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Apple rejects appeal from email app Hey (axios.com)
235 points by ksec 27 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 322 comments

Some people here seem to be responding to all of this inappropriately.

The simple fact is that Apple is injecting itself as an intermediary in the payment process and extracting a preposterously oversized commission for no meaningful added value.

And it's easy to see that Apple knows what they're doing is wrong. They strictly prohibit developers from signaling that there's an extra cost for purchases made through Apple's system or that there are alternative payment options available. A well-informed consumer would be a clear threat to Apple's gravy train.

This system should have never emerged to begin with. It's highly unethical and, given the direction things are taking [1], will likely be found in violation of antitrust laws.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/13/supreme-court-rules-agains...

Anyone know what console makers charge developers these days? My experience is from several decades ago, and is comparable to what Apple charges in its store.

But is that unethical as well?

I mean, this story happens to be about Apple, but obviously other retailers could be, (obviously are), engaging in the same practice.

Depending on the developer / publisher but the standard deal is about the same.

Same goes for Steam.

Steam is a counterexample though. You don't have to deliver your PC game through Steam, and many of the big publishers have opted not to.

Both Apple and Steam provide discovery and network effects, which help to justify their cut, but, as Jason Fried mentioned[1], you can't opt-out of these discovery benefits with Apple.


> You don't have to deliver your PC game through Steam, and many of the big publishers have opted not to.

A better analogue would be that you download WoW free from Steam, then take a subscription at Blizzard. Does Steam allow that?

no, again, this would only be a reasonable analogy if there were _any other way_ to download software onto an iOS device, which there is not.

It's not Apple's _dominant_ position as a delivery mechanism that counts - it's their literal monopoly on it.

I've uploaded 3rd party CD keys to steam and they've allowed me to download the game (multiple times) and stored my saves etc...

That’s only if the publisher allows that, or in many cases these are “Steam Keys” which are sold in emerging markets where credit and debit cards that can be billed internationally are quite rare.

Yes. Just because you bought a game on Steam doesn't mean you have to purchase all additional content through them as well. Steam installs full-fledged applications directly in the OS, not locked down sandboxed apps like on iOS.

AFAIK if you bought the game from steam all subsequent micro transactions form that account/client still incur a fee to Valve.

The Steam apps are “sandboxed” as in you cant run them without Steam, they use their own executable that is tied directly into Steam.

Steam will get a cut, they have different rates for conversions and micro transactions.

You can buy CD keys from other websites to activate a Steam game, so yes.

Publishers pay for allowing retail key linkage and in most cases today you are buying Steam Keys from markets where these are sold in stores instead of a retail version and Steam gets a cut.

    Steam keys are meant to be a convenient tool for game developers to sell their game on other stores and at retail. Steam keys are free and can be activated by customers on Steam to grant a license to a product.

    Valve provides the same free bandwidth and services to customers activating a Steam key that it provides to customers buying a license on Steam. We ask you to treat Steam customers no worse than customers buying Steam keys outside of Steam. While there is no fee to generate keys on Steam, we ask that partners use the service judiciously.

It seems like this is not the case.

The simple fact is that Apple is injecting itself as an intermediary in the payment process and extracting a preposterously oversized commission for no meaningful added value.

You mean like every retail store - digital and physical?

You're describing stores that exist in a competitive ecosystem with price variation. The analogy breaks down because "buyers of products" doesn't map one-to-one with "owners of iPhones" and because distribution of physical goods actually has significant costs.

Assuming you are in fact in the tech industry, you should know that near-zero marginal distribution cost is one of the core principles underpinning software economics.

I'm also not arguing that Apple shouldn't pass some of the costs it incurs to provide apps (e.g. APN, engineering costs, etc) on to developers and by extension on to consumers. But it should be priced fairly and transparently.

A flat 30% fee without the ability to itemize that for customers or signal the existence of alternative payment methods is just wanton, nefarious extortion.

The 'right' solution would be to charge a specific, itemized "Apple device usage fee" that's separate from and in addition to the primary fee for a service itself. Apple deserves to take a portion of revenue specific to the provision of a service to its users. I can't see an argument where it deserves to take a portion of all revenue developers receive.

But Apple is not permitting this because it would pull back the curtain on their rapacious practices and their customers, having already paid a significant amount of money for their devices, would almost certainly be quite angry about it.

Spotify is a good example of the distortion occurring because of this misguided system. They're charging customers $12.99 if they subscribe through the App Store instead of the $9.99 they would pay outside of it for exactly the same service. So, right now, some Spotify customers are being needlessly pillaged by Apple when, unbeknownst to them, they could get the same exact service at less cost. Spotify apparently had plans to email affected subscribers to alert them about this nonsense situation, but I don't know what became of that.

Let’s talk about console makers then.....

How many stores actually “transparently” tell you their markup?

Tim Sweeny [1]:

> “There’s a rationale for this on console where there’s enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers.”

I guess it really just comes down to console makers acting like a partner whereas Apple acts more like a mobster running a protection racket.

1) https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/3/17645982/epic-games-fortni...

Apple invests an enormous amount into R&D to make their devices. For example, they make their own CPUs, which happen to be some of the fastest ARM chips you can get.

I don’t think it’s any different from consoles. The main difference is that with a console you know what the deal is.

With an App Store app, the problem is you don’t know if Apple is going to deny your app on an inconsistently applied rule after spending 2 years making it.

They sell their devices at a healthy margin. Their financial interest in the device should stop at the till. If they want to sell additional software and services then they can prove their value on a competitive level playing field.

Right now they are double-dipping, not because of value they are adding, but because of the power they have given themselves over the consumer/developer relationship.

So is Amazon “double dipping” on the Kindle are the console makers? Are grocery stores for marking up products and having slotting fees?

The App Store is a service.

I disagree, it's a market.

If you allow 3rd parties to sell something, you create a market. That market should be free and competitive.

If you want to keep it a service, don't allow 3rd parties in.

So Amazon, EBay, the console makers, FaceBook should all offer their markets freely?

Not offer their market freely, but make it competitive, yes.

But the Android ecosystem also invests hugely in R&D, it's just spread over more companies.

With consoles the primary justification was always that the hardware is sold below cost. This is purely to the benefit of the game developers, all the risk falls on the console maker, so they accept it for that reason. The iPhone is not only not sold below cost but its price has never fallen in the entire lifetime of the product, from what I recall.

I see the game console argument come up a a lot and I really don’t think it sticks.

Game consoles are not general purpose computers and have a much more narrow intended purpose. Apple themselves argue that the iPad is just as capable (or more so) than your typical computer, which means that we expect it to be capable of computer-y things which are inherently flexible and versatile, not hamstrung by Apple’s rent-seeking behavior.

This also isn’t about 100% transparency of Apple’s costs — saying it is misdirects. We don’t know their costs (though it certainly is below 30% of all revenue passing through in-app-purchases), that isn’t the issue. Requiring 30% of others’ revenue and being forbidden to even mention alternatives is another matter.

What makes a console less of a “General purpose computer” than a phone?

Again. Just like consoles and the Roku - the console makers get a cut of every game sold - even physical games. At one point, Nintendo limited the number of titles third party companies could publish and force them to use their manufacturing facilities.

No retailer just sells things at a markup that covers costs.

A video game console isn't used for programming, video production, writing, homework, etc. You know what I mean. The fact that they are specially packaged PC parts is beside the point.

