a longer period of time.

- Generally means somebody can try out software first before committing, whereas upgrade pricing implies you either have to commit before trying it or nothing -- there are no demos on the App Store.

- Subscriptions also mean a developer does not hold out new features or bug fixes for customers unless they upgrade -- it incentivizes developers to keep working on an app and maintain a relationship with customers. This is especially true as the app needs to be updated to be compatible with new devices and OS versions.

- Potentially lets customers choose feature sets in the app. This is a good thing as it means developers can broaden their market to customers who want to pay less for fewer features or more for more features. It doesn't lump everybody into the same bucket.

There's a lot of arguments one way or another - but the killer deal-breaker for many of us is the feeling of being held hostage: once you stop paying subscription, you typically don't get to "keep last paid version" - you loose application, and any files, data or artifacts that you created with it or would open/manipulate with it :-/

The other aspect is just how well we each feel we can keep track of and be disciplined with dozens of subscriptions. I'm the other way around from you - I'd pay $5 for an app without blinking, even to "try it out"; but I hesitate to "commit" to $3 a year, let alone $3 a month, for something new.

I think the way Jetbrains does it is ideal - every chunk of 12 months you pay for with your subscription gives you permanent use of that version.

I firmly believe this model is the future, and really, the only sustainable way forward.

It's the only solution so far that doesn't lock customers into a subscription that may stop giving them value commensurate with what they're paying, while giving developers a recurring source of revenue that incentivizes continuous improvement.

I've seen it work wonders for Sketch, which seems to have increased its pace of development after switching to an update-subscription model (as a side note, the lack of a clear, standard name for this model may be its greatest disadvantage). I use an active subscription at work, while I have a slightly older version that I've currently let lapse on my personal machine because I only need it occasionally. Between subscriptions and major-version upgrades, it really is the best of both worlds.

The maddening thing with Apple is that this model would slot neatly into the App Store. All they'd need is a new type of subscription that gates App Store updates. Apple already keeps old packages on the server, as one discovers if they download a purchased app on a device stuck on an old version of iOS – the only thing missing is the will to implement this model.

But this only works if you're releasing a new version every subscription period -- and in that case, it's equivalent to upgrade pricing.

If the developer isn't providing upgrades then they shouldn't keep getting paid for a product someone already bought. If the argument is that developers need _regular_ pay days then we have dedicated financial instruments for smoothing an irregular cash flow.

In any case, subscriptions aren't directly equivalent to upgrade pricing even when an upgrade is provided every subscription period because in an upgrade pricing model the end user can always choose to stop paying and continue to use software they already bought.

If the argument is that developers need _regular_ pay days then we have dedicated financial instruments for smoothing an irregular cash flow.

I think that ignores how little most developers make in the app store. They aren't rolling in money, most are just trying to figure out a way to eke out a living.

I think developers would make a ton more of money, if the App store didn't suck so badly. My spending on iOS apps has rather gone down over time, because the App universe got increasingly worse.

Oh yeah, I agree with you. I was replying to the above commenter about the Jetbrains subscription system and trying to understand how it differs from a pay-to-upgrade system.

Yes, most models converge in the case of frequent updates by the developer and regular usage by the customer and the customer upgrading regularly. The difference is, that when there are no regular updates, why should a developer get constantly paid? And sometimes, there are huge updates, which are not really reflected in value by a reasonable subscription. On the other side, the subscription model holds the customer hostage, the customer cannot decide to use an older version a bit longer and update later.

I’m willing to pay enough monthly software subscriptions to count on one hand. Subscriptions are not the answer for the vast majority of apps and Apple’s insistence on pushing this as the solution is just more evidence that the survival of indie devs doesn’t matter much to them.

I responded to some of these in a different response, I’ll edit it a bit here, but my points are the same:

The subscription model fails in a lot of ways, for everyone. For example, my next app is an interior design / home control app. How would the customer feel if they stopped paying and didn’t have access to their house any more? Most people would be pissed.

I don’t want to hold my customers’ data for ransom and cut them off if they stop paying me my extortion money.

Also, I estimate about half the people who buy version one of my app will enter their floorplan into their computer, place their furniture, be happy, and never use the app again (until I upgrade it to offer home control, as well). If those users just pay like a buck each and cancel after the first month, I’m not going to make my money back for the six years I’ve put into this app.


New stuff:

I’d argue that it’s much more important Apple let developers put out one-time-per-customer, timed, fully-functional demos.

Developers with successful products are already incentivized to keep updating them. What I’ve found again and again is that version two of a product will do better than version one.

Adobe’s been selling Photoshop since I was in college, and it’s not like they didn’t upgrade their app. Same with Intuit / Quicken.


I don’t want to hold my customers’ data for ransom and cut them off if they stop paying me my extortion money.

