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Apple is facing rage from developers over the commission on the App Store (businessinsider.com)
128 points by afkqs on June 17, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 173 comments

When people look at this issue they tend to fixate on the 30/15% 'tax'. Is it fair? Is it not?

The commission is not nothing, obviously, but misses a larger point.

Apple did to Hey what they did to our company. One day we submitted a minor upgrade for an app that had been on in the app store _for years_, a bugfix release, and they told us they would not publish it or any subsequent submission unless we add IAP to the app.

We would be happy to pay apple some fair fee to place our app in their store. We all understand that it's not a charity. But that's just not what apple is doing here, or not the whole story.

They took an app that was _already_ in their store for years, and froze updates on it. That approach forced much of our company to stop whatever it was they were working on and implement IAP _now_. Mobile devs, backend devs, accounting, marketing analytics/funnelling were all affected. There would be no bugfix releases until that feature was added.

The implementation of recurring payments in Apple's IAP is quite different from that of other payment processors like Braintree or Stripe. As such it has added a lot of complexity to our backend services, and has sucked a huge amount of time from our developers, accounting, and from our analytics team. All so we can implement a feature we _already had in our products_ and were happy with, just their version of it.

We incorporated IAP in the fall of last year, but we are _still_ trying to digest it into our company, still refining how we handle their subs, still mitigating some mistakes we made in the our initial implementation. And their remain some unresolved question for us on the how best to do accounting and market funneling.

The media continue to fixate on the 30% commision, as do must of the comments in this thread. But the issue is that Apple does this by imposing the commission on apps that _already_ have huge sunk costs on there platform, going back years, that already have tens of thousands of users (at least in our case), and then one day send back a bugfix release with a letter that says 'if you want to put an update to this app on our platform, add IAP to it. Now.'

Agreed. Apple is an oligopoly providing a service that has become more or less 'must have' So are Google/Facebook in their markets. Oligopolies that are 'must have' already exist. They are called utilities and they are regulated. A lot. And taxed, a lot.

Silicon Valley succeeded, they billed an empire (multiple ones actually). They were amply compensated and justly so. It's time for regulators and the taxmen to step in (as with any new territory/market).

Unpopular opinion: What else do you expect Apple to do with applications that are no longer in compliance with their rules and regulations for the platform?

They could make you happy and grandfather applications in, but then that creates a different "rage" inducing scenario for new applications.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their platform rules changes, the change was made, and now needs to be enforced.

Is there IAP in the Gmail app?

Question on the background: did Apple announce this change long in advance and this start enforcing it (as advised) after the window for remediation elapsed? Or was it sudden?

A sudden change is just bad form if that was the case.

Apple announced it way back in about 2011 or 2012.

Here is the sequence of events for our company:

2012-ish: apple requires IAP be an option if you have payment subscriptions. This date might be slightly off, I think it was way back then.

2014-ish: We launch an app that has no recurring subs. So we are still in compliance with their terms.

2017: We add a concept of membership, with braintree managing the subscriptions. Unbeknownst to us, we are now in violation of their terms.

2019: Apple notices the subs, and freezes our app updates

So we were indeed in violation of their terms, ones they had made known long before. We did not know it, but we were. Apple let us know 2 years after the fact by preventing us from publishing a bug fix release.

Disclaimer: Not an app developer, for either mobile platform.

I heard about this change about a month ago on a couple of news platforms. Specifically, I heard that Apple would be requiring apps which have out-of-app purchasing mechanisms to offer the same products via in-app purchasing.

Also, this is a remediation period. Existing apps aren't being taken down (short of repeated version update submissions which don't comply with the new rules), the new updates are simply being held to the new standard.

My thinking is the same. Apple could have just updated their platform, broke the existing app for all current users and new users, and they would have been dead in the water.

There were a lot of users that were angry that their application that worked on WinXP didn't work on Vista/7. The platform moves forward, with or without you.

I think this is wrong, and really the crux of the problem. The app store is not a platform, it is a marketplace.

Apple has used control of that marketplace to impose a technology that we would not otherwise use and adds no value to our product.

The marketplace is a part of the platform. Apple controls the platform.

The platform can't prevent apps from accepting money outside IAP. It has to be people.

Point taken.

But I would suggest, for that point to really resonate, Apple would have to make some changes in how they enforce these rules, and other aspects of IAP:

1. Provide a grace period

Apple blocked our app release one release after we did a major makeover on the app, switching from Objective C to react native to bring it in line with our 2 other apps. We expected to experience teething issues and quickly release bug fixes as a result. We could not. Given how it went down, we had to implement IAP as fast as we could, giving us a fair amount of tech debt.

2. Make sure the rules are enforced equally for all apps

See linked article for details

3. Allow developers to pay an entry fee for placing their app in the Apple App store as an alternative to implementing IAP

Apple is forcing developers to use a technology that they dont want, one that some developers may feel degrades their ability to provide the best product to their customers. They are using their position as the gatekeeper to the app store to do that.

Let us into the app store with a fee instead of forcing us to expose a feature we have no control over ourselves.

4. Improve their API

The truth is, their 'API' isnt really an API, in the sense that say Braintree or Stripe give you. You are provided a 'receipt', which is really a window onto a state machine. The 'receipt' changes over time and tells you the history of the subscription. But that history is incomplete. For example, the history wont tell you the amount of a given transaction, it's just not there. You have to deduce it from the associated payment plan. But that is hard too, since the payment plan price may change over time to test the market.

Another problem with their implementation is that Apple does not send webhook events for some subscription events -- they only send send webhook events during state transitions of a subscription. So for example if the user makes a monthly payment, there is no webhook sent, since their subscription did not change state. But we need to know these things as it impacts our messaging with our users, so we are forced to write daemons that poll apple to update the receipt and see if any new events have occurred that may require user messaging.

It is a cumbersome and awkward 'API', one I do not belive many companies would voluntarily choose were they not forced to do so.

4. Give us more control over IAP

We have a 'customer is always right' approach at our company. If a user asks for a refund, they're probably going get it. Unless they purchased something using IAP. We have no control over an IAP subscription -- for those, we must direct the user to contact apple and see if they can get a refund there. Apple does not have a 'customer is always right' approach to their users. Should they refuce a customer a refund that we would have given, that blows back on us.

That is really the tip of the iceberg, there are other things we have to cede control over to Apple that effect our relationship with our own customers, especially relating to marketing and testing price points.

Apple seems to have either missed these companies were subscription based, another possibility is some of these companies started as free services and then added a paid subscription later.

Isn't this a key to Apple's success though? One of the differentiators between Android and iOS is Apple's willingness to bring their boot down to enforce a more consistent user experience by any means necessary. If that means playing hardball with developers then so be it.

> to bring their boot down to enforce a more consistent user experience by any means necessary. If that means playing hardball with developers then so be it.

As a consumer, no. I want both options, but I don’t want my phone choice to force some development team to be under the barrel of a gun

The single best move Europe could make would be to limit any digital stores to maximum 12% commission. That would truly reign in the monopoly power of these platforms (typically American) and dramatically boost the revenues of content creators (many of whom are European).

12% covers the overhead costs of the stores and still allows a healthy profit for the monopoly owner.