You keep bringing up video game distribution though, so let's roll with it. Pretend all of software was like video game distribution. How much worse would software be for users? Imagine FOSS on that.

Well, taking in account that a console is a computer, running an OS, I would call it a general computer. Just because people don't port emacs to it doesn't make it less than a computer.

And in effect, I did create a editor for scripts to run on the Xbox 360 many years ago so QA could tweak things, so it is possible, but developers just publish games. If the only 'apps' developed for the iPhone were games, would it stop being a general purpose computer then?

Also, didn't the PS3 have an official linux bistro for a while? Blue something?

And a phone isn’t “specially packaged” and is used for “video production, writing and homework”?

Software would be better for the average user if PCs (and Macs) had tighter permission models - no viruses, spyware, adware, ransomware, surreptitiously reading your contacts without your permission, etc.

I think most can agree the OS should sandbox apps appropriately, and allow access via permissions and such. But like most things, it can be taken too far. The fact is you can't buy a console or iPhone of the shelf and easily (or legally) run your software on it without special permission from Apple or Sony etc.

The distinction is video game consoles are not general purpose. Just like nobody is going to write an essay on an Pinball machine, nobody will (ordinarily) do so on a console. If a game developer need to follow special rules to get into the console market, that's par for the course.

In contrast, on Windows/Linux/Mac/Android I can run whatever software I damn well like without talking to Microsoft/Canonical/Google/etc. It is truly 'general purpose'. There is no required gatekeeper for these systems (as much as they are try to make themselves one). iOS stands in contrast to these - it is not 'general purpose' if I can't run whatever. If Apple decides some software is not allowed on the store that is not 'general purpose'. That is something else - gatekeeping. So when they advertise 'general purpose' that is only true until they decide they don't like something. And they can change their rules anytime they want.

To the 30% thing, every retail store has markups they don't advertise and that's perfectly fine. If Apple or a retailer wants to charge me for access to their store, I'm happy to pay.

But when they force a change to a product and company in arbitrary ways to suite their whims that's pretty concerning because it's a sign they are abusing their power in a very historically been-done-before way. Think about it - 50-100% of a target market is controlled by them. You can do whatever you want - why not charge 50%? 70%? There is no competition - it's literally whatever the highest is you think your PR department can get away with. Not sure how you feel about anti-trust, but sure feels like abuse to me.

But when they force a change to a product and company in arbitrary ways to suite their whims that's pretty concerning because it's a sign they are abusing their power in a very historically been-done-before way.

You mean how Walmart forced the music industry to edit CDs or they wouldn’t sell them or how they force manufacturers to sell crappier versions of their products to meet a price point?

Or do you mean again how Nintendo is infamous about the strict content controls they have on games and have since the 16 bit days and no blood in Mortal Kombat?

Also, see how movie theater chains are saying that they won’t show studio’s movies if they start releasing straight to consumers now even though most movie theaters are closed?

We could also mention GameStop threatening not to sell MS consoles this generation because of their original intention to make games harder to resell.

Why do you keep bringing up examples of other corporations acting like jerks to excuse Apple acting like a jerk?

That's true, but that sort of sandboxing and permission models do not require a gatekeeping corporation to seek rent from everyone who wants to build for the platform. In fact it requires no interaction from the corporation at all.

iOS's app sandboxing and permissions model would work just as well if apps could be sideloaded.

Sandboxing won’t stop shady and illegal developers. Neither will review. The story of what happens to a platform when you allow any crap on it goes back as far as the original Atari 2600 to Android that has four times the market share but still less revenue for developers.

And yet the Google Play Store is fine. Is there more malware on it than Apple's App Store? Sure. But people use it every day, and the world hasn't fallen apart. They could certainly do more to root out malware, but that doesn't mean full-on gatekeeper with draconian rules like Apple has done.

The difference is that the video game developer has priced the console-maker's cut into the cost of the product, and that's the only way it can be sold.

Spotify charges a lower monthly price if you sign up on their website (and then go and sign in on iOS) than if you sign up through the iOS app.

Whether or not this hurts Spotify isn't at issue here; there are Spotify customers who are paying more than they have to because Apple refuses to let Spotify tell them about the lower price.

I think this is the only reasonable way to deal with this. You can't expect Spotify to take the hit. Apple demands extra money for users who sign up through the iOS app, so it's only reasonable to let the users who choose to sign up that way, pay the additional cost that comes with it.

Of course this would be entirely reasonable if it was a conscious choice by those users, but Apple is intentionally keeping the market non-transparent, screwing their own most loyal users.

And that’s what Spotify did when they allowed in app purchases. They charged more for going through the App Store. Do physical retailers go out of their way to say that you can get a product cheaper somewhere else? Can manufacturers advertise in Walmart that consumers can get the item cheaper if they go to Amazon?

Just throwing this idea out here, but maybe game consoles and retail stores are also operating unethically?

Wow so now retail stores that have literally been around in one form or another for thousands of years are unethical?

For what it's worth, retail stores have been consolidating over the last several decades (and longer, but much less than thousands of years). If you want to sell your product at Walmart or Best Buy they're going to squeeze you on the wholesale price. Sometimes the savings get passed on to consumers, sometimes they don't.

It's not the concept of retail is somehow unethical, but certain stores are certainly less ethical (in how they treat employees, customers, environment, etc) than others, and some of those stores are very widespread.

Also the thousands-of-years argument holds up pretty poorly for a lot of things.

Then perhaps laws should be updated to reflect the digital age?

I wouldn't mind one bit if there would be a general inquiry for practices of all app stores.

So we want government price controls.....

Do you know the margins of retail stores?

Last time I checked it was not close to 30%

You may be surprised to learn that retail stores pay the manufacturers for their products (at "wholesale" prices), and are free to sell them at whatever markup they wish.

Thus, retailer margin can vary anywhere from negative (doorbusters) to 1000% (i.e., alcoholic beverages).

We are talking about software in particular - I cited software sells.

An app developer is free to charge 43% more to still get their desired amount.

I think it's safe to say that game retailers are not representative of all retail.

I worked at Radio Shack in high school. It was about that for electronics.

But since we are talking about software. How is all retail more relevant.

Ok, if you want to narrow it to software, then it's even more ridiculous, since putting something on a physical store shelf has a lot more real cost than processing a payment or copying a piece of software that has no physical presence.

>The simple fact is that Apple is injecting itself as an intermediary in the payment process and extracting a comically oversized commission for no meaningful added value.

Frankly anyone who says this with a straight face is being absurd. Apple's commission isn't for "payment processing", promotion, any particular API, or service they provide on their platform. That they do all of those things makes it an attractive place to develop for and sell your product, but it isn't the reason why they get to charge 30%.

They charge 30% because they've amassed 1 billion extremely valuable users who are willing to spend money on apps in their marketplace.

> They charge 30% because they've amassed 1 billion extremely valuable users who are willing to spend money on apps in their marketplace.

Apps that are made up to 42% more expensive (NOTE: the 30% fee applies to all in-app purchases and the first year of subscriptions) in a way that's entirely opaque to those users. The fact that you think this is okay is the only thing I find absurd.

You also seem like someone who is for some reason predisposed to be an apologist for Apple's monopolistic business practices. You certainly don't represent what would likely be the average/majority sentiment of Apple's customers, were they sufficiently informed.