You don't have to, you could make it readonly when the subscription expires.

This would be what I’d aim for, absolutely.

I talked to some indies who do this for apps they sell outside the App Store, but none of them did it with App Store apps. I believe they indicated there were obstacles to doing it with the App Store (as it is). I’m definitely not an expert in this — I’ve never had a subscription app.


That's not a choice for Apple to make, developers should be able to sell upgrades as they see fit (I am not referring to extravagant never before seen business models)

I'm very adverse to subscriptions but not to upgrade pricing, so it is their loss.

One nit to pick, Slack on iOS is apparently fully native: https://twitter.com/SlackHQ/status/931599784137363459

I think this shows, in my opinion, how little native vs. web/electron actually matters to overall quality. You can generally make a smooth, fast, bug-free app on any platform. Or not...

I used to use the Android version and I was never quite sure whether it was native or not. I couldn't think of a way to tell.

You can make a bad native app, but you can’t make a good Electron app.

Edit to add: Lots of people are mentioning Visual Studio Code. I agree it’s a good app in many dimensions; I didn’t mean to say that an Electron app can’t be good in some ways, even in the most important ways, but rather that Electron introduces flaws that prevent the app from being good in all ways. In particular, while faster than most Electron apps it’s still sluggish on old devices. It still loses track of files when renamed unless you do the rename through Visual Studio Code. The UI elements aren’t as polished as native let alone consistent with it, settings aren’t synced and backed up to iCloud, system-wide keyboard settings aren’t obeyed, Quick Look previews aren’t provided, etc. All of these problems were either introduced by Electron or made more difficult by it.

VS code is really good. Somehow it feels way better to program in than Xcode does.

But I don’t know any other electron apps that feel responsive. Slack, discord, Notion... all super simple apps which respond like molasses.

There are better choices than both of these imho - Appcode and Jetbrains for example.

If your example of "Good native application" is AppCode, you're beyond saving lol

thats a bit harsh - Appcode is a java app but better than Xcode and VSCode, and java is a step up from electron in performance. Xcode is faster but lacks a lot of features that Appcode has.

If you want fast native development then I recommend Delphi - but that is not PC either.

BitWig audio is a Java UI and is quite competitive with the native DAWs.

I agree.

I use vscode, but I miss the speed of sublime for large projects & the terminal emulator will crash/freeze for me occasionally (which also seems to happen in IntelliJ based editors as well)

Superhuman and VS Code are excellent apps. And are built on Electron.


VSCode runs amazingly on my 2.5 year old laptop.

And while I love the word "webshit" in itself -- it's a very pleasing word to say -- I object to it.

The web is not universally shit. It has advantages: primarily almost truly "write once, run anywhere." I run Ubuntu. I almost certainly would not be able to use VSCode on my laptop if it were not an Electron app. I am better off having an Electron version of VSCode than some native version of it existing that doesn't run on Linux.

(Also, isn't Visual Studio a native app, and hot garbage compared to VSCode? I've never used it, but that's what I hear.)

>VSCode runs amazingly on my 2.5 year old laptop.

Is this some kind of great achievement? Vim runs ten times as fast on a 28 year old PDP-11.

>The web is not universally shit.

[citation needed]

To quote the old Java saying, saying "write once, run everywhere" is a selling point of Java is like saying anal sex is great because it works on all genders. Like... maybe, but it's not really the point.

You couldn't use VSCode on Linux, but you could use any of several much better editors, and effectively double your RAM to boot.

>(Also, isn't Visual Studio a native app, and hot garbage compared to VSCode? I've never used it, but that's what I hear.)

Back when I used Windows as a dev platform, years and years ago, Visual Studio was quite pleasant. The experience of that back in the day is much better than the experiences I had with VSCode more recently.

But both of them are terrible compared to the native development environment of Linux.

>To quote the old Java saying, saying "write once, run everywhere" is a selling point of Java is like saying anal sex is great because it works on all genders. Like... maybe, but it's not really the point.

what does this mean exactly

> It has advantages: primarily almost truly "write once, run anywhere."

Wanna take a shot at porting electron to a new platform? It's only a couple dozen million lines of code.

How often do you need to do that?

Also, what major platforms don't have a modern web browser?

Same. For a long time, every time I tried VS Code, I’d go running back to Vim.

VS Code has gotten better—it has a higher ceiling than it used to but there are limitations that’ll always be there as long it’s based on Electron.

That ceiling also applies to responsiveness and adherence to the macOS UI/UX guidelines.

I’m waiting on Panic’s editor that’s in private beta. I don’t see an Electron app matching the fit, finish and polish of a native app by a developer team with the experience and track record of Panic: https://panic.com/nova/

I have been waiting excitedly for Panic's Nova to be honest. Recently my hopes have been lower because there haven't been any updates since March 2019. https://panic.com/nova/march-2019/

They’ve been posting updates on Twitter—@panic.