I hope that next on the target list is Valve, who charges a 30% regressive tax on Indie games but allows big-budget AAA games to get by with only 20% tax:


Why 12%? Seems like a completely arbitrary number, with 0 market input. Why shouldn't it be 40% for that matter, if a bureaucrat is going to set it?

This is the major issue in cases like this, who sets the number? How do they calculate it? How do you know if Apple will be able to sustain an app store with that number? I'm not saying they can't, but will that mean, for example that their approval process for apps won't be as vigorous and we get lots of scam apps?

The worst possible thing here is if some random number is set by some random person who thinks they're _very clever_.

Probably because the Epic Store takes a 12% cut. That they mention the Steam store is very telling - Epic and Steam have been in a spat over this. I highly doubt its a coincidence that their number matches Epic's exactly.

Maybe he tossed out a number he feels comfortable paying in taxes. I worked a bunch of overtime last year as a favor and ended up getting bumped into the ~30% tax bracket for income. I’m feeling pretty ragey about it myself.

Tax systems are progressive ... being in a higher bracket is nothing to be angry about.

That's arguable. You could say, not everybody loves is delighted that the value(to themselves) of their work goes down, the more they do it. I think most people accept some form of taxation but annoyance at idea of diminishing returns is very understandable.

Wait until you hear about how we Swedes feel when we hit the 50%-55% income tax bracket (not counting payroll tax of 30%!).

Also just to be clear, you’re only taxed 30% on the income in the new bracket, not your entire income so rejoice! :)

Yes, this. This is what irks me, what makes 30 a lot, and not 12, or why isn't 30 low, what's special about each number.

> How do you know if Apple will be able to sustain an app store with that number?

I suspect part of the problem is that Apple could be creative with its finances and make sure that just about any cut that isn't 30% means they can't sustain an app store. Apple earns an insane amount of money, they could get by with 0% commission just fine, but it's not in their interests to ever admit that.

Sure, 12% is made up, but the result of just about any negotiation is a made up number that sits somewhere between what one party wants and what the other party demands. It's just the nature of it.

Except you aren’t proposing that 12% be the result of a negotiation, you are suggesting it’s a fair number to be imposed by force of law.

I'm not suggesting anything, I'm not the OP. But to my mind they were suggesting that it is the kind of number that could come out of a negotiation and seem appropriate.

The difference between steam and apples store is that if I want to install a game on Windows I can download a binary and run it or use a rival platform.

On Apple you don't have that choice so the onerousness of the store policies effects consumers by proxy but the lack of freedom for users directly is far worse.

Honestly the EU should threaten to force a requirement to allow third party applications to run, Android clears that bar already, Apple not so much.

I like your idea of 12% but can we make it 12.5% (pieces of eight..).

You do have a choice - don't use Apple.

> On Apple you don't have that choice so the onerousness of the store policies effects consumers by proxy but the lack of freedom for users directly is far worse.

This is one of those "popular on HN because it impacts developers" points. Everyone I know is extremely happy with their iPhone in terms of apps and the appstore. Allowing a flood of apps will not make it better for a lot of developers - ones that followed the rules and didn't make shovelware. Now good apps will get drowned out in a sea of garbage.

> Now good apps will get drowned out in a sea of garbage.

Have you seen the state of app discovery in the App store nowadays?

That proves my point further - imagine how much worse it will get with a free for all of apps.

> the EU should threaten to force a requirement to allow third party applications to run

Threaten? They should go straight ahead and mandate it.

Not sure they could get away with it (but would be amazing if they could, the push back would be collosal) but it's a hell of a sword to dangle over Apple's head.

And yes I agree that should be the case, having a side channel like that makes the App store behave better because if you piss users/developers off enough they will go around you so then you have to compete on ease of use, discovery.

We don't need to debate the tradeoffs, but we should acknowledge that there are tradeoffs. If a side-channel is available to all users, developers will spring into action making games, porn, and discount coupon apps that can only be installed via the side-channel...

Bypassing security review. Next thing you know, a goodly number of the world's phones have become surveillance devices, bank account emptiers, DDOS zombies, and bitcoin miners.

Whether the benefits of a side-channel for liberties outweigh the negatives of such a future is a worthy discussion, but we ought to at least acknowledge that the walled garden has some merits above and beyond Apple's stock price.

So what you're saying is Apple cannot secure iOS to prevent this from happening? Like mandatory anti-malware built directly in the OS ?

Phone makers should not be able to sell their phones, only lease them, since there not yours in the first place.

I believe security isn’t an either/or, there are a number of countermeasures, and they all serve a purpose. For example, sandboxing is the exact thing you’re speaking of: anti-malware built into iOS.

But another thing is reviewing apps looking for dark patterns in the UX. That is not relevant to the hey.com situation, but it is one of the things I think needs to be done by humans at this point.

Next: You are speaking of “Freedom Zero,” the freedom to own your own hardware (and software, ideally). I am 100% in favour of everyone having Freedom Zero.

But! I think it’s a little like freedom of speech on the Internet. If every single social media site everywhere has moderation, and bans users, and every hosting company rejects web sites for %reasons%, then nobody has freedom of speech.

But if there is genuine choice, if some users can hang out on HN—where there is moderation—and some users can go hang out on (not listing names) where they can talk white supremacy and billg’s conspiracy to implant microchips in vaccines and why women have the real power in the world...

Well, then HN doesn’t have freedom of speech, but the internet as a whole does.

My feeling is that when a single walled garden reaches a certain dominant size, then it really impacts freedom zero. I’m not sure that Apple is there yet just because it makes a lot of money. Users still have a real choice in devices and ecosystems. I’m Apple, my own brother is Android.

But I agree that there is a point at which a company can become a de-facto monopoly. I don’t agree this means “over their customers.” A mall has a monopoly over those who enter, but that’s not relevant until either all the malls take over an entire town’s shopping.

But yes, “Freedom Zero” matters, and yes, there could be a point where a single company becomes dominant enough that users don’t have a realistic/reasonable choice when buying devices.

Better forbid locking hardware into using specific software. This would also kill bad parts of Intel ME and UEFI, leaving the good parts.

Are you conflating Mac with iOS? You can run indie apps in Mac.

But indie publishers can choose not to sell on Steam - there are numerous online stores they can choose as well as selling it on their own site.

If you want to sell an iPhone app, you have absolutely no choice but to go through Apple, and that's where the real problem is. --They make it pay-to-play for devs and prevent customers from making their own decisions on what to put on the devices they own.

IMHO, that’s a feature, as long as it’s possible for apps to be malicious.

I’m a relatively experienced dev, but even I don’t have the tools or time to figure out whether some app is safe. So when I had Android hardware, I mostly didn’t install apps.

My kids and parents don’t even have the experience to recognize that an app could possibly be malicious; they wouldn’t be able to figure it out even if they had the source code.

So I buy Apple hardware for all of them, specifically because I like Apple’s gatekeeping. Because 99.99% of app developers might be great people, but if you have an open system, it’ll be abused, and I have better things to worry about.

Is there reason to believe apps on Google Play Store are significantly less safe than apps on Apple's app store?

I think that Android provides the best of both worlds: gatekeeping on the official app store, and the option (with warnings) to install from other sources. I believe that families and enterprises can also disable third-party installs.