>Apps that are made up to 42% more expensive

Well, maybe not apps, but subscriptions surely.

Would they also be unhappy if they knew the markup for every store? The markup for soda and drinks in a restaurant? Is there anyone who doesn’t know that retailers markup goods?

Those places are handling physical goods and they have a lot of real costs associated with their services. That's not the same as Apple taking 15-30% of revenue for a subscription where the developer is running the entire backend and all Apple does is host a few install / update files.

There's no developer on the planet that would agree to that deal if Apple couldn't use the customers from their phone business as leverage to extort developers on the software distribution side of things.

It's more like a bouncer at a club getting 15-30% of ALL revenue because they control the door.

You mean like developers didn’t agree to give retailers 60% of their revenue when they were selling physical discs?

Why do developers overwhelmingly give Google 30% of their revenue when Android users can sideload?

Should we also complain about the much larger margins that Amazon charges independent authors for Kindle? The amount Google charges for ads?

Sideloading on Android is a PITA by default, but it's enough of a backstop that some developers like Tinder and Epic have been able to give Google the middle finger.

There are cases where 30% of revenue makes sense. For cheap, purchased apps it's a good deal because the cost of running that infrastructure is comparatively high. However, once you hit a certain volume of sales or move into subscriptions, the value of the services being provided by Google and Apple don't make sense and it would be better to run your own infrastructure.

Seeing what Epic was willing to do to get out of the Play store is a really good indicator of how bad of a deal it is at scale.

And I thought traditional retailers chose their own markup, didn't they?

And as far as Epic, sloppiness by third party developers is a great reason for the App Store.



Most retailers do choose their own markup. Ironically, Apple got sued for working with book publishers where the book publishers set the price and Apple chose the markup.

However, the book publishers wanted this arrangement because Amazon was selling ebooks at a loss devaluing the hardcover and paperback books.

Isn’t the play store famously full of malware?

I think there are a lot of people who don't understand just how much retailers mark up some goods. But they're starting to get the idea now that D2C is increasing and you can see items sold directly by businesses at prices much lower than on e.g. Amazon.

>You also seem like someone who is for some reason predisposed to be an apologist for Apple's monopolistic business practices. You certainly don't represent what would likely be the average/majority sentiment of Apple's customers, were they sufficiently informed.

I'm willing to defend Apple because I'm tired of disingenuous arguments from either parties with self-interest or FOSS advocates who have some ideological opposition to Apple's closed nature (and have since the beginning of the App Store and decades before that with Macs).

Apple's customers don't care about the margin structure or costs of app developers. The App Store has massively increased both the supply and demand for apps, and it has actually led to a decline in prices for software. Everyone knows this because they've been complaining about how they can't charge as much for apps as they did in the packaged software days.

I'm sure Apple's customers care about how much money they spend. That's the whole reason Apple strongarms developers into masking the higher cost of products delivered through Apple's app store.

I don't know anyone who would like the idea of paying an extra 15-30% for a product because of a do nothing middleman that's managed to monopolize a portion of the market based on demand aggregation.

It's literally the definition of what I've always understood anti-trust to be. Apple is using their domination in the phone market to manipulate the software distribution market.

The current tech companies (all of them) make 90s Microsoft look like a charitable organization. It's unbelievable to wander around the internet and see so many people advocating for systems that are terrible for the average consumer.

Wealth inequality seems to have an inverse relationship with average intelligence.

If Apple doesn't think their customers care about the Apple Tax, then why do they structure their rules such that app developers can't even hint that the customer might be able to pay a lower price by signing up on their website? Seems like Apple is afraid if they allowed that, customers would spend a lot less through Apple's payments platform.

> They charge 30% because they've amassed 1 billion extremely valuable users who are willing to spend money on apps in their marketplace.

This is almost the textbook definition of extortion. "Hey, wouldn't it be a shame if you lost access to all these potential customers? You better give us 30% of your revenue."

You are paying to access the pool of customers. You never had the pool to begin with so you aren’t paying to not “lose access”.

Imagine there was a certain kind of fuel required for all cars made by a certain manufacturer, and that manufacturer used DRM to restrict which companies could sell fuel to the car. In order to fuel the car, the manufacturer requires 30% of the fueler's revenue to authorize fueling. They provide no services for this fee aside from payment processing. Now imagine that that car company has 50% of the car market, and their only competitor is similar. Does this seem wrong?

This makes it seem like they are apples customers to give, vs the entire population of the world who has a choice between apple or android phones, or not having a phone.

Arguably, that's not true for a typical mail service.

I don't disagree.

But you do realize you could also be describing the credit card market?

I think most people understand that the parent could be describing credit card markets, and I don't think that anyone is trying to make the case that credit card companies don't also take anti-competitive actions.

But the typical credit card fee is ~3%, which is literally an order of magnitude less, and Visa/Mastercard/etc also don't prohibit their merchants from accepting other forms of payment.

They do, in fact, make agreements with merchants to lock out other forms of payment. It isn't universal, true.

They also contractually forbid merchants from taking actions that could make the fee more apparent to consumers, which drives up prices for non-credit customers, although there isn't a direct analog for Apple I can think of.

> They also contractually forbid merchants from taking actions that could make the fee more apparent to consumers

Has this changed over time, though? I often see a lot of brick-and-mortar merchants advertising different prices for cash/debit vs. credit. I probably see it most often at gas stations, but I see it in regular retail stores and restaurants sometimes as well. I moved to a new house earlier this year and even the movers offered a lower price for cash.

Definitely. In the U.S. at least, there were literally laws in place prohibiting merchants from mentioning credit card surcharges or changing prices accordingly, although details varied by state. Supreme Court ruled against one a few years ago on a free speech basis [1]. Now more, if not all, are being challenged.

[1] https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=c1069ffd-dafb... (hopefully the link works)

A lot of the 'discount' for cash is not really because of the credit card fees but if only 10% of the folks that pay cash don't ask for a receipt, they are pocketing serious money that isn't taxed (at least it is in my country)

What’s the typical markup between wholesale and retail? How much does every single digital store charge - including the console makers?

You seem to know a lot about it. How do the fees / costs work in the console market?

Microsoft charges 30% for Xbox games. The link also mentions Windows store fees that are a lot cheaper.


As far as physical stores, the publisher gets $27 out of the $60 for a typical game. The console maker gets $7 out of the $60. I’ve seen this sane chart other places.


If MS charges 30% for doing almost nothing but putting an XBox game in the store, that's also a scam. I don't know enough about it to know if they provide other services like matchmaking, etc. for that.

The rest of those seem reasonable to me.

The publisher is basically your marketing budget, right?

Retailers' shelf space has a cost and is limited physically. They could be using the same space to sell literally anything, so I think whatever the price of that ends up being it's probably a result of competition across a ton of industries.

The licensing fee is ok too IMO since the console makers take a huge risk producing and selling the consoles as cheaply as possible. It also sounds like a well known, flat fee, not a cut of ongoing revenue.

The problem for me is when digital stores with a tiny marginal cost of distribution think it's reasonable for them to capture a huge portion of lifetime revenue. They're not doing that much. It's bad value and the only reason they can make it work is because they're in a position that lets them act like an extortionist.

It's the cut of every single transaction for the lifetime of a customer that people think is unfair. Ex: $27 to a publisher is fine if it's a one time fee and they're providing $27 of value by advertising etc.. They could never ask for 40% of revenue for all future transactions like DLC and microtransactions because there's enough competition that no one would use them and they'd go out of business.