> There's some kind of brainwashing going on here.

Or perhaps it's because it is so commonly used.

Only takes one counter-example to dismantle this method of thought.


VSCode is the most sluggish app I use on my 2019 Mac, by far. I genuinely don't understand how people can say that it feels responsive and like-native, unless they have much more performant equipment than I.

I use it because it's packed with useful functionality, but …I resent using it– I think I'd adore it if it were native.

I agree. I tried it recently for a couple of weeks and went back to Sublime.

Wtf. It really makes me wonder if we are in fact using the same thing at all?

Started using couple or three months back for a relatively large C project (with large amounts of lib includes) and so far the experience has been really good. Then switched to remote ssh devel, still really good.

What's these slugish/perf issues on vsvode all about? What am I missing?

For me it's because it could never really break the illusion I'm using a browser and that is annoying. I'm reminded of that on every little (or not so little) stutter.

I could totally work with VSCode but I just prefer the overall experience of Sublime.

My biggest gripe with Sublime has been the lack of Extensions.

Is there another?

Does there have to be?

No, but it'd let me know about other apps I should know about.


Slack on macOS is Electron. Slack on iOS is native, and their app wasn't actually all that bad until they redesigned it a couple months ago and made it really, really bad :(

I’m still not over the fact that notifications on my phone don’t clear when I view the message on my computer, and this is by design because of some other big fix. It’s been almost a year


I wouldn’t read into that tweet because Electron doesn’t even support iOS, so saying they “do not use Electron” is equivalent to saying nothing.

It's native. Or at least it was last I checked, before they did their redesign.

How do you evaluate that? (Assuming you don't work for Slack).

Slack, renown for horrible app performance, should never be an example in any discussion about underlying architecture.

It seems poor performance is a core value at the company.

I think that's a bit unfair to Slack. I've been using it for 5 years now and it's one of the most dependable apps I've ever used. When you consider how many messages and rich content it's handling, I think they are doing a fairly decent job. I wouldn't call it slow either. If anything my biggest beef with slack is sometimes the cross-device syncing isn't perfect. And I'm unable to use it offline at all.

I am also a daily user, because it is part of my job requirements to be accessible via Slack, as such it only has a presence on the devices that belong to my employer.

> When you consider how many messages and rich content it's handling, I think they are doing a fairly decent job.


Sending and receiving is something for a background thread to spend a fraction of a percent of a CPU core on.

The amount on-screen at any time is tiny, and should not take a significant amount of resources on a modern computer.

If it's rendering a thousand off-screen rich content messages, that's not impressive, that's it being coded badly.

Slack is hands down the worst app I’ve ever used in environments that aren’t very high latency.

I buy an app on my iPhone once every couple months. I simply cannot find anything. I cannot buy.

The 'freemium' games hide.

I want:

- games that offer a single purchase, or a one time upgrade for full features without ads. Yes, some people will buy the 'bucket of coffee beans' upgrade. I won't. I don't want to search through twenty games that offer it.

- productivity tools that do something useful. My phone is stuck in 2001. Universal menu ordering? Teach me in two minutes? Manage my contacts to call people I haven't talked to in a while? Anything?

- privacy. Why does the Peet's Application in the background still get updated location services, draining my battery? When is the microphone on? Who is really calling me?

Seriously. A business model based on "the other players aren't doing well either" seems excessively fragile.

One day it'll dawn on people that we should provide infrastructure that guarantees safety and freedom, not walled gardens that provide safety and freedom only if it also happens to be profitable for somebody.

There seem to be enough people who don't see this as self evident and are motivated to try and create their own walled gardens in the hopes of becoming the next rent seeker overlord.

These types of posts never end - it's as if people refuse to let go of their naive belief that Apple or some other entity is fundamentally good, but just needs to be pleaded with a little more, to begin to act righteously. It reminds me of children who beg their parents into buying them a toy they want. It makes me sad for both the child to be stooping to such a level but even more so for the parent, for letting the child end up in such a situation in the first place.

I don't know, is begging trillion dollar companies to provide basic functionality not in conflict with having an iota of dignity?

Every time Google/Apple/Microsoft/Whatever behave like the revenue-driven megacorp thugs they are, a substantial amount of HN readers act surprised and I'm surprised by the constant surprise. The track records of those companies clearly tell us, time and time again, about their true intentions and loyalties.

> an iota of dignity

That's a bit harsh, man.

I’ve been using NeXTstep since 1988 and have influenced the course of its history quite a bit over the last 32 years, as it found its way into Macs and then iPhones.

