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Apple’s App Store fees are ‘highway robbery’ – House antitrust committee chair (theverge.com)
117 points by walterbell 27 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 140 comments



I don't think the pressure on Apple is going to let up. Smart phones are no longer a tech toy and have become a literal part of government and commercial infrastructure. Apple's arbitrary power over the platform is pissing off and embarrassing governments in the COVID era.

During COVID, governments around the world have been making major decisions based on mobility data from Apple and Google which shows trends of where people are visiting and what mode of transit they are using. The real-time mobility data from Apple and Google is far better than anything the government has itself. This is a big wake-up call to the governments that they have been basically supplanted by private companies. I'm sure no president or prime minister likes having to give a press conference where they have to say "According to Apple, we see good compliance with government regulations...."

Yesterday, the UK announced it was abandoning its own COVID contract tracing app and moving to the Apple model because they couldn't figure out how to make iPhones wake up via bluetooth (because that's a private API only available to Apple). A major western government is facing huge public embarrassment in a public health crisis over what comes down to not having permission from Apple to use a specific API in an app. That's the kind of thing that pisses off politicians, regardless of whether or not you think the UK followed the best technical path.

Combine all that with Apple now forcing companies to adopt their sign-in systems and payment methods in order to reach what is now part of the public infrastructure and Apple has created a situation where they've managed to piss off everyone across the political spectrum, from the hard-core free market people to the leftist public good people.


I don't agree that Apple should bend over backwards. IMO contact tracing opens up a new can of worms and is a doorway to more draconian measures that will erode privacy for private citizens.


The leaders elected by the citizens or a different way of governance of other sovereign countries have the right to decide what is best for their citizens. American companies should not try to impose their moral values on others. Many eastern cultures do not value privacy as much as you guys do, and it's fine.


Many people who buy Apple products do so because of Apple’s privacy stance. Just because the government wants to violate its citizens’ privacy doesn’t mean its citizens want that.


>Just because the government wants to violate its citizens’ privacy doesn’t mean its citizens want that.

If the majority of the citizens want that, then they can outvote their leaders. If the minority of the citizens want that, they either convince the majority to agree, or they keep quit.

I haven't bought the iPhone for the privacy stance. Apple is a part of PRISM. There is ZERO % chance that their privacy stance is more then a façade. While I try to protect my privacy from other private companies, I do not have that privacy requirement from the government as long as what they're doing is legal and collecting it to the extent permitted by the law. I will instead petition and support senators that would change the law to my liking. But if the majority disagrees, either I stop doing it, or I keep trying to change the law slowly by spreading awareness about why it's wrong.


So assuming I do not want my privacy violated, I am simply at the tyranny of the majority?


No, you convince the majority. If they don't agree then maybe the really are right until you convince them otherwise. Imagine if you want to employ slave labor. The majority today disagrees. Would would still call it the tyranny of the majority?


> If they don't agree then maybe the really are right until you convince them otherwise.

How far back can you take that? Were they right about slavery, the nazis etc.? Or were they somehow magically wrong then, but are right ever since?


assuming I don't want to contract COVID because I'm a sick person in the UK, do I need to live free or(and) die by American values because Apple has de-facto replaced a government?

tyranny of the majority is scary to you, neglect by the minority is scary to me. What should happen in a reasonable world is that governments maintain sovereignty and that Apple, in particular on software questions (hardware would be tricky to do), to comply with regional governments.

What's blatantly absurd is that a gadget company even starts to argue with the government of the United Kingdom.


Am actually not from the U.S. and quite far left on the political spectrum, I am not against government regulation where it makes sense at all, I do find it absurd in principle that Apple can essentially supersede a national government, but in practice I find it unlikely that the UK government would be more conscious of my own privacy than Apple and that's saying something as I disdain Apple's practices quite a bit in general.

You seem to assume I am arguing for no tracing at all, but am simply saying I doubt the UK's own technology is better in terms of preserving privacy than Apple's, while achieving the same goal.


Without considering righteousness, by what might does any small thing secure itself except by tyranny or persuasion?


There might no be any "might" by which a minority can actually protect itself, but that is true for almost any interaction you have where the balance of power is not in your favor.

Laws, at least theoretically, exist so that you're protected in certain situations even if you don't have any actual "might".


You are to research encryption and other privacy-enabling tech instead of listening to marketing. Majority will never have your back in this, forget it.


Just don't install the app?


That's assuming I don't want to help/participate in tracing at all. What if I am happy to help, assuming I have reasonable belief in my privacy being protected?

I am simply saying that my belief in UK's own, homegrown tech, is less than Apple's/Google's tech, which is saying something as I am no fan of either.