Do you feel SASS companies are also unethical because the marginal cost of a customer is 0?

And then the publishers also have to pay MS for DLC. I think MS still charges for delivering patches through MS Live. They might have dropped it.

I'm not going to touch the space about MS, Xbox, or the like because I have 0 insight into that space, but I will point out that the marginal cost of a customer in many SaaS companies is most definitely not 0.

For anyone who is doubting that assertion, it’s all about the costs that scale with the number of customers you have. Beyond the hosting and server costs, there’s support costs. There’s customer acquisition costs (eg click-throughs on ads scale with the number of people click the ads). For more expensive/enterprise SaaS, there’s the account managers and sales team.

You can grow your customer base dramatically with a smallish team of engineers/recurring engineering costs, but many of the costs surrounding them still grow in a linear way.

And Apple also has to host your app and your assets, provide storage through things like CloudKit, provide services through GameCenter, customer support and refunds, centralized notification system etc.

... and in the EU credit card fees are highly regulated.

The same fate will probably befall Apple, too.

Just because someone else is doing it too shouldn't make it any less wrong.

Yes that's why credit card fees were cut by law in the EU to ~0.3%

If Apple are taking issue with this being a “consumer” email service, Fastmail[0] have exactly the same setup, download the app but have to go to website (no direct links) to signup and pay. How is it not also blocked?

My only thoughts are that fastmail is also accessible through imap and has corporate accounts with centralised billing. If Basecamp add company accounts to Hay, which they have always said is coming later in the year, does that not fix the problem?

[0] https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/fastmail-email-calendar/id9313...

Heck if we're talking about inconsistency we don't even have to look at other apps. Apple itself already approved Hey (and it is in the App Store right now), but is now rejecting updates, simply because it got assigned to a different agent this time around.

This time, the agent is Tim Cook.

The problem is, Apple taking a cut from service where they

   don't own the device (you bought it from them; you own it)
   don't provide the network (you contract for that yourself)
   don't provide the content
Its just some kind of strong-arm tactic - they do it because they can. Like some bouncer outside a club who demands money, but is not employed by the club nor the act. Just standing in the door and demanding money, and you have to pay because you want to get in.

All this splitting hairs over exactly who they strong-arm and who they don't is beside the point.

And the console makers? Google Play? The movie theaters? Amazon? Spotify?

Google Play is a bad example here because you can absolutely use app stores like F-Droid or Amazon to get content onto your device.

Arguably, they have problems as well, but it's not an apples to apples (no pun intended) comparison.

One has a completely locked down ecosystem that people are worried to speak against lest they lose access to it.

The other has alternatives, albeit ones without huge traction. It does allow you to make decisions about whether Google Play gives value (discovery, etc).

So how has that worked out for developers who chose to use alternate stores?

You are confusing market access and distribution. If I wanted alot of eyes on my app and I saw a benefit from the appstore then I would pay the 30%.

All I want is being able to give to MY customers, who I paid MY money to acquire, a native app. Apple is refusing to allow this, unless I pay protection money. Textbook rent seeking


I can think of many exampled that have worked out. In some cases, apps like Gambling apps are not allowed to use the Play store at all, and yet manage to just fine and get installed directly as APKs.

It definitely varies business to business, and I'm not saying that I wouldn't put my app on Google/Apple, but that is because I do need the discovery.

In the case of Basecamp, they bring their own customers and network. This is true of a lot of big companies and Enterprise apps (some of which have exceptions already).

Those are all very different propositions where the company brings some value - the theatre itself, the player software, the content/catalog. A good illustration of how bankrupt the Apple Walled Garden is - just a fence to extract money with zero added value.

How well did the mobile developers do before the App Store when they tried to peddle their J2ME apps on feature phones? What are the chances that game developers would entice the whales to buy loot boxes and tokens for pay to win games if not for an easy payment method?

Does Amazon provide value with the Kindle? Does Valve with Steam? Amazon market place? eBay? The console makers?

The theaters don’t bring too much value as evidenced by them holding on by tooth and nail trying to convince the studios not to go straight to digital.

Kindle: you can load books from other sources, you can also read Kindle books on other devices

Steam: you can redeem keys purchased from other stores, install apps from other stores, and they don’t mandate using their system for in app purchases

eBay: do they have any policies like this? I haven’t heard much about them or made an eBat purchase in a decade.

Amazon Marketplace: There actually is a strong argument here that they capture so much of the market that opting out is not an option. This is very similar and already under much scrutiny.

Game Console: Also very similar to this. I expect they will lobby hard on Apples side for that reason.

Kindle: you can load books from other sources, you can also read Kindle books on other devices

Apple participates in Movies Anywhere Sling with Amazon, Google, Vudu, and a few other vendors. If you buy a movie from any of the participating studios, you get credit for purchasing for all of the stores.

You can also purchase physical movies from other places and redeem codes to get credit as if you purchased them from iTunes.

Apple doesn’t require that you must only use their subscriptions. You can subscribe outside of the store. You can every charge more subscriptions to make up for their 30%.

Of course you can opt out of Marketplace. You can set up your own website with places like Shopify.

I know I’m late here but you buying that steam key from another source means that valve gets its cut anyways. To issue that key they had to give them cut.

…and you know what? If Apple's payment system makes your app better, you can use it! That's how it works on Android, and it sometimes bugs me when things use their own payment systems, but that's also the point. Google's payment system brings value. Sometimes it even brings '30% per purchase' worth of value. Why does Apple have this weird inferiority complex about theirs?

And you can also have additional payment methods outside of the App Store and charge less if you desire.

Good examples of stores that don't charge for content delivery outside their premises. They are clearly different in this critical way.

Actually, all of the console makers charge game developers a per game fee no matter where you buy it from.

Roku is infamous for not allowing content distributors (except for Netflix) to be on it unless they get a cut.


Hey is free to offer subscriptions at a 43% premium through the App Store and still get its full amount.

That's a pretty obvious straw man. They take a cut for the marketplace. Which is the service apps rely on.

Except these apps aren't really using the marketplace. Pretty much the entire service is being delivered outside of the marketplace and they purposefully don't charge for the app download so as to not use the payment processing of Apple.

Apple is trying to force apps to go through the marketplace and their payment processing, however, also forcing them to take the 30% markup. The policy as followed here is "Everything you provide you have to provide via Apple's services so we charge you extra".

Apple is charging developers for the rights to distribute on their platform. You will see this model everywhere around you: theme parks, grocery stores, e-commerce websites. The fact that the world's most profitable company has to play by different rules is quite frankly ludicrous.

What does the marketplace do for a subscription app after it's installed? Even if you think Apple deserves some money for referrals / customer acquisition, 15% of lifetime revenue can't be a number you think is fair for that.

How do you estimate the (non-)fairness of a distribution channel?

Again, they don't provide the channel, once the app is installed. Not the device; not the network; not the content. They just extract money with rules.

Again, they do provide the channel before the app is installed. If you know the economics of acquisition vs. retention you should understand that the former is usually more expensive/valuable than the latter.

I'm perfectly willing to entertain arguments about the right amount Apple should charge for that, but it seems to be an all or nothing discussion, which doesn't seem really sensible to me.