Let me give an anecdote, which happened to me:

The last Android phone that I had was a Galaxy Note 4. Along with the bloatware that Samsung pushes and can not be uninstalled, there was an app called Peel Remote. This app is also published to Google Play Store and updated from there.

So, after updating my apps from Play store to latest version, as you are supposed to do, at morning I woke up and saw my home screen was changed and showing an ad. Also, I realized, sometimes a full screen ad pops up, randomly when I was using the phone. After a lot of investigation, I found out the uninstallable app that is included in the phone, Peel "Smart" Remote (the irony), which is published and updated through Play store, silently decided that showing full screen ads and replacing my home screen with ads was a good move, through an update.

There is NO WAY that an update like this could be pushed to Apple's App Store.

It also has nothing to do with the issue. The Play Store could be (and has been made) more and more safe, while retaining the option of alternative stores and installation sources.

The approval and screening process were not adequate and stuff like this were always happening. Google still thought they are entitled to get 30 percent.

I am not sure how or when it has improved but my trust was breached and it was not restored still today. There are a lot of junk/fearmongering/placebo applications in Play Store, e.g. "RAM Cleaner" or random "Anti Virus" applications.

Apple should relax their requirements, sure, but I am really willing to stick to the Apple store to prevent stuff like this.

How would you propose Apple "relax their requirements"?

For example, the strict "All purchasing/subscription offers made in the app should be from Apple Store" should be changed to "You are allowed to inform your customers that there are other ways of subscribing, but you have to offer the same options through the app".

I understand this clause is there to protect customers from shady apps that try to trick customers to pay for non relevant things (e.g. app asking people to purchase something else to activate the app outside of app store), while it is too convenient for Apple to guarantee that they will get their cut.

Apple's big lie is that their "curation" prevents bad actors, when historically we've seen that apps will track your usage, location, harvest contacts, etc. etc. even when allowed in the store.

That's great for you to choose to Apple approved apps. Doesn't mean you should prevent others from trusting other authorities.

And you don't think it's weird that you have to buy hardware to get the software you want?

> And you don't think it's weird that you have to buy hardware to get the software you want?

I think software needs hardware to run on. I don’t get the comment.

There are other options for phones if you want to run 3rd party unapproved apps. I use an iPhone partially because there is less garbage in the App Store.

Are you upset that console manufacturers control who publishes games or software on their platform? None of the current (or past) major consoles allow third-party unapproved software (without bypasses), leading to the same situation.

> Are you upset that console manufacturers control who publishes games or software on their platform? None of the current (or past) major consoles allow third-party unapproved software (without bypasses), leading to the same situation.

All software is not equal.

Would you say that gatekeeping video games is equal to gatekeeping software that could be essential to people's lives(finance, health, social media, etc)?

If others want to trust other authorities they can buy Android.

The problem with allowing third party stores is that doing so makes social engineering attacks impossible to stop.

I don’t want to prevent others from trusting other authorities, which is why I think an alternative in the form of Android is essential.

But we need a platform which is not open to social engineering attacks because a lot of people need it.

What's the issue of Apple Runtime choosing what's running? You are buying a bundle of apple hardware+runtime, that's what's in the box. For hardware that you can replace the OS choose another device.

To me the solution seems more with being able to choose which OS I can put on some metal. iOS is very sepecific OS for a specific metal, it shouldn't need to cater to everything.

The thing about Android and windows in the past (about IE and GApps) is very different in Apple's as it is selling a combo. That metal-runtime integration, those envirnment consistency, that cathedral instead of bazaar, is why people buy iphones, not Androids or Libres.

> The single best move Europe could make would be to limit any digital stores to maximum 12% commission.

The App Store is already at 15% for recurring subscriptions, so this isn’t much of a stretch for either party.

It's only 15% after year 1. Until then it's 30%. Also, I believe it's 15% after an individual subscription has been ungoing for a year (it doesn't apply to all subscriptions after the app has been out one year).

Finally - does anybody know how users unsubscribing and resubscribing affects this? I do this a lot with services if I'm not using them in a partiular month - when I resub is the counter back at zero and I need 12 consecutive months before the developer drops to 15% comission?

The problem is that Apple imposes a tax on _competing_ services, and has similar offerings and doesn't allow other payment options.

Even if the fee is only 1%, it will still tip the scales in favor of their products and services. That's 1% more that Apple can use to get better deals, better marketing, better prices. Long term as the market matures they should win.

They can impose any fee they want, but they should not actively obstruct different revenue streams and different payment mechanisms. I'm OK with an in-app Spotify subscription being €14.28 if it clearly communicates that €4.28 is the store and payment processing fee (VAT included), and allows for different payment options. It's no different when I choose a Paypal vs Credit Card vs wire transfer. Sometimes the consumer may go for the convenience of the more expensive payment mechanism, but that should be the buyer's decision.

Apple could argue they sell their Gift Card at 15% discount and they will not be disclosing / we will never know how much revenue of App Store are from those. Apple also give ~5 to 10% margin to Network Carrier for Apple Credit via Mobile Billing.

Which is to say 12% is a fairly low number.

I dont have a problem with 30% cuts per se, I have a problem with Apple forcing IAP, applying rules when ever they see fit aka Hey and Fastmail / Gmail Case, dictating price because you cant have your product more expensive than via the web.

Given the recent iPhone 11 pricing was actually lower than expected and Apple doesn't seems to be pushing ASP anymore, I would not be surprised if Apple moved some cost over to App Store department. Namely how the App Store revenue will support iPhone / iOS update model for 5 years that is much longer than industry average on Android.

I actually think if there were a limit it should be limited to whatever the average payment processing fee is, so about 0.3%-3% depending on the country. They already charge for ads, and benefit from the size and scale of the platform, so it's not like the thing is free.

However, the bigger move is just letting consumers pay how they like, without apple taking a cut.

Apple has a huge user experience advantage by being baked into the OS and can be a default option. It definitely doesn't help any consumer to prevent users from being able to use their payment method of choice, and preventing the app maker from having transparent payment methods.

I switched to Android years ago because of how irritating it is to have to go around apple to pay for things.

Something often not accounted for is these stores offer gift cards at much higher payment fee rates (seemingly at least 10%). And you need to avoid a scam where developers just syphon that through.

I believe at least some of the time they also do currency conversion for you which typically nets another 3%

Of course they could always charge a variable commission based on the funding source etc and also charge less than 30 still (eg Apple Cleary thinks it can do 15%). But their cut is not always as simple as 3% or less.

Can be and is the only sole option. Even if Apple's app store is baked in, I wouldn't balk at any commissions they feel comfortable with and any draconian rules they use to extort developers as long as users would have the possibility to install apps outside of the store, but as it's impossible (unless you jailbreak which can be more or less impossible on some devices) it creates a huge issue.

There's definitely benefits on being listed on the app store and developers should have the option to weigh the benefits against the cons to see if it makes sense to allow Apple to dictate their publishing methods and cuts they're taking vs self publishing, but that's currently not an option.

I'm not in favour of governments setting prices, because it's not flexible enough, it's costly for tax payers, and it creates incentives for lobbying (or bribing) the regulator instead of becoming more productive and offering a better service.