> There is ZERO % chance that their privacy stance is more then a façade.

Do you have a source for that?

Or a reason for us to believe an anonymous persona instead of a corporation that could be held liable if their claims were proven to be false?


> The leaders of other sovereign countries have the right to decide what is best for their citizens... companies should not try to impose their moral values on others

Not op but I agree with this (within reason) having said that I don’t really think this is a moral export from Apple, more just a desire for control. I don’t think this desire is totally a bad thing (it can enable very good and consistent ux) but there is definitely a line they are walking.


It's rather broad to speak for many eastern cultures and are we talking of the citizens or their governments? And if it is their governments whom do not value privacy you are referring to those that have leaders are "elected by the citizens" or have this "different way of governance" that you allude to?

Your statement can be re-interpreted as "whoever has the power not only makes the rules but has complete moral right to do so". That is clearly not correct. I'll just quickly violate Godwins law by pointing out this would mean the Nazis were correct, as they were the leaders elected by their citizens and thereby had the right to decide what was best for their citizens. And this is from the "elected leaders" part of your statement, not even the "different ways of governance" portion. Your statements can also be used to support slavery, etc.

If you believe in any kind of society that is not selective by ethnic or ideological group, there are universal human rights that must be adhered to. If you don't, then obviously your opinion becomes less relevant because we may not be in the same ethnic/ideological group and so one or the other us may not have the right to speak and to discourse in whatever society this is.

We can debate whether privacy is one of them, but knowing where everyone is and following them every moment of the day and being able to locate them down to a meter and follow all of their interactions enables and very strongly supports a lot of what we would call bad behaviour by a government - selected secret police apparatus, suppression of journalism, other cultures, and dissent, ideological control, restriction of movement, slavery, genocide, etc.


If you don't like it, then don't buy their products, it's that simple.

Sovereign countries are sovereign of course. But that's a truism that's irrelevant in this discussion. Such countries can ban Apple products if they don't like it. Choose your own values and build your own products.

---

> "Many eastern cultures do not value privacy as much as you guys do, and it's fine."

Actually it's not fine at all, in my opinion. I understand having different values, but we are talking about privacy and being born in the communism of Eastern Europe, I think privacy should be a basic inalienable human right.

I value companies that don't compromise on such values, as it shows not all of them are morally bankrupt.

And yes, I avoid products from Chinese companies for that reason and I'm always skeptical of US products too. Sorry, but I'll never buy stuff from companies like Huawei, not until I'll see a strong commitment to privacy, especially when the administration of the host country sees human rights as an existential threat and targets activists from other countries.


Not just you, it's the highest law in Europe:

ECHR Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

(yes, there is a lot of elasticity in that "except")


> And yes, I avoid products from Chinese companies for that reason and I'm always skeptical of US products too. Sorry, but I'll never buy stuff from companies like Huawei, not until I'll see a strong commitment to privacy, especially when the administration of the host country sees human rights as an existential threat and targets activists from other countries.

Stop buying stuff from Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft because these companies are a part of a surveillance program called PRISM. IF you really value privacy, you wouldn't just abandon Huawei, but you'd do the same for these companies too. Unless you have a double standard of course.


Why are you jumping to conclusions on the double standard? Classic whataboutism.

No, I don't use Google or Facebook either. And I've been avoiding Microsoft since the '90-ties.


Good on you, I find it hard to be without Google and Facebook however. I instead choose to give my data to both governments of opposing values. Kill the competitive value of my data.


Are you seriously claiming to hold moral high ground while siding with Google and Facebook? If you think it's okay to use them but not Apple, the most benign of the major companies, that people only interact with when they CHOOSE to, your bizarre crusade kind of loses its edge.

Even if one NEVER explicitly uses any Google or Facebook service, they would still be feeding their day to them just by visiting completely unrelated websites.

Apple does a lot more good for people than either of them.


I use Apple's iPhone too. I use Google for search. And Facebook for social networking. And I use Microsoft's Windows as my pc. I'm not taking anyone's side in here. I'm just saying that I do not consider the Apples stance of privacy as more then a façade but I don't really care about privacy as much as Apple pretends that they care about. I do care about privacy from other companies, not from government to the extent permitted under the law.

And yes, I think that Google is still better compared to Apple as far as the web is concerned. I can freely block their trackers if I want to. Google's interests align with the future of the web. Apple's interests are a complete walled garden. As a consumer, for as long as the web thrives, most people benefit. When a wall garden happens, that is when consumers lose in the longer term.


Apple could profit from "market reality blindness" until now, meaning that