I don’t think it’s undignified to tell Apple they are going down a road that’ll hurt everyone.

You assume nobody at Apple will listen to me. I don’t.


> These types of posts never end - it's as if people refuse to let go of their naive belief that Apple or some other entity is fundamentally good, but just needs to be pleaded with a little more, to begin to act righteously.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

We already have laws for this. Look up what “anti trust” is. The real question you should be asking is “why are anti trust rules not functioning properly” or why aren’t they being applied for this generation?

I'm well aware of the reasons why. I'm simply using baby-steps to get others to inch their way towards realizing it, instead of naively hoping Apple or some other entity is their mommy/daddy figure that needs to be pleaded with.

True. Why isn’t anti trust going after a company that is less than 50% of the market.....

Perhaps "anti trust" needs to be revisited as a broader concept. A similar corollary is the "right to repair" which often falls under the same excuse of being able to use a competitor's product but ignores the high price consumers in giving up any control over what they purchased.

Sure. Let’s give the government more power. What could possibly go wrong?

Not sure why they would need to have more than 50% to be facing anti-trust issues, but it doesn't matter, Apple is already at 50% of the market.


Even so, 50% is hardly a monopoly and consumers have plenty of other viable, cheaper options.

To have a monopoly doesn’t mean to have a specific market share, it means to show monopolistic behavior.

Yeah so I am sure the Justice Department would sue Apple for having a monopoly of enough people complained about how it treats Mac developers.

That’s not how it works....

A great list.

Also: Capping in-app payments (I’m targeting games here) at a certain multiple of cost price, or a fixed amount for free apps, would fix the absurd gaming mechanisms aimed only at extracting more money rather than great gameplay.

It's a bit sad. I feel like mobile gaming is in large part dead because of these stupid pay-to-play games. Back in the early days of the iPhone, even the iPhone games were one-time $2 games (and good for that!), while you had the DS where games were $20+ (often more). Now mobile games of quality are mostly dead.

Apple Arcade was supposed to fix that - it’d be interesting to read a blog post from a developer in that ecosystem to see if it’s actually working.

The problem with Apple Arcade seems to be stemming from the lack of a deep gameplay experience. The games although devoid of micro-transactions and other predatory practices are often very simplistic and feel like made for gaming sessions in transit.

Another drawback seems to be lack of controllers that make some games hard to play. This is yet another issue to be addressed by Apple-- They did add in DualShock and XBox controller support but that doesn't mean a lot unless users have access to those consoles in the first place, further solidifying Apple Arcade's place as a on-the-go gaming solution.

StavrosK has made a list of non-shit games for Android and iOS the other day. I'm grateful for it, because it's otherwise hard to find these games among the sea of garbage both appstores are.


unfortunately, the market isn’t willing to pay for high-quality games.

> unfortunately, the market isn’t willing to pay for high-quality games.

Because they've been repeatedly abused by free-to-play nonsense. Take out the IAPs and forced ads entirely and watch game quantity drop[0] while quality skyrockets. Customers might still be willing to buy back in, if all trust hasn't been eroded already.

[0]: Normally that's not a thing you want from a game/entertainment storefront, but I think the App Store (and Steam) is actually at the point where it would benefit from fewer games. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low.

People pay for games on console and the PC, mobile didn't have to be this way.

In the early days of the app store getting high download counts was one of the only ways to get visibility. Which pushed the race to the bottom on pricing.

Once the big F2P players established themselves, they sucked all the air out of the ecosystem.

Arcade is, among other things, Apple's attempt to fix this. We will see how it turns out.

The "market" has been designed a certain way and it could be redesigned. Imagine what mobile games would look like if there were no IAPs and no ads.

Only because the market has been killed by freemium games. Look how the Nintendo Switch is a huge game platform, where you basically only get full-paid games without in-app purchases.

I buy a lot of $60 games for my PS4 every year. There’s a market for quality, but the owners of the platform have to support it. Apple has instead fostered a race to the bottom.


I have simply stopped buying "apps" even though I am still an iOS user. Quite a few of my purchases have just disappeared over time. I moved to a newer device and they couldn't be installed. I'm not happy with Apple and I got rid of my modern Macs (still have 1/2 dozen SE/30s) completely, now I use Debian or OpenBSD.

Apple is extremely tight lipped on what they're doing and where they're going, they will support and then drop some technology on an apparent whim. I've had serious issues when they dropped WebObjects, Java as a first class Cocoa development language, and now moving to Swift seems like a message that all my work in Objective C will be thrown away by Apple. The promise of ZFS on OS X made me buy a Mac Pro, and then several months later they just dropped all mention of ZFS on OS X.

I'm not going to stick with a company which is so secretive about what they are going to do, failing to even publish roadmaps for their customers and developers. Mindshare among the tech geeks is how OS X took off. Now they're losing it - many developers I know are moving away from the platform too.