Its the coercive element that is objectionable. They go to extreme lengths to keep their market closed, which is obviously not for your benefit but so they can do this thing. Not because a free market leads folks to adopt the Apple marketplace, because there is no choice.

The lengths folks go to apologize for Apples essential extortion is amazing.

Where's the extortion is the case that needs to be built here. "I can't sell my app at no cost to the most wealthy segment of mobile users" is not a credible complaint.

They also require apps to go through their walled garden. If they had an F-Droid equivalent (Cydia doesn't count here) then maybe people would be more amicable to this rebuttal.

Apple has an abusive relationship with developers. I bet this harkens back to Jobs being pissed about jailbreaking and having to open up the platform. I think the culture still reflects that basic misunderstanding at the company. It's ironic, because it's the apps and developers that made the iPhone what it is - case in point, "There's an app for that," which they actually went and trademarked. https://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/mobile/10/12/app.for.that/inde...

Agree it seems short sighted of Apple to me

Windows Phone largely failed because developers had abandoned the platform and "There is no app developed for that" ended up being common

You have no idea about how Nintendo and all of the console makers treat developers. Roku won’t let commercial streaming apps on their platform without making a deal with them.

Seems to be a case of whataboutism. Just because someone is doing it doesn't make it any less wrong.

It’s how the industry has worked from day one. “Wrong” is an opinion. In a legal sense it’s “precedent”. This is how the entire industry works. Before Apple, software developers only got a 30% to 40% cut to be in carriers app stores. Yes they had app stores where you could buy J2ME apps. Most retailers have a far greater wholesale to retail margin than 30%.

> “Wrong” is an opinion.

So people aren't allowed to have opinions anymore?

> The company notes that the store has been operating for more than a decade and has never raised fees

"We've never asked for more than a third of your income, what's the problem?"

That's absolutely hilarious and tone deaf at the same time. Lol.

they didn't ask for 50% or 80%, so instead of being thankful like some fanbois you are being sarcastic /s

If apple would just insist on taking it's cut from ads and indirect revenue from surveillance and spyware, so many of these problems would go away. Apple currently effectively subsidizes the surveillance of its users with adware and spyware apps getting free ride.

The only problem with this approach is that it's basically completely unworkable. But other than that minor issue, it's a great idea. Maybe the ad revenue side of things could be done, but the spyware side is hard to even come up with a theoretical valuation.

While it's theory only, one could even theorize gmail having to put a valuation on the user profile data gathered and give Apple a cut. Either that or stop surveilling its users.

Are people actually asking Apple to get in the ad business? It’s already a step too far that they sell ads on the App Store.

They were in the ad business years ago with iAd. https://developer.apple.com/support/iad/

And it was a complete disaster.

What's infuriating is Apple's inconsistency. Some apps offer subscriptions outside of the app store and are still there (including Basecamp!)

There might be other examples, but Basecamp doesn't fit. Most Basecamp users don't pay for Basecamp, a company does. It is like Jira, individual users don't pay for it. Basecamp also has a limited free plan, as does Jira Cloud.

Hey is currently only for individuals, there is no free option, every user must pay.

(I'm not defending Apple taking a cut of subscriptions. Just pointing out a difference.)

I think you nailed it. All the consumer subscription apps I could think of offer in app purchase. While the apps that target businesses do not. It seems Apple is enforcing their rules to selectively target consumer oriented apps.

Which, from a consumer point of view I appreciate it. I like Apple subscriptions.

However, for the businesses selling the 30% cut is hard to stomach.

Hey is taking $10/month. With $7/month revenue going to them they will still be the most expensive email app available, so I don't see why it would be so hard to stomach.

$99/year != $10/month. It's $8.25/month. Also something like Fastmail is $9/month (or $90/year) with 100GB of storage (which is what HEY provides) - so it's actually pretty competitive pricing.

Sure, $8.25/month, but for fastmail you just picked the most expensive option that most people don't need. $5 is standard pricing.

> All the consumer subscription apps I could think of offer in app purchase.

Netflix doesn't.

I don’t think it’s fair to use Netflix as an example. Netflix is big enough to make their own rules. We don’t see internal business arrangements but I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be flat fee between Apple and Netflix to settle that.

Hey is trying to do just exact same thing but surfing on the verbosity and not business power per se.

Isn't that exactly the problem here though? A big business like, say netflix has enough clout to get what they want.

A smaller business or an individual has no option but to get screwed by apple because they have no power.

Shouldn't we be fighting for a level playing field?

That depends on ones philosophy. It's a driver vs passenger issue.

Big companies such as Netflix, Disney etc. are drivers, they have impact on the user base. If Netflix stopped working on Apple's devices we would see huge outflow of users.

Hey on the other hand is a passenger. Sure, they might have 50k users in the queue, but them not being on Apple's platforms will probably shrink this number significantly. It's unlikely that Android users will switch to Apple because of the Hey experience.

From that it boils down to personal views. If one thinks that driver should have the same amount of power as passenger this scenario is upsetting.

Yet this is not universal view and I'd argue that the opposite view is the "norm". We have celebrities who can get more while spending less, specialists in the fields who have a lot of bonuses average Joe doesn't and well known businesspeople who have access to business which are out of reach. Do you imagine having 1.8b$ debt ? And yet Donald Trump was in that position long before he became POTUS.

Hey is exercising the same stuff. They want to become celebrity to slide. They don't fight for the change of rules. They fight for Hey to be approved.

And this is why anti-trust laws exist.

Netflix has in app purchases, but you are right. Their billing faq says it is for grandfathered accounts only.

I've yet to see where that distinction is codified in the rules.

EDIT: Having deployed a few apps in the past which required login and not being harassed, I thought something else was going on.

This seems to be an unspoken policy change. I'm joining the outrage bandwagon now.

> What's infuriating is Apple's inconsistency. Some apps offer subscriptions outside of the app store and are still there (including Basecamp!)

That doesn't violate guidelines. Unless your app takes users outside of the app store to purchase stuff(including the subscription itself) without in app purchases.

Having an app requiring login is ok. It doesn't matter that the login is protecting a paid service.

To clarify, Hey does provide only a login, and no outside linking (or reference to outside payment, as Apple requires). Apple is now requiring that in-app-purchases must exist for "consumer apps" that aren't "readers", based on a changed interpretation of existing rules. If the above sounds ambiguous to anyone reading this, that's the issue.

>Unless your app takes users outside of the app store to purchase stuff(including the subscription itself) without in app purchases.

Where did Hey take users outside of the app?

'Hey' itself may not be doing this right now, I don't know. I was referring to:

> 3.1.1 In-App Purchase:

    If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. 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.

This isn’t true for most of the OTT streaming cable TV apps. They all require subscriptions.

There’s a special clause for this type of ”reader” apps and it allows external subscriptions.

”3.1.3(a) “Reader” Apps: Apps may allow a user to access previously purchased content or content subscriptions (specifically: magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, access to professional databases, VoIP, cloud storage, and approved services such as classroom management apps), provided that you agree not to directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods are not designed to discourage use of in-app purchase.”

Looks like for example Netflix app does even show a link to their registration page. You can only login to existing account.

Hmm...I thought Netflix on an iPhone told you that you had to go to the website to actually sign up.

I don't have one to test it though.

> Unless your app takes users outside of the app store to purchase stuff(including the subscription itself) without in app purchases

Hey doesn't do this and DHH was very explicit in the many steps they took not to step on this rule.