What governments should do is make sure that markets work. The global app store duopoly with it's uniform 30% revenue cut is an egregious example of a dysfunctional market that allows rent seeking and absuse of power.

App stores should compete based on their own merit. OS platforms should be forced to offer a range of competing app stores with equal visibility. Then we'll see how much customers actually value Apple's app store.

If you want to destroy the profitability of smaller developers, this is exactly the strategy to adopt.

If you think that dealing with one set of App Store policies designed to benefit the store owner is a problem, how does having to deal with multiple stores with different rules solve that problem?

I am a small developer and I would very much welcome more competition between app stores.

I'll happily read the policies if that gives me a choice to not agree to everything and anything a global duopoly of digital overlords demands.

The imbalance of power in this broken market is stacked against us small developers in the most dystopian fashion imaginable.

Read the policies?

And maintain different versions to comply with the different stores requirements?

Upload in different ways to each store?

Deal with different liabilities that the stores allow to pass through to you?

Respond to bad reviews through all the different stores interfaces?

And for what? What percentage saving do you expect to see? Other stores will not be free.

Deal with when one of the stores gives your app away for free as part of a promotion that you agreed to without realizing it in the small print somewhere?

I don’t disagree that the current situation is bad for independent developers.

But competing stores will only makes that vastly worse.

I’d like to see people actually say what a competing store would do better to help indies.

>And for what? What percentage saving do you expect to see?

I would expect roughly 10% to 15% revenue cut, far more favourable terms, less bullying, less paternalistic content restrictions and above all the option to say no to any individual app store that makes egregious demands.

They have us by the throat. One mistake and you're out. You can be banned for life without recourse. Your career may be over, your skills worthless.

This is completely unacceptable.

Ok - so assume a store opens with a 10% revenue cut, and ends up with 50% of sales.

You still have to support the Apple store otherwise you lose half your sales.

The effective commission is now 20%. So you pay 10% less commission but must deal with 2 stores.

That’s with just a single additional store taking 50% of the business, which is an unlikely scenario.

Consider that it is inevitable that new stores will not all be independent.

Google and Amazon will immediately open stores if Apple is forced to allow 3rd party stores.

Will their cut be lower than 30%? I see no reason for it to be. Google play is 30% right now. Maybe it will be 25%, but they have no reason to minimize the commission.

Will they get significant traffic? Yes - they both have the ability to push their stores via their giant advertising platforms. They will also use the opportunity to push browser based platforms that they control, and which will further fragment the user experience.

Why would they need to dramatically improve terms for developers?

Neither has any record of doing so.

Would they allow all kinds of App? No. They don’t right now. Why would they in future?

So you’re going to have to deal with all 3 of the big stores.

Now assume some independent stores get funded which actually do offer better terms for developers.

What percentage of the market will they realistically get?

And how can you benefit from their ‘less egregious demands‘?

If you want the percentage of revenue from the Apple store or from the Play or Amazon stores, you will have to meet their demands.

Therefore you will either make a lowest common denominator version that complies with the restrictions of all stores, or you will need to maintain multiple versions.

Requiring Apple to allow multiple stores will be more expensive and more restrictive and force developers to deal with even more rules.

It is in no way good for indie developers.

>Will their cut be lower than 30%? I see no reason for it to be. Google play is 30% right now

Yes, I'm sure of it. For instance, Microsoft's fees are just 15% because they are less powerful right now. The more stores there are, the less powerful each of them would be and that would create an incentive for all of them, including the incumbants, to cut fees and offer fairer terms.

We might well see new entrants beyond Google and Amazon - people like Microsoft, Stripe, Puddle, Shopify, Valve, Facebook or startups that don't exist yet. Maybe the content side and the payment/billing side of stores would be run by different companies. Who knows.

As soon as you have credible alternative stores with equal visibility, the most profitable customers will leave the incumbants if they don't relent on fees. Small developers will be able to tag along, because everything else would be seen as obviously unfair.

If you claim that the balance of supply and demand has absolutely no bearing on prices and terms, then I will never be able to convince you. But you're going against every single historical example of how markets work.

I don’t claim that the balance of supply and demand has no bearing on prices and terms. That is clearly a straw man.

I agree that the balance will end up with some stores with reduced fees. Perhaps they will all be forced down to 15%, but you if you are denying that those with greater reach will have pricing power, then you are the one who is going against every single historical example of how markets work.

However unless there is another monopoly outcome - I claim that the result would be utterly destructive to independent developers.

You have now posited the requirement to support as many as 8 stores. That alone will easily offset the benefit of paying 15% less in commission for small developers.

Every app release will be more expensive, and that ignores the fact that the overall system will be less efficient, since every release will result 8 separate app reviews, etc.

Commissions will go down, but costs will go up.

All the benefit of the lower commission environment will be transferred from independent developers to larger corporations for whom the cost of releases is a smaller percentage of their total.

It’s also worth pointing out that Android already allows alternative stores, and yet Google somehow manages to keep charging 30% for the play store, and there are no common alternatives in the US.

How can your theory be correct when this clear counterexample exists? For that matter why hasn’t Google just reduced the commission to 15% or even lower to induce developers away from iOS? Surely they could have done so at any time.

>You have now posited the requirement to support as many as 8 stores

That's a surprising read of what I said. I named a couple of companies that might be interested in running a store. I do not belive for a second that all of them will, nor did I suggest that that developers are required to support every single one of them.

I highly doubt that there will ever be more than three general purpose stores per platform, and perhaps some specialist ones that most developers don't use (e.g. for games, enterprise apps or to serve specific countries).

That and the threat of possible new market entrants will be enough for stores to compete a little bit more for developers and lower their fees from the current egregious rent seeking levels. It will also reduce the risk of getting banned outright from your target platform.

It seems the only point we really disagree on is the additional burden developers would face if there was a bit more choice. I understand what you're saying, but I believe your fear is grossly exaggerated.

Yes, reviews will cost a bit more overall. But that will easily come out of the incredible margins of current oligopolists.

I think part of our disagreement on the burden is the idea that developers would be able to choose which stores to support.

Of course in principle they would be able to choose, but in practice, by doing so they give up a percentage of revenue.

If price competition brings commissions down to say, 15% on average, developers must support a combination of stores with a minimum combined market share of 85%, just to break even on where we currently stand.

Even if the majority of purchases are made from a few large stores, developers will likely be worse off unless they also support some of the smaller ones, and even then, the fragmentation means that the full cost saving of the reduced commission will likely never be realized.

And in this world where there are 3 major stores and some smaller ones. Every serious developer will be required to support all of 3 of the major stores to get close to the current revenue.

The improved margin just isn’t that much once you start losing access to addressable market.

On top of this, as I have said elsewhere, to actually get into all these stores, your app must comply with the superset of regulations.

I think it’s fair to assume that that Apple, even if they are forced to reduce commissions, will not be likely to ease regulations significantly.

The notion of a safe, well policed store, is a core value and one of the reasons people choose the brand.

Even if they only retain 20% of app sales, developers will still need to comply with their regulations if they don’t want to be worse off than before, and in addition will have to comply with whatever the other stores require.

I don’t think there is any gross exaggeration here.

There just isn’t as much gain to be had.

It would be a different matter if Apple could be pressured into reducing margins without fragmenting the store landscape.