> and now moving to Swift seems like a message that all my work in Objective C will be thrown away by Apple


Cocoa, Objective C, OpenGL, etc, are all going to die some day and Apple will announce it a year or two in advance like they usually do with major breaking stuff. Any serious company would announce these EOL 4-5 years in advance.

With Apple the only safe strategy is to keep investing dev time to update everything to the newer stuff or let the project die because in 2-3 years max it will most likely stop working.

It's no coincidence all big Mac apps (other than Apple's own stuff) are actually cross platform projects. No wonder Apple is trying to bring people over from iOS with Catalyst.

I was going to start a macOS product this year but with the transition to SwiftUI I decided it was a really bad idea to invest in a Cocoa project.

And Jesus don't get me started on having to update the OS to get the latest Xcode version every year with their half baked macOS versions.

I think we are meant to divine Apple’s plan from clues. Much of the Unix side of OS X or whatever it’s called now is getting pretty old, much apparently unchanged from years ago. So my guess is this stuff is going away sooner than later. They finally admitted that OpenGL is being deprecated but in retrospect we should have known this by 2010 at the absolute latest.

Since I no longer use OS X and haven’t installed the current or past few versions I couldn’t tell you what is being poorly maintained or ignored but my guess is a more familiar person could guess what Tim’s abandoning next with some scrutiny and a handful of yarrow stalks.


all this churn, and what do we get for it, we can loose our old apps, customers can get upset, devs large and small look for shortcuts because thier investment (obj-c, appkit, uikit, swift 1 - 4, 32-bit, etc etc) is obsoleted... it just reduces the number of viable apps... isnt the whole point of apis that they abstract the machine/os underneath so we dont have churn so much?

i know windows isnt the best thing ever, but lots of older apps just work, and i feel apple (and all of us) would be better served if they at least wrote better abstractions to support older apps (32bit runs in compatibility mode, etc)

Apple wouldn’t be Apple if they wouldn’t abandon old technologies in favor of newer ones.

This actually splits developer mindset into two camps: those who love the introduction of new stuff and deem it necessary to achieve progress, and those who accuse Apple of planning obsolescence into their products, and deprecating technologies too early (it’s a little bit hard too believe when you compare Android to iOS, but Linux or Windows vs. macOS tells a different story).

thats true, but at some point it goes so far it becomes an anti-pattern

apple, like any other company of thier size, can continue to move forward and drop old technologies while at the same time keeping older apps working; its eimply a matter of will and policy

They bailed on zfs when oracle bought sun. The semi opensource license sun distributed zfs under wasn’t good enough for Apple, so (I assume) they wanted an explicit license. I assume Oracle tried to milk as much as they could from Apple and apple walked.

From what I understand, a lot of apple engineers were really disappointed about dropping zfs. It’s sucks they can’t talk about it.

Send me an email if you’re willing to part with one of those SE/30s assuming it still works. I’ve been pining for a classic Mac to play with but the pickings on eBay are either all broken or really pricey.

They are part of my retirement fund.

The survey was great, because it hits basically everything that developers hate about Apple:

* Search Ads

* Documentation

* App Store Review Guidelines

* Codesigning

* Apple Developer Forums

* App Store Review

The only thing missing is bug reporting, and I stuck my response for that in it anyways when they asked what was wrong with their developer tools ("Respond to our feedback!"). Sadly, I think the results of this survey are anonymized so thoroughly that they disappear entirely before anyone at Apple can get to look at them.

(Supposedly the forums are getting revamped in a week for WWDC. I don't have very high hopes, sadly, but I'd love to be pleasantly surprised.)

Strongly agree with most of the points, but not all.

Disagreements :

- App updates. I think that the subscription model would be pretty good for apps actually if you could have a micro transaction system. Great quality apps are constantly maintained and often have recurring costs (API, servers, etc). Selling apps for a one time fee does not fit that well in this model. A nominal fee for app updates kinda solves part of the problem .. you just hope that your users love the new feature enough to buy it. It feels a lot like for a lot of apps that would just lead to feature creep instead of good design. I have been hoping to see a micro-subscription model emerge for a very long time. Unfortunately I don't think customers want that and Apple/Google don't seem super interested in pushing it either (Google kinda has that with Google Play Pass, but in typical Google fashion this is dead on arrival).

- I don't think the web is in a significantly different than it has been for the entirety of iOS/Android existences : it has its place but is not going to replace native anytime soon, especially for the "high quality" apps the author talks about.

> Great quality apps are constantly maintained and often have recurring costs (API, servers, etc).

I stay the hell away from apps that don’t let me manage my own data, which excludes most apps that have recurring costs. Even so more and more standalone apps that I use are going subscription because of the lack of another way to deal with upgrades.