I don't think picking a fight with Apple as a PR strategy is a good move. The rules on the app store are very clear, if you're charging a subscription for functionality you're providing through an iOS app, that subscription must be available through Apple's payment system. I know people don't like that, but it's not unexpected. So given that Hey knew the rules, it seems a bit manipulative for them to submit their app and then go on a massive PR campaign about how outraged they are. I understand that they may feel that the app store rules are unfair, but this whole fanfare seems ridiculous to me. Instead they seem to think that they're going to benefit from picking a fight with Apple - it reminds of small youtubers who make expose videos about big youtubers to try and get people''s attention.

>The rules on the app store are very clear

Are they? According to Protocol.com, which got in contact with Apple over the thing:

>Apple allows these kinds of client apps — where you can't sign up, only sign in — for business services but not consumer products. That's why Basecamp, which companies typically pay for, is allowed on the App Store when Hey, which users pay for, isn't.

But if I search for the word "consumer" in the App Store Review Guidelines, the only result is the following:

>Data gathered from the HomeKit API, HealthKit, Consumer Health Records API, MovementDisorder APIs, ClassKit or from depth and/or facial mapping tools (e.g. ARKit, Camera APIs, or Photo APIs) may not be used for marketing, advertising or use-based data mining, including by third parties. Learn more about best practices for implementing CallKit, HealthKit, ClassKit, and ARKit.

Is there another set of rules that actually covers the things that Apple says if the rules are "very clear"?

> >Apple allows these kinds of client apps — where you can't sign up, only sign in — for business services but not consumer products.

Does that mean Netflix is a "business service" and not a consumer product?

Netflix is excluded by the "Reader exception".

>Apps may allow a user to access previously purchased content or content subscriptions (specifically: magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, access to professional databases, VoIP, cloud storage, and approved services such as classroom management apps), provided that you agree not to directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods are not designed to discourage use of in-app purchase.

According to Apple/Phil Schiller, any application not explicitly mentioned in this category must offer subscriptions as IAP.

>"We didn't extend these exceptions to all software," said Schiller. "Email is not and has never been an exception included in this rule."

Gmail doesn't actually have to offer Google One subscriptions through the Gmail application. I imagine they are covered by the "cloud storage" exception, which makes me wonder if Hey could also get around it by giving Hey users some cloud storage with their email subscription.

> provided that you agree not to directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase

Netflix does exactly this. In fact, Hey uses nearly the exact same wording that Netflix does, almost word-for-word.

It's hilarious to me that an app that exists to let you read email is not covered under a "reader" exception.

It is very unclear. The rule has been that you cannot advertise that it requires a subscription or provide a link.

There are literally a dozen apps that I am personally aware of that require subscriptions and don’t allow in app subscriptions.

- Netflix

- Sling TV

- ATT Now (DirecTVNow)

- ACloudGuru

- Kindle

- Youtube TV

- Spotify

- Microsoft Office

- Hulu Live TV (not regular Hulu)

Add every single traditional bank to the list. If you don't have an existing contract with a bank you can download their app but you won't get past the login screen.

They have a specific section in the rules for "Reader" apps like Netflix and Spotify. It's not unclear, it's been there since 2018.

How is "reading my email from the hey server" different from "reading a video from the netflix server"?

Neither app functions without a separate, non apple subscription. The main criticism of Hey, from apples perspective, is that the app doesnt just work when you download it, but the same applies to netflix.

I personally think Hey could get around it by adding some other kind of feature to the app, like a way to read their blog. When it opens on IOS you have a "sign in" or "continue with the free version" and the free version aggregates basecamp marketing copies, as long as that free version isnt just a webview, but some enhanced native experience.

Can they also advertise the cost of their service, through the applepay experience, as "x+30% apple tax"?

With how much of their app is server side (nearly all of it, minus the translation from HTML to native,) I wonder how much they can get away with, without updating the client.

The other interesting thing about this dynamic is, Apple shipped Leopard with Ruby on Rails, which Basecamp created. So in the past, Apple took Basecamp's open source code to make OSX more valuable, but now when Basecamp wants to benefits its users, at no real cost to Apple, Apple says "not without paying us our cut." Maybe not morally wrong, but at least stinks of bad karma.

>How is "reading my email from the hey server" different from "reading a video from the netflix server"?

Because Netflix is the dominant one in the relationship, an iPad without Netflix is a broken iPad to the sort of people who buy iPads.

and email service without an iOS app is a broken email service so Apple intends to take advantage of that.

Read the full statement that Apple gave to Hey and the media [1]. If Hey made their email client a standard works with any email account then it'd be fine without in-app purchases. The specific Hey service could be purchased outside the App Store if they want to avoid giving Apple a cut.

[1] https://twitter.com/markgurman/status/1273719726196187136

I don't think Hey wants to be an email client that works with other providers. They should make their free feature something else entirely.

I do not understand how they don't qualify as a reader app

How about Gmail or Yahoo! Mail?

Is there anything none free about either?

You can buy a subscription to remove ads in the latter and add storage in the former.

The Gmail app is not exclusive to the Gmail email service. You can use it to access other email services. Google Photo and Google Drive which are tied to only Google services offer in-app purchase of additional storage.

Yahoo mail has a 99 cent in app purchase according to the page in the App Store.

It seems that most of the above either offer some features for free or offer in-app purchases:

* Spotify offers free tier

* Kindle doesn't require buying books, technically you can use it to read documents that you send to your free account

* Netflix and Youtube allow to subscribe and pay via app-store

I'm not sure about the rest, but it seems that even Netflix and Amazon follow the rules.

Netflix doesn’t allow in app purchases anymore.


iTunes billing for Netflix is not available to new or rejoining Netflix customers.

If you are attempting to create an account on an iOS mobile device, you can sign up on Netflix.com using a mobile browser and will be prompted to provide an alternate method of payment.

Neither does Youtube Live.


This is yet another sure sign that the playing field is not level, and that big companies are treated differently

But that's true of literally any business - e.g. if I go to Warner and ask them to license some music for my game, I'm going to get ignored. If EA want to license music for a game, they'll be getting lavish dinners and a selection of fine wines along with a menu of the new bands Warner want to pimp.

Again, the rules are clear, readers are a specific exemption. I would say that Microsoft Office stands out in tht list as the only thing delivery functionality not content - but I don't know the details of that app.

I would say that example breaks the rules, I don't know how popular it is - we need to be realistic about how often an App store with millions of apps is going to miss something.

Well yeah, people & companies with a lot of money get a different set of rules. That's the same in the app store as it is in real life.

I'd be much more interested in seeing in change in real life before some silly app store.

Maybe it's the number of users. If the iPhone was the phone you can't watch Netflix with (or any similar service), maybe a lot of people would buy an Android device.

These are all exempted app categories. Email is not:

> “You download the app and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” says Schiller. This, he says, is why Apple requires in-app purchases to offer the same purchasing functionality as they would have elsewhere.

To be clear, this is against the App Store rules for most apps. The exceptions here are apps that are viewed as ‘readers’ that only display external content of certain types like music, books and movies — and apps that only offer bulk pricing options that are paid for by institutions or corporations rather than the end user.

Schiller is clear on our call that Hey does not fit these rules.

“We didn’t extend these exceptions to all software,” he notes about the ‘reader’ type apps — examples of which include Netflix. “Email is not and has never been an exception included in this rule.”