My hope is that they do so pro-actively.

>If price competition brings commissions down to say, 15% on average, developers must support a combination of stores with a minimum combined market share of 85%, just to break even on where we currently stand.

I doubt that. I think if there were two or three major app stores, almost all consumers would use all of them.

And even if they didn't, I would still feel far more confident committing to a platform where one particular corporation cannot take away 100% of my customers over night for some frivolous reason and ruin my entire business.

Another upside is that I wouldn't depend as much on the ranking algorithm of one specific app store. My livelihood would simply be far more secure if it wasn't so completely dependent on the whim of one or two global corporations.

I don't have to comply with a superset of regulations. If I'm making something that is only allowed on specialist app stores (such as porn for instance) then my users will find me there. That's better than reaching 0% of users.

Well these points weaken some of your earlier ones.

For example - if it becomes a duo or tri-opoly there is no reason for them to race to the bottom on commission - remember the store’s customers are the app buyers, not the developers.

Stores from Amazon or Google simply wouldn’t need to lower commissions as long as they had more than 15% of the customers to bring to the table.

I agree that the ranking algorithm is a problem and I think Apple should at the least provide an alternate storefront API, but you contradict yourself here by saying you’d be more secure if You weren’t dependent on the whim of one or two global corporations, because you also said you think two or three stores would be used by almost all consumers.

If you are a porn developer it’s true that you’d only need to comply with the rules of a specialist porn App Store.

However the vast majority of apps are not porn and are of mainstream appeal. All of these apps would have to comply with the superset of regulations so this is not a counterargument.

Breaking up the App Store will simply harm the majority of indie developers. I grant that it may help porn producers.

> The single best move Europe could make would be to limit any digital stores to maximum 12% commission.

An app store ballot with mandatory permission for third party stores (save perhaps a small list of rules such as not a dedicated piracy service, but with no editorial lines at all) would be the best.

Then Apple's app store would have to compete in the market. If customers love it's curation as much as some people claim it has nothing to worry about.

This would kill the independent developer.

Imagine if just 30% of users choose just one other store.

Developers would lose 30% of their revenue if they didn’t support that store.

Now they have a bunch more work to do, for no extra money.

If you assume a multiplicity of stores, then this problem gets multiplied.

The likelihood is that there are less than five stores.

The amount of extra work is trivial.

They would receive substantial extra revenue - stores wouldn't have to race to the bottom with IAP revenue, could do things like upgrade pricing, and the margins would fall to a fraction of what they are today. They could make their user experience better than the current mess of having to go to the web to purchase things and then come back to the app, boosting purchases. App stores would have to compete in providing useful toolsets for developers. Developers could attract new userbases of topics frequently censored by Apple, of which there are many.

Independent developers are being choked by the iOS app store and there would be a financial bonanza for them with more stores.

Stores would of course race to the bottom, because they would be competing for customers, not developers. If you think a store with higher prices for the same Apps is going to attract customers, I respectfully think you are wrong.

Developers would have to support any store with customers. New stores would not be developer friendly. They would belong to people with the reach to get the stores to be downloaded.

Guess whose stores those would be - Google’s and Amazons.

There will be no bonanza. No amazing indie stores. It will just be 3 bad stores racing to the bottom, and making things harder for people.

> 12% covers the overhead costs of the stores and still allows a healthy profit for the monopoly owner.

What’s so special about 12%? How would it cover the costs for every platform? Why shouldn’t capitalistic companies in a capitalistic market charge more (like 30%)? Book publishers and Amazon routinely take significantly much higher commissions. So why is the App Store to be treated badly while letting the other industries and companies continue their practices?

While I sympathize with the idea of losing 30% of your revenue just paying to play, I struggle to see Apple as being somehow "extortionate" as others have suggested.

While they didn't invent the App Store as a concept, they did popularize it, and built the software platform (iOS) that allows the apps to run, as well as built the tools and frameworks (swift, Xcode, etc) for building said apps, as well as built the hardware that the software runs on (iPhone), and then spent billions in marketing to popularize the idea of using "mobile apps" in the first place (ie. Remember there's an app for that?).

In addition, when you sell on the App Store, you get free distribution in front of the highest income, most desirable segment of smartphone buyers--because that's the customer base Apple has invested billions in building and cultivating over 40+ years.

Given the above, how is 30% extortionate vs. 20%? It is their platform. Anybody can choose to only create apps for Android instead.

> Given the above, how is 30% extortionate vs. 20%?

The percentage is irrelevant. The fact is they don't have a choice.

> It is their platform.

No, it is people's computers. Why should Apple be allowed to monopolize iPhone consumers? People should be allowed to run whatever software they want on the hardware they bought. The fact Apple created the phone shouldn't give them the right to establish harmful monopolies around it.

Apple gets away with these rates because they restricted the freedom of their users in order to prevent competition. Revenue generated by creating and leveraging monopolies are always objectionable, even if it was 1%. It would be fine if Apple's store offered enough value to justify a 30% cut even in the face of competition.

> People should be allowed to run whatever software they want on the hardware they bought.

They didn't buy hardware, they bought an ecosystem experience.

And anyway, we don't hold that principle across all devices with code in them.

- Including microwaves or refrigerators?

- What about game consoles?

- What about the emissions control systems in our automobiles where bad code causes cancer?

The iPhone and iPad are in a new "What's a computer?" category: appliances.

> They didn't buy hardware, they bought an ecosystem experience

Repeating the propaganda of one of the largest corporations in the world, I think, does little to advance the argument.

In any sane modern system of property rights, people bought the hardware. That entails ownership of the device.

Presently there is a disconnect between hardware purchase and ownership that does not occur with non-software goods. This is a legal oversight.

The "right to repair" and "right to modify" etc. did not need to be explicitly granted historically because there was no disconnect. Today they do, and so they should.

> What about the emissions control systems in our automobiles where bad code causes cancer?

The law prevents pollution, not EULAs.

It’s not propaganda. It’s the early steps to “I, Robot”.

Italian for soul is ‘anima’, that which brings the body to life.

The human mind, body, and soul are one, so too the mind, body, and soul of the machine — for machines that benefit from soul.

Yes, all of these things should have free software.

There's been much written on this subject, especially by the FSF and GNU: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-hardware-designs.en.html

> And anyway, we don't hold that principle across all devices with code in them.

Who is this we? I hold that principle and so do many free software advocates.

> What about the emissions control systems in our automobiles where bad code causes cancer?

Tampering with and disabling emissions systems is already illegal.

> Including microwaves or refrigerators?


> What about game consoles?


> What about the emissions control systems in our automobiles where bad code causes cancer?

That too.

Whoever wrote the software must take responsibility for the impact it causes on society. If the car manufacturer's code is defective and causing excessive emissions, the car company will be held accountable for that. Same reasoning can be applied to others. If the user replaced the company's well-tested software with their own, the user should be held accountable for the results. If some car performance tuning business wrote custom software for cars, they should be held accountable for the results.

Give people power and allow them to take responsibility for their actions. People should be free to accept whatever defaults they get but they should also have the power to change things if they want to.