Even something as simple as a weather app needs to pay recurring costs for its API, regardless of user data

And thinking about it .. hard to make a good weather app that does not collect your location. Good is relative here, for me a good weather app will automatically update to my current location wherever I go.

The subscription model fails in a lot of ways, for everyone. For example, my next app is an interior design / home control app. How would the customer feel if they stopped paying and didn’t have access to their house any more? Most people would be pissed. I don’t want to hold my customers’ data for ransom and cut them off if they stop paying me my extortion money.

I’m pretty sure we can do micro-subscription already — I could ask Apple to just charge $1 a month, that’s pretty micro. (I don’t think we can do pennies, yet.) But that model doesn’t really work for all types of apps.

For instance, I estimate about half the people who buy version one of my app will enter their floorplan into their computer, place their furniture, be happy, and never use the app again (until I upgrade it to offer home control, as well). If those users had the option to just pay me 5 cents for the month they used the app, I’d have to get 16 million of these users to make back the money I’ve put into this app.

That’s not really feasible.


My point with the web is that pass-through web “apps” on iOS are the same as pass-through web “apps” on Android, so Apple is losing a competitive advantage if they kill of their native developers.

If you’ve got Slack or Chrome or a banking app or a finance app or a health app on your iPhone, you could be running the exact same app on Android. So why did you spend extra on an iPhone? Apple needs to treat its independent, native developers better because we are the only ones who are making products that are Apple-only, and show off all the cool things iOS and macOS can do.


> for everyone / my next app is an interior design / home control app.

That's a good point but really not "for everyone". Agreed that for a one shot app like this, pay once is the model that works. Although one could argue that you still held the customer data captive as soon as they get a new phone and the app is no longer compatible.

Sorry, “for everyone” was intended to mean, “the flaws I’ve identified hurt Apple, some customers, and some developers” not “100% of customers are hurt by the flaws.”

I’ve spoken with an Apple SVP about the compatibility issue and it's huge, you’re right. My suggestion to them at the time was to boot apps out of the app store that don’t stay up-to-date.

But there’s a gap I can’t solve, which is Apple doesn’t want users paying more just to keep their apps running on new iPhones.

As a datapoint, though, iOS apps have a LONG shelf-life. I have an iOS app I shipped with iOS 7 and it still runs on iOS 13.

With macOS, yes, we’re all angry because Apple finally made good on its promise to deprecate 32-bit apps after like six years of warning us. And, yah, I lost 60% of my games on Steam and I’m upset about it, but also I like my machine being way more responsive (loading both the entire 32-bit stack and the entire 64-bit stack at once meant a ton of memory pressure and swapping), and I like that Apple doesn’t have to maintain to entirely different codebases and can fix bugs and add features once not twice.

And it’s not like 64-bit apps are a new thing — if you’ve submitted an app to the Mac App Store you’ve been required for YEARS to have it run on 64-bit machines.

It sucks that Steam didn’t enforce this as well — not because they should do Apple’s bidding, but because it would have been a mitzvah to Steam’s customers who just lost a lot of games.


I think we agree :) More to the point I believe that both models are necessary in a perfect world .. but not sure they will happen.

I too also have way too many mac steam games ... from the very brief period when gaming on a mac was thing. I haven't updated my personal MBP yet but I will have to bite the bullet sooner or later.

Fortunately I have moved on to consoles.. I better not update my mbp and look at my list of compatible games.

There could be another way though, looks like windows 10 still supports 32 bits software via WOW64 (32 bits emulator). In general the one good thing I can say about windows is that it managed to stay retro compatible with pretty much all the previous versions.

>Lower the cut you take from 30% to 20%

I agree with this. I think there are probably a lot of app ideas where the margin is small enough that 30% probably prevents them from even being started.

Also fix app review. It's so arbitrary, it's like playing a game of darts.

I have been thinking about an alternative pricing model but it only works for content creation software. It would be enabled by an OpenPGP library which handles signing of files and micropayments.

What if the app itself was free but it charged a small fee the first time a new file was saved? The file format doesn't have to be proprietary - a simple chunk of metadata should be able to identify the creator and the files won't need to be tracked by a central authority because the mere existence of the signature in the file would imply that the one-off payment had already been made.

The canonical example is a rich Markdown editor. You could get the WYSIWYG conveniences à la Word and the resulting .md file would have a signature indicating that the app had saved it.

Subsequent edits by the author wouldn't incur a fee as the signature would match the app instance. But someone else with a copy of the app would incur a fee if they also used it to make changes of their own and their signature would be added to the file.

Someone else could edit the file with their favourite text editor. This wouldn't incur a fee. But the signatures would have to be preserved otherwise the original author(s) wouldn't be able to re-edit the file without incurring another payment.