By itself, this argument makes sense. But the problem is how wildly unevenly it is applied. If you're "big enough" you get a pass.

Also, they got their first version through without any issues or a peep about this rule. And only when they needed to push a codefix is when they got held up.

If you're going to have rules, they MUST be applied evenly.

How do you "get a pass if you're big enough"? If you're trying to use Netflix or Spotify as an example of big companies getting a pass then it'd have to only apply to them. But it doesn't.

Smaller subscription video or music apps could use the same section in the App Review Guidelines for "Reader" apps to have an app without in-app purchases that you buy outside the App Store.

In what bizarro world is an email reader not allowed to use rules that apply to "reader apps"? Especially when things like video and music services, that involve no reading, can.

This doesn't mean the Guidelines are foolproof and always consistently applied.

If you're just trying to read the Guidelines as legalese then it seems to me like there's some serious ambiguity with what exactly the "Reader" section allows.

It seems like Basecamp gets a pass based on the "access to professional databases" exemption. But at what point does a service that caters to consumers AND businesses cross over that line?

The App Store Review Guidelines have been a nightmare to parse through and the Review process an inconsistent mess for many years now. IAP really took it to a whole new level.

> problem is how wildly unevenly it is applied

This is one of my biggest frustrations with App Review.

It's easy to convince clients to budget for a few days exploratory work that might be rejected, but they're less inclined to do so with the possibility of an approval not being permanent, and then having to sink a lot more money into reworking that functionality at an indeterminate point in the future.

Sometimes you get stung because you're genuinely trying to slip something through that breaks the rules, but other times you get a reviewer with an axe to grind. One app I worked on was in the store for 18 months before they took issue with the way we'd implemented subscriptions. They were also not happy that there were links to Amazon, which if you clicked around for a bit, would take you to Prime Video or Amazon App Store.

One time, we had an update rejected for having the word "Android" in the app.

While technically mentioning "other mobile platforms" is prohibited in the review guidelines, in this case it was in user-submitted content that you could only find through search.


>But the problem is how wildly unevenly it is applied. If you're "big enough" you get a pass.

>If you're going to have rules, they MUST be applied evenly.

It's also possible that it is being applied evenly, it's just that the big guys negotiated private exemptions.

> It's also possible that it is being applied evenly, it's just that the big guys negotiated private exemptions.

... which means it's not being applied evenly.

That's fine, let me install software without going to the App store.

If one is able to install software without going into the App Store, then one is also liable to be socially engineered into installing software from outside the App Store.

No thanks. Keep iPhones in their walled gardens where they are safe. Androids exist for experimentation.

> No thanks. Keep iPhones in their walled gardens where they are safe. Androids exist for experimentation.

That's fine too, don't strong arm me out of 30% while letting others get away with no paying that. Some people want a walled garden (you) and dont mind paying for it, others would like to install software of their choosing without letting Apple know what they install and by who.

If there’s an option to opt out of the walled garden, people will be fooled into taking it. There is no way to differentiate between you, who wants to install what they wish, and those people that believe it is really Apple cold calling them.

Apple is not a monopoly, so I feel their attitude here is fair.

Apple is based in a country that allows you to buy firearms in your local grocery store.

This IAP policy has nothing to do with security though.

There is. By only allowing purchases by in app purchases, Apple can force the app developers to be fair in their return/refund processes. There are tons of scummy companies and developers want to take money from the customer and not return it if the customer is unhappy or even when they are exercising their legal rights and hope the customers to not bother for their 1 to 5$ purchase.

Believe me, the rules do make sense.

And the many stores we can trust are more important than hypothetical abusers. Hypothetical abusers can be addressed in other ways, for instance Microsoft shuts down malicious servers and entities using lawyers and law enforcement.

Law enforcement will do a lot of good if the author isn’t in the US....

You've been able to do that for a while now. Without a paid developer account you can self-sign any app you want to run for 7 days. With a paid developer account you can install whatever private apps you want.

So I have to pay Apple more to write software and install it on my own device that Ive paid for and own fully?

The developer agreement states that you're only allowed to sideload apps that you're responsible for developing yourself. Maybe if it's open source you could make an argument for that being allowed, but it's not a general purpose install path for consumers.

Technically true.

> “Application” means one or more software programs (including extensions, media, and Libraries that are enclosed in a single software bundle) developed by You in compliance with the Documentation and the Program Requirements, for distribution under Your own trademark or brand, and for specific use with an Apple-branded product running iOS, watchOS, tvOS, or macOS, as applicable, including bug fixes, updates, upgrades, modifications, enhancements, supplements to, revisions, new releases and new versions of such software programs.

> “Provisioning Profiles” means the files (including applicable entitlements or other identifiers) that are provided by Apple for use by You in connection with Your Application development and testing, and limited distribution of Your Applications for use on Registered Devices and/or on Authorized Test Units.

However in practice, for example, I use the Apple Developer Program with Cydia Impactor to build and install apps like Spike and xDrip on my kids iPhones (they are both T1D). It's basically point and click. [1]

[1] - https://spike-app.com/install-spike-using-cydia-impactor/

That's the thing, the rules aren't clearly defined, and aren't universally equally enforced and thinking that they are is naive. I've had numerous apps launch without question, then in a subsequent update have gotten rejected for stipulations in the App Store guidelines that I honestly don't remember reading, only to appeal and have the appeal succeed and my update be approved. It is, and always has been, up to the reviewer you get as soon as you get passed the automated binary checks.

I have several apps on my phone that I subscribe to or utilize services with payments outside of the Apple ecosystem.

A quick list (surely more): Ring, car insurance, Amazon, Chewy, Mercari, eBay, Zoho apps, Intercom, Nest, various credit cards, Spotify, Netflix, YouTubeTV, Meetup, 1Password, Griddy, Dropbox, credit monitoring, grocery ordering, etc

If anyone, they should be the one to do it. Basecamp/37Signals is established and has enough money to fight the fight without being included in the bickering like it would happen if Google or Amazon did it.

Not to say anything is coming from this, but at least they do have enough money to make buzz.

Then they should enforce this policy across the board. There are many examples of other apps doing what Hey is doing, without this charade.

Yet this is a very important problem, apple blocking people from having other app stores, and taking a large 30% cut of the revenue. Showing real harm convinces some people who only see theoretical problems.

This is a disingenuous response.

There are countless examples of other applications that have done exactly what Hey is doing without being banned. This is not clearly against the rules. To the extent that it is against the rules, Apple has deliberately phrased them in vague ways to let them change the meaning later. It is the exact opposite of “very clear”; it is abusive. Even Apple fans like Gruber agree.

Explain Spotify and Netflix?

The Hey app copies Netflix almost exactly, even in the language used for the subscription? How is that very clear for a rule?

I don't know about Netflix but you can use the Spotify app for free, right? Now from what I understand, Apple says that you can't do anything with the "Hey" app until you get a subscription[1]. Which is then different from the Spotify app.

[1] "The Hey Email app is marketed as an email app on the App Store, but when users download your app, it does not work," Apple said in a letter to Basecamp CEO Jason Fried on Thursday. "Users cannot use the app to access email or perform any useful function until after they go to the Basecamp website for Hey Email and purchase a license to use the Hey Email app."

You can’t do anything with Netflix without paying.

But Netflix offers in app purchases.

No it doesn’t.