If regular users were clamouring to be allowed to install apps from places other than the official App Store I think your argument would carry more weight. It seems to me though that it's developers asking for the rule changes for their own self interest but presenting the argument as if it would benefit end users. The App Store clearly offers enough value to justify the 30% cut because developers are voluntarily choosing to enter into that agreement and develop software.

So ultimately both developers and users are voluntarily choosing to use or develop for iOS. iPhones have maybe 15% global market share of smartphone devices so plenty of people are choosing from the alternatives, so I don't think the anti-trust argument can even seriously enter the conversation.

Producers of physical products have no natural right to force supermarkets to carry their products, nor to dictate terms to supermarkets.

> then spent billions in marketing to popularize the idea of using "mobile apps" in the first

They didn't do it for charity though.

> In addition, when you sell on the App Store, you get free distribution in front of the highest income, most desirable segment of smartphone buyers--because that's the customer base Apple has invested billions in building and cultivating over 40+ years.

It's like saying that Google should get 30% of every website's revenue due to them indexing large chunks of the web. Also, Apple directly profits by having a large amount of apps available for their hardware customers.

Maybe Apple should be paying developers to write apps?

Of course they didn't do it for charity. That's my point. They spent billions on development and marketing to risk the idea people would want to use mobile apps from an "App Store." Spoiler alert, people liked it. Shouldn't they be rewarded for taking that risk?

Or is the problem just that they became too popular?

Also, the Google analogy would only work if websites were directly built on google's platform. Google did not create HTML, doesn't host your website, and doesn't provide the hardware and browser software for you to access it through.

> Shouldn't they be rewarded for taking that risk?

They are already, every time someone buys an iPhone because of the large supply of apps that exist.

> Also, the Google analogy would only work if websites were directly built on google's platform.

They do. They benefit from Google's crawling and indexing infrastructure which they researched, developed and host on their hardware.

> Google did not create HTML, doesn't host your website,

They are one of the biggest contributors to HTML, CSS and JavaScript both in standardisation and implementation.

Also tangentially, in the AMP standard Google does host your website.

> and doesn't provide the browser software for you to access it through.

They provide Google Chrome which is exactly that.

>Shouldn't they be rewarded for taking that risk?

In a market economy, popularising a concept and taking risk should only be rewarded to the degree that it gives you a headstart over the competition. That reward should peter out over time as new competitors enter the market.

If the market structure (for whatever reason) turns out to be such that new competitors can no longer enter the market then that is a dysfunctional market that doesn't serve its purpose.

Clearly the network effects that govern operating systems are so strong that the likelihood of new market entrants is extremely low. App stores don't compete on merit. They derive their pricing power from the fact that market forces have ceased to exist.

So the question is whether we should allow the handful of companies that dominate operating systems at any given point in time to leverage that power to set prices in related markets without any restriction.

At what point does that result in rent seeking that frustrates risk taking and innovation?

i’ve got many reasons for that :

- you are forced to purchase an apple computer to push to the app store (which are more expensive)

- you are forced to use the app store to deploy to end-user phones that they bought. There’s no other « app store » than apple’s one, because it’s forbidden by their app store guidelines in the first place

- you are forced to pay and register your company on the app store to deploy on iOS devices inside your own company.

- they can, and do, remove your authorization to deploy your own app on your consumer’s devices at any time, for any reason,without any appeal possible to a third party legislator. And thus, they can kill your business at any time (and they did many times).

It’s a totally controlled environment in which you pay the apple tax over and over again, for having the privilege to be f*cked over at any time, for any reason.

I’m never going to develop on non cross-platform tools ever again.

I believe you are immensely discounting the totalitarian duopolistic nature of the system, a facade of "competition" between two not only ideologically aligned, but even essentially colocated centers of totalitarian and supremacist power and control over us is not choice, let alone freedom.

It seems rather naive to believe believe that "simply create/move to Android" is a viable solution. There is no easy or even cheap way to switch between Apple and Android if you don't like one or the other. It's simply not a viable, let alone reasonable choice/option And, again, both of the options consist of corporations that are so mutually aligned in basically all ways that they may as well be divisions of the same corporation; which they essentially are … akin to the various corporations the European aristocracy used to enrich themselves on the backs of their own serf/slave class as well as the people of various places all around the world.

If one looks back on history and laments what was done then … but does not realize that the very same strata of society are doing the vary same types of things using the very same methods and machinations to achieve it … is simply being herded by these global corporations that are dominating us all, just as they divide and pitch us against each other in order to control and distract us from the shackles they are placing on all of us.

You may shrug and dismiss lamentation about 30% vs 20%, but that's basically no different than saying; what difference is 1000% markup vs 900% markup in the company store of the mine/factory that you are essentially a prisoner/slave on with only theoretical/imaginary, but no real or practical alternatives.

We are in a kind of digital, online tyrannical regime and most people seem to not realize that as they are too distracted by the constant two minutes of hate being fed them by the tech tyrants who fear more than anything else that we all realize what they are really up to. As Zuckerberg once put it (I witnessed it myself) "I want facebook to replace the internet". Did he say that in support of self-governance and free speech?

With Reference to this: https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#mul...

  3.1.3(b) Multiplatform Services: Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app.
Can i offer a differential pricing choice within my app. In other words if user buys on my 'website' the price is $100 and if user decides to make an in-app purchase, the price is, say, $130 (100 + 30% Apple Tax)?

Just a reminder not to use code blocks for quotes because they do not format well on mobile or web :)

You'd have to charge $143 in order to make your target of $100 after Apple takes its 30%.

The killer here is, you are not allowed to say your customers that there are other ways of subscribing.

Good luck.

Yes you can, and people do.

Yes. Spotify did this for a while, as I recall.

It would appear to me this is the perfect solution for Hey then. Put a purchase option in the app with a clear statement you can get 30% off the subscription price just by going to the website. It could even look like a great offer to prospective customers: 'hey I just needed to go to the website to get a 30% discount!'.

Any reason why they wouldn't just do this instead of trying to fight Apple on their (in this case IMO pretty egregious) rules?

Apps are not allowed to advertise other ways of subscribing when in-app subscriptions are an option. From section 3.1.3(b) of the guidelines:

"You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase." (https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/)

Not allowed by Apple. Part of Rule 3.1.1:

> Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.

Yes, telling customers they can simply get a discount online is prohibited. Yes, they have rejected apps for this before.

Youtube does

Apple has been facing rage from developers over the commission structure of the App Store for years.

I don't have it handy but DHH, when he went off on this on twitter yesterday, noted that in March Apple decided to be much more strict with enforcing this.

Also, DHH is now using his megaphone on this issue.

How many of the earlier ones lead to EU antitrust investigations?

Echos of the anti-trust post that went to frontpage earlier today. Seems to be building to some sort of crecendo.

Linking as i think the comments apply peripherally https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23548674

Couldn't the behemoth apps, some of which get a pass from the subscription rules -- Netflix, Slack, Spotify, and others that are too big for Apple to not support -- end this practice pretty easily by insisting they will leave the platform unless Apple agrees to a change in terms?

Honestly, if it comes down to a game of chicken, who has more to lose? Netflix, Slack, Spotify, and other subscription apps who still get a ton of revenue from non-Apple sources? Or Apple, who now has to deal with a deluge of irate iPhone owners who want their popular apps?