Perhaps I'm being dumb but I think these files could be safely pushed to Github with the signatures intact. They'd be as secure as any public key.

I can see this working with many file types -- MS Office documents, Adobe Illustrator et al, 3D model files, PDFs, images, movies. The same file could be edited with different apps each saving their own signatures. All that's needed is something which disables the "File/Save" command unless a payment is made.

Is anyone aware of any software which works like this?

How do you define "new file"? Why don't I put all my data into various copies of the same original file?

A "new" file is simply one which doesn't contain the licensee's signature.

Yes, there would be ways to game this approach by minimising the number of files saved but the price per new save could be set sufficiently low to make the inconvenience too uneconomical. And there might be users who need to create thousands of new files over the course of a year and who might be better served by a subscription model or a pricing cap.

> Even Omni Group had layoffs a couple months ago

Which was during the coronavirus lockdown and associated unemployment and economic upheaval.

In addition to Omni group seemed to be on something of a downturn (personally I recently gave up on Omnigraffle because 1) I was tired of the upgrade pricing and 2) simultaneous cross-platform multiuser editing is currently more important to me than a rich feature set and beautiful UI.)

Wil Shipley is an excellent developer and his points are excellent as well.

Agreed completely about ads in the app store - they are basically worthless and often very annoying and spammy.

I particularly concur with subscription vs. upgrade pricing. I utterly despise subscriptions, and I want to have the option to pay an incremental fee for an upgrade if I want to rather than having to purchase a new version of the app!

As a new user to iOS (on Android since the OG Droid), I totally agree. I had to post on /r/iOS to find a Solitaire game that didn't have ads. I looked and looked and I couldn't find Solitaire City. It's not even ranked in the top 200 in its category. I tried like 20 Solitaire games and they all sucked or had ads. Terrible ads.

Honestly, I was shocked. I thought the App store would be better than Google Play Store, which I didn't think was that great, but I could usually find paid apps without ads.

Btw, I totally agree with his asks for the App store.

For those who don't know Wil is behind Delicious Library, and prior to that co-founded and headed The Omni Group in 1991. He's also won 8 design awards!

> I’ve literally never met one person who has enjoyed subscribing to software and losing access to it once they stop paying.

You can meet me - I much prefer subscriptions. Pay while I use it, like a service, rather than pretending to 'buy' it which was never really how it was anyway. I don't mind losing access if I'm not paying any more. If want to use it again, I'm happy to pay again.

What's the problem?

Nice to meet you.


"Even Omni Group had layoffs a couple months ago."

Aw. I love their software. Omnigraffle is my platonic ideal of great software.



>Apple’s biggest competition right now is the web. More and more “apps” are just thin, non-native veneers on top of web sites (cf Zoom, Slack, Steam, etc). The issue for Apple is, why would anyone choose Apple devices if the exact same apps are available on all devices? Apple should be doing everything it can to support good third-party developers that make the real Apple apps that make Apple devices unique, and provide cool Apple-only experiences. But, again, all the developers I know who do this are dying off, because of the App Store’s policies. Even Omni Group had layoffs a couple months ago.

NO! Stop giving Apple more reasons to ruin the web. The browser lock-in on iOS, poor support for modern browser features, and lack of any native interfacing is beyond unforgivable. For Apple, the web is a second-class citizen and it's bordering on lunacy to suggest otherwise.

Genuinely interested how you think their WebKit (which they started from KHTML back in the day) implementation has “poor support for modern browser features” I agree with browser lock in though. But I feel that iOS is so successful that they don’t treat the web as a second class citizen. It’s just WebKit...

I'm a web developer, Safari mobile feels honestly on the borderline of being abandoned, every time I look at their new Safari release, there's a least a minimum of 6 to 8 years of lagging behind Chrome and Firefox (and that's just the features we're talking about here, not basic layout, forms & css bugs they still have...). I generally spend as much time to fix Safari mobile as IE11

What kind of features are we talking about though? As a user I don’t see what I really miss out on by using Safari. If anything, the lack of user-hostile features such as push notifications is a good thing.

You don't see you're missing out because there's people spending hours to adapt the website to make it work...

For the features, I could mention from what I ran into myself: input[type="number"] (yes, they still have not fixed their implementation after all those years...), the full screen api, Media Source Extensions, css ::selection, Intersection Observers, autofocus (yes, even that does not work), I could add a lot more here.

And that's not mentioning the various bugs you have on this platforms, again some example of what I ran into:

- https://stackoverflow.com/questions/18047353/fix-css-hover-o... (yes, you read it well, even tapping on an element does not work as normal)

- https://stackoverflow.com/questions/11768364/svg-scaling-iss... (svg rendering issues)

- https://stackoverflow.com/questions/52826005/workaround-for-... (iframe focus bug)

There's plenty of weird quirks like this everywhere. It's never completely broken but it's pretty comparable to the time you spend fixing things on IE11 honestly.