Edit: I usually don’t comment on downvotes but what the hell?


iTunes billing for Netflix is not available to new or rejoining Netflix customers.

If you are attempting to create an account on an iOS mobile device, you can sign up on Netflix.com using a mobile browser and will be prompted to provide an alternate method of payment.


That's what the App Store shows me...


iTunes billing for Netflix is not available to new or rejoining Netflix customers.

If you are attempting to create an account on an iOS mobile device, you can sign up on Netflix.com using a mobile browser and will be prompted to provide an alternate method of payment.

That's presumably to support users who have existing subscriptions. GP showed that they do not allow people to pay for new subscriptions.

You can't even make an account for Netflix inside the application.

Other than a short free trial. Like hey has.

Section 3.1.3a[1] of the App store review guidelines. There is an explicit distinction drawn between free apps that allow you to access purchased content.


They seem to fall under the “reader app” exception that I understand as basically consumption of licensed works such as movies, songs, books.

My guess is that those categories just don’t have the margins to support a 30% cut without charging more then other platforms. An email service, dating all or games are basically arbitrary prices where every sale is making some money for the company. The store cut is annoying, but basically it’s still revenue.

Another problem with this PR campaign is that it really doesn't give Apple an easy way to back down even if they wanted to.

I believe Apple specifically called this out in the past. Something about running to the press won’t help your case.

The rules on the store in this area have changed interpretations without notice. It not being a new rule but becoming far more strict all of a sudden is a big part of the issue.

Also, going to the press works. DHH is taking one for the team by fighting this.

I think it’s pretty shitty to characterize this as them picking a fight. They’re getting totally shut down.

To describe the App Store rules as pretty clear is just beyond. Come on.

> "All the rules they're citing should apply to Gmail and Outlook as well," Hansson told Axios. "

I agree Apple is being inconsistent here, but not vis a vis gmail and outlook. Those are free services, so they’re not the right comparison. Apple doesn’t require IAP for these because there is no payment involved.

Netflix, on the other hand, proves that Apple does allow apps that are useless unless the user has a separate subscription.

Yes, but streaming video apps are explicitly given a pass on that rule, along with several other categories:

"magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, access to professional databases, VoIP, cloud storage, and approved services such as classroom management apps"

How the hell they came up with this list is anyone's guess. Seems like they kind of tacked things on that they were concerned about completely removing.

Google does charge for additional Gmail storage in the form of Google One.

The Gmail app is not tied to the Gmail email service. It can be used to access non-Gmail accounts. Google Photos and Google Drive both allow in-app purchasing of additional storage space billed through Apple.

Edit: Added statement about Gmail app working with non-Gmail email accounts.

Why don’t these rules apply to banking apps then?

I wouldn’t consider them business-only as most individuals interacting with the App Store have bank accounts, so that argument breaks down.

I wouldn’t consider them stictly “reader” apps as you can perform many non-passive things in many banking apps (make deposits, iniatiate transfers to and from accounts, pay bills, etc), so that argument doesn’t stick either.

You can’t use the app unless you have a (most of the time) paid account.

You need to go though KYC and other custom checks to get a bank account and it's a heavily regulated process.

This letter is actually astonishing. In this letter Apple:

* Chastises them for making free apps in the past

* Reminds them they've had to distribute their apps for free (almost as if they should be grateful and now give them some money)

* States they would accept their app if it provided unrelated functionality or access to competitor products (who are oddly not subject to the same rules).

* Implies that everyone is following the rules but them (which is demonstrably false even if you accept the "Reader" and "Business" definitions they provide)

Also, according to DHH, they leaked this letter to the press before sending it to the Basecamp CEO. Nice.

The argument is so strange, it's almost as if "email" is a special term of art that causes Apple to categorize this app in a way that is not is not consistent with other SaaS products. Even with that said, there are no other similar email apps like Superhuman that are subject to these rules. If I was a Chat or Email based SaaS company CEO and I relied on the iPhone to complete my multi-platform value prop, I would be very worried about this happening to my already approved app.

>Reminds they've had to distribute their apps for free

Apple has never had to distribute any application for free since you need to pay $99 per year to have anything listed on the App Store.

but that $99 charge is really a way to reduce trolls and scams. For regular us devs it almost meaningless, it blocks poor people in the west and third world devs.

If there were 10,000 developers on the App Store, their yearly membership fees come to a total of $990,000.

That's pretty good revenue for troll/scam reduction.

Now do the same math for the actual number of active App Store devs.

Apple's revenue in 2019 was 260.2 billion dollars.

Yes and?

That million doesn't mean anything to them is what 200 billion in revenue means

It should probably be pointed out that this whole fight is about Apple not getting 30% of $99 on whatever signups the iOS application for a pre-release email platform would generate.

And Apple has boasted about having over 20 million registered iOS developers. Who knows how many of them are actively paying the subscription at the same time, but it's probably still a very large number.

If you think that developer licenses are even in the same order of magnitude as the value of 30% of in-app purchases I think your intuition is way off.

30% of in app purchases where the frictionless Apple IAP approach is deemed less valuable by the developer*

There's a very important distinction here. If Apple made their own in-app purchase API optional instead of mandatory, it isn't like every single developer would ditch it overnight. Apple's system is legitimately useful in a huge number of situations, and everyone knows that. It just isn't wanted _here_, and that should be okay.

Isn't Superhuman using TestFlight to get around the App Store problem? That was the case last I heard of it.

I believe Superhuman added the in app purchase.

Yup seems like that just happened and they're still charging the $30. That means $108 lost to Apple in the first subscription-year and $54 every subscription-year thereafter. I'd be surprised if Superhuman isn't trying to find a way to pivot their customers onto their own billing behind the scenes.

Does iOS support PWAs yet? I'd have thought that PWAs would have all the features required for an email application at this point.

Apparently 20% of Apple's revenue comes from their marketplaces (music, apps, etc), but in terms of profit it's probably significantly higher since the costs ought to be much lower than their hardware.

So it seems like there's a decent chance that at least third of their profit could get wiped out by PWAs in the long run. You'd think they'd be treating developers a little better.

my understanding is that their on-device browser monopoly (Safari) cripples many capabilities of PWAs, like for instance push notifications.

Maybe it’s time for Hey to go full PWA. Sunk costs with the native app though

Apple doesn't allow push notifications for PWAs, a fairly essential feature for an email app

Apple's attitude towards PWA isn't much to build on.

Everything is a trade off ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Yes, especially a monopoly intentionally crippling their browser to make PWAs unusable.

> Apple typically gets 30% of in-app subscriptions for the first year and 15% of renewals.

I think that 30% then 15% commission are both way too high. Apple should be able to charge a modest commission fee to be on their App Store but that price is way too high. Maybe 5% then 3% would be more reasonable.

But the worst part about this is that Apple is so inconsistent with its enforcement. There is an anti-competitive element to Apple’s enforcement behavior that is very concerning. I’m surprised that Tim Cook has allowed this behavior. Long term this will hurt app developers and Tim should understand that.

- An app does not need to be part of the appstore to function

- It's Apple's store - not a community project, fascinated how people seem to think they are accountable to some higher authority - it's also totally optional

- Apple is the one being consistent

- HEY is also built by one of the most attention seeking developers in the world, who's sole purpose seems to be criticising large corporations on Twitter

- I like ownership of my data - not a manifesto by a closed door company based on "promises" and feel good messages

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