Almost seems like it would be appropriate to have a union of iPhone app developers and collectively bargain.

who gets a pass from subscription rules?

And no, Spotify (market cap $36B) is not going to win a game of chicken against Apple (market cap $1533B). Apple users aren't going to switch to Samsung, they'll switch to apple music or w/e.

Some video streaming apps do [1], and countless SaaS companies like slack get a pass for the issue hey.com faced. You cannot subscribe through the app but access your premium service through it.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/1/21203630/apple-amazon-prim...

I think the PR nightmare will definitely leave an impact on Apple and iPhone users.

It goes against their interest, why would they do something that helps competing apps?

Does it assuredly go against their long-term interests? My assumption is that the longer this goes on, the more emboldened Apple will be to start extracting a cut from even the larger apps. That is already the case with Spotify. Maybe down the road, Apple demands that Netflix give it a cut. I guess it depends on where you assume Apple's market share will be in a few years. If we expect Apple to be even more powerful then, it would be better for these apps to have that face-off now.

I think that if there is only 1 music app in the app store, it has its place solidified in stone.

It’s worth noting that ‘force Apple to allow other stores’ is equivalent to ‘force indie developers to support other stores’.

And also paradoxically allowing other stores with fewer restrictions actually means more restrictions for developers.

This is because if you are forced to support all the stores, your app must comply with the superset of the restrictions.

Apple must improve the store policies to support developers, otherwise the web will just win in the end.

However requiring them to support multiple stores will just kill off indie development even more.

I don't know whether 30% is fair or not. But I'd be very very hesitant to develop software where I'm reliant on a mega Corp with monopoly power AND that Corp view me the way whales view krill. That's what both the Android and Apple markers are. 30% would be a lot fairer if there were a guarantee that you wouldn't be dropped from the platform with no appeal by an algorithm...

Can apps charge 30% extra if you subscribe within the IOS app? Can they show the breakup? If yes, this should be a non-issue.

Yes. No.

Youtube Premium is one high profile example of this. They charge more on iOS but can't tell you that you're overpaying for convenience of using IAP.

A breakdown or mention of Apple's cut is prohibited.

I’ve knowingly paid the premium in the past, just because I know can easily cancel. (Like NYTimes)

Yes, and costs of churn also explains why it's 30% in the first year of your recurring subscription and only 15% after.

If Spotify costs 30% more than apple music, showing customers the breakup won't be of much help.

Why even demand a percentual rate and not a flat fee per item? This discussion should go beyond the App Store and into payment processor and similar “platforms”. I’m aware that businesses use these platforms to conduct their business but at a certain point these platforms become inevitable and you’re basically at their whim.

If they were forced to a flat fee, that flat fee (that would give store owners similar margins) would be unaffordable to most little players.

The real problem here is that the App Store is a monopsony.


How so? That link describes a Monopsony as a situation where there is only one buyer; are all iOS device users "buyers" from the App Store?

Developers are the sellers

Apps are the goods

App Store/Apple is the buyer

Yes, Apple is both a monopoly and a monopsony for Apple devices. Just like Marks & Spencer is for Marks & Spencer products. But M&S isn't the only supermarket and Apple isn't the only smartphone manufacturer. In fact both have pretty low marketshare.

This is a genuinely hard problem that capitalism doesn't give any kind of easy answer to.

Obviously Apple is allowed to charge a fee. The App Store costs serious money to run -- to develop, maintain, support.

But when the App Store is the only place apps can be published for iOS, and more than half of worldwide mobile app revenue is made there, there's no competition.

Nobody else can go and create their own separate iOS App Store with lower commissions. But the kicker is, there is a real consumer benefit to that -- the entire iOS world is built on a premise of security and privacy that only comes from having everything locked down and controlled by Apple, from a secure enclave to approved apps.

There are really only two solutions here:

1) Legislation to define this as a special kind of monopoly situation (a new definition of monopoly, at least in the US) and create some kind of profit cap where Apple isn't allowed to charge more than x% over revenue. But which feels pretty icky -- the government stepping in to tell you you're not allowed to maximize profit like any other business. And what's the legal basis for deciding whether the "allowed profit" is 5% or 50%? 10% or 12%? 0% or 100%? You can invent an argument for any number you want, but ultimately it's entirely arbitrary.

2) Legislation to require Apple, Google, Microsoft, and all OS's generally to allow third-party fully-integrated app stores. But which will obviously do serious damage to the reputation of the iPhone (and mobile devices generally), when people start to associate them with buggy malware apps that drain your battery and use dark UX patterns to trick you into giving them all your location, microphone, etc. permissions.

But both seem pretty gross, totally non-market, government-intervention. But Apple's 30% cut is also pretty gross at this point.

It sucks there's just no obvious, elegant, good solution here.

But when the App Store is the only place apps can be published for iOS, and more than half of worldwide mobile app revenue is made there, there's no competition.

With respect, this feels like a goose-with-the-golden-eggs scenario. If we take away Apple's App Store revenues, won't their investment in iOS suffer? Which means they'll make it less attractive? Next thing you know, Apple has joined the Android market in a race-to-the-bottom.

That would be a nice windfall for Google and Samsung, but if their revenue reflects the value users place on their products, all we've done is remove an option from consumers, and the end up with less choice.

I'm not sure we can disrupt their business model without taking something away from consumers.

I think that there are some half-measures that can help, especially with the in app purchase 30%:

1) Make it required to be transparent about where the pricing goes: All in app purchases must break out Apple's share and the developers share. The idea being that it becomes more difficult for Apple to sell such profiteering to the general public... who actually have the ability to vote with their wallet and move to another platform.

2) Make it illegal for apple to force subscriptions to external services be available using the in app purchase framework. This allows developers to avoid the fee (at the cost of the convenience to their users).

3) Make it illegal for apple to prevent the disclosure of cheaper options elsewhere, perhaps while allowing them to prevent directly linking to such options. (Allow the statement "Go to our website for 30% off!", but actually linking to the website within this statement is ok for apple to prohibit)

4) Require the same fee and enforcement for all developers.

The combination of these puts downward pressure on Apple's fees by forcing transparency and putting the cost of high fees on Apple, rather than on the individual developers. It also evens the playing field by preventing sweetheart deals with large companies.

I think #2 would only work if no apps were freemeium, or if dev licenses were more expensive (like playstation sdk licenses).

Otherwise, I assume, apps would just skirt all fees as standard practice.

I think there is a line that is pretty easy to define there: if the app is an add on to a subscription (the subscription is useful without the app) and someone would actually purchase the subscription without the app, then the app can point to the subscription page. If the subscription isn't useful without the app, then apple deserves their share.

> the entire iOS world is built on a premise of security and privacy that only comes from having everything locked down and controlled by Apple, from a secure enclave to approved apps.

Why is this such a popular opinion? If the security of your system relies on manual curation, your system is _fucked_. Security should be based on the user granting permissions, and the system communicating those permissions in a way that is clear and understandable. Which, fortunately, (as far as I am aware), it is.

Honest question, why is 30% cut gross? what makes 30% gross and 10% not gross?

Honest answer, it's the practical knowledge (from experience) that if there were competing app stores, it would be nowhere near that high, because there's no way the costs for Apple are anywhere close to that ($30 for a $100 app).