Laughably beyond hyperbole.

I find this back and forth really interesting. On the one hand, you have Apple who wants to make app developers into a commodity and their platform (iOS) the premium experience. On the other hand, you have app developers and cross platform framework developers trying to make the platform into a commodity. Strange bedfellows indeed!

Personally, I miss the days of classic Mac OS when both the platform and the applications were premium, high quality software. No in-app purchases, no subscriptions, no microtransactions, no shitty web frameworks. Everything was native and really well designed. The operating system and third party apps were all part of a cohesive experience.

My argument wasn’t for ruining the web. It was saying, look, there are a ton of apps out there that are written (usually using emulation layers) for basically all platforms, and if Apple kills off all its native, independent developers, those are the ONLY apps that will exist.

At that point, there won’t be much reason to buy Apple products. Of course, Apple says they have the best products and ecosystem, blah blah blah. (And it’s an ecosystem I largely like, to be fair.) But Apple should not become so arrogant that they think customers will flock to buy their products based only on the Apple’s own software.

Innovation comes from the small, independent developers. The first web browser for Mac OS X, the first PDF viewer for Mac OS X, the first image viewer for Mac OS X, and the first video barcode scanner on ANY platform were all created outside Apple.

Also, Pages and Keynote are rewrites of Pages and Concurrence (apps created by Lighthouse Design for NeXTstep) done _by the some of the same people who did the originals_.

It’s easy once you the hit mega-billion-dollar success level to forget how many of your products and ideas didn’t come from inside your company. But also fatal.


> At that point, there won’t be much reason to buy Apple products. Of course, Apple says they have the best products and ecosystem, blah blah blah. (And it’s an ecosystem I largely like, to be fair.) But Apple should not become so arrogant that they think customers will flock to buy their products based only on the Apple’s own software.

In fact, this exact approach with Safari and Extensions have driven away a lot of users to Firefox and Chrome

>Allow us to charge a nominal fee to for major upgrades to our apps. Right now new versions either have to be made into all-new apps, or we have to give away all new versions for free. There’s no way to charge an upgrade free. If I buy a Mac or iPhone from Apple I can trade it in towards a new one when I upgrade, but users can’t do the same thing for software. All the developers I know are suffering right now because Apple has prevented us from offering special upgrade pricing. It’s completely unsustainable to ask developers to continue supporting their apps but also to forbid them from charging for upgrades.

I don't understand. Aren't freemium apps allowed on AppStore? There are lots of apps with in-app purchase upgrades.

There's a model for going free -> paid. There's no model for going App V1 -> V2 with payment.

There's nothing stopping you from shipping V2, but keeping the new features locked behind an in-app purchase.

(1) This is difficult. You have to support multiple versions within the same executable. So there is an economic barrier.

(2) And sometimes, it is impossible. An example is supporting new iphonex+ aspect ratios. There's no way post-launch to 'go back' to the old scheme or go forward to the new.

Could you have subsequent versions as individual IAPs, like DLCs for software?

All the solutions and hacks I’ve seen from other companies to simulate discounted upgrades have been a mess — that’s not my verdict, it’s the verdict of the developers who have tried it and found themselves stymied by Apple’s byzantine rules and limited App Store.


How do you find those, though? There are no filters. Only way I can do it is to tap through each search result, scroll down to “In-App Purchases: Yes”, tap it, and (99% of the time) see something like “Bucket of Gems: $99.99”) and “nope” back out.

> almost 1% of our profits

The article says 1%, his tweet says 1/3... but that seems low! Apple's cut is 30%. To only take 1/3 of profits, costs must only be 10% of revenue... cost of support, advertising, AND development.

The problem isn't with the 30% Cut. It is the value that it offers. Right now it is nothing more than rent seeking. Apple doesn't even have to lower the Cut. They need to provide more values from the Cut.

It could be CDN for your app, where Apple could lower the bandwidth usage for certain uses, using the Apple EdgeCache. Or additional tools that helps developer's productivity.

There are lots could be done. And yet Post Steve Jobs Apple hasn't acted on it.

CDN for your app sounds like a minority use case, a service that could be sold separately. Not even relevant for native-only apps. I don't want Apple to try to justify the 30% with luxury services, I just want them to reduce the cut.

Every year, it becomes more and more obvious that Apple cares far greater for money and numbers than developers or customers. Any criticism thrown at the company goes into a void, they don't communicate about any issues or feedback, and they continue to take away useful features and replace them with either nothing, or something nobody asked for. I used to really like this company.

Every year for 40 years running...

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