Now that being said, a market-based solution would probably be structured very differently, something like $1 a year per thousand installs, plus $200 per any app update that changes features (isn't just bugfixes/performance), plus a 6% cut of sales. It's highly unlikely that paid apps would be able to subsidize free apps the way they do now.

So while there would be winners (like Basecamp), there would also be big losers (hobbyist/independent free apps).

The equivalent default stores in other systems charge the same. Google's services is 30% as well, and Steam is 30% as well. So it's "market price" for Native Store.

>There are really only two solutions here:

The compromise is to let Apple/Google pick their poison.

1) Zero/fixed low commissions but (almost) total control.

2) Any commissions but relaxed control.

I'd argue capitalism has handled these issues in other realms successfully in the past.

Before it was railroad monopolies. It took a decade or two, but Washington brought antitrust action against them. I'd argue the delay is a good thing within reason as we see how new industries evolve. Too long and you strangle commerce. Too short and your forced changes strangle innovation or are ineffective.

The simplest is forcing Apple to allow 3rd party app stores. That may have the unfortunate side effect of making apple's App Store less secure if the fees charged are forced down below what it costs to do good security reviews. But it's not like any % revenue guarantees 100% perfect app reviews.

Apple has been so customer hostile with these decisions on the App Store.

Offering IAP isn't a problem. Heck forcing IAP isn't a problem, IF there is a way avoid it - and the best way is to force them to charge .99 but allow outside IAPs.

But they choose the worst possible method: forcing a customer to go outside the App Store.

I think these Apple App Store review practices are the main reason why its filled now mostly with bullshit lifestyle and spammy garbage games. No serious developers that I know want to deal with this crap by their choice anymore, it’s all Apples little kingdom there cultivating nothing but spammers that pay to play in it.

Well that's the free market at work. If users are unhappy they can move to different platforms and Apple will have be forced to make things more attractive for developers and users.

the most careful, thorough, high-design value Apple iPhone app developer I know of, whose product was widely praised in the media with high-profile customers, went broke and now works for a local city government. Basically, even his living expenses in this part of the world, were not met with the income from the App Store.

Since the topic up top is Apple commissions, would an extra 10% or an extra 20% changed his life?

Sometimes the Problem is the business model not as much the overhead costs.

Exactly - the 30% is a complete red herring, as is the desire to sell outside the App Store.

What is not, is the inflexibility of then App store’s pricing models, and the single storefront for all kinds of App.

Depends on his costs. I imagine plenty of businesses would be wiped out or never reach profitability if their primary revenue stream was 10-20% lower.

EDIT: meant 'lower' not 'higher'

Successful app dev here - he didn’t go broke because of the commission. It’s just a very competitive endeavor.

How does it work for game consoles? Don’t developers have to pay for an sdk license _and_ a percentage of sales too?

Am I the only one here that thinks they deserve a cut for building such a platform?

A cut, yes. But a business-threatening third of the pie for essentially zero work on their part is extortionate and chokes the innovation in the whole app ecosystem.

I'm sure that App Store creators can chime in and expand more on that with real numbers on their balance sheet and what they mean in terms of being able to afford rent on a monthly basis.

Not to mention them bullying out competing products like Spotify.

They don't have to use in-app purchases, but they do because it's easier and quicker.

They're paying for that convenience - don't want that? Fine - just like Prime Video - pay on the website, not the app.

Edit - welp, ok, take it back, seems like that's what Hey was doing all along.

They already get paid for building the platform when people buy their devices.

The device mainly cover hardware costs and margins. The AppStore is a service.

A device is a one time buy

Have you ever looked at the history of the app store? When iPhone was first released, there was no app store. Instead Steve Jobs said:

>There’s no SDK that you need! You’ve got everything you need if you know how to write apps using the most modern web standards to write amazing apps for the iPhone today.

Before the app store, Jailbreakers were already distributing apps for the iPhone. The only reason there are no competing app stores for iPhone os because apple prohibits it. Over on Android there are competing stores. The smaller have very small market share, yet they do exist and have other rules. Apple is using the fact that they make iPhone to force developers to pay a 30% cut.

> Am I the only one here that thinks they deserve a cut for building such a platform?

Let me rephrase the question. Should a company be allowed to extract as much money as possible from consumers simply because they benefited from an economic environment that cannot support a large number of competitors?

Besides, what did Apple actually build? They didn't write those apps. The people/companies that did all the actual work were the ones that "built" the platform.

Would you consider your desktop computer or laptop a platform too?

I consider the AppStore and the guaranteed compatibility to all designated Devices a good value service.

They get a sizeable cut when they sell the phones. There's no need to let them have another 30% of whatever is done with that phone later on

The hardware doesn’t cover everything Apple does that’s why you need to pay for other Apple services. The AppStore is another service. They manage most of the hosting, checking etc too much to list here for you

No need indeed. Buy Android or Linux phone or use web apps.

Are you seriously saying this? Or because you love Apple so much that you are blind?

Their phones aren't free, they are some of the most expensive. Plus user doesn't have an alternative app store on iPhones.

The only reasonable anti-trust regulation would be to allow competing app stores to be installed on ios devices. there is absolutely no reason why a device should be locked down to a single software purchase system.

the obvious solution would be to breakup monopoly - force Apple to divest AppStore as a separate company and allow Apple to accept third-party appstores

why consider Apple/AppStore a monopoly given that consumers have the freedom to choose an Android device?

same logic as in MSFT+IE. MSFT lost that lawsuit as far as I remember, despite there being alternative desktop OSs based on linux.

Apple+Appstore is actually a repeat of MSFT+IE monopoly and should be broken up as such

Bigger concern is the consumer/business lines they draw on IAPs as listed by DaringFireball & DHH over Hey email client.

Let's be honest, this is a publicity stunt by Hey.

The terms of the App Store haven't changed (outside of the 1yr sub provision) in years. They knew this before making their app.

The founders of Hey are seasoned professionals. They knew they could manufacture a scandal and it would put their new company in the news.

There is no such thing as bad press... especially when it freely promotes your app launch.

<slow clap>

The terms haven't changed, but their enforcement has evolved recently. That's the merit of having vague enough rules; you change the interpretation over time without changing officially changing the terms.

Also, said enforcement isn't equal across apps offering similar services (ie Basecamp vs Hey)

I didn't say the Apple wasn't in the wrong... my focus was on why Hey was bringing this to the forefront now.

They went into this with eyes wide open.

I really hope this get's traction. Apples app store is modern day slavery.

This is not an accurate analogy and extremely insensitive in any time, let alone right now.

Agreed that Apple should be consistent in their enforcement of their rules. However, you can opt not to use the App Store. If you think that will impact your product, then this confirms that the App Store provides value - value you will need to pay for.

> However, you can opt not to use the App Store.

You cannot really opt not to use the App Store if you want to create apps for that platform.

> If you think that will impact your product, then this confirms that the App Store provides value

I'm not sure it necessarily confirms that. You might want to use it because it adds value. You might need to use it just because it's essentially a monopoly (if you want to reach iPhone users, that is).

If users could directly download apps without going through the store _or_ they could use the store, and people chose to publish their apps on the store then, yes, I would agree, that demonstrates it provides value, and it's reasonable to Apple to charge for that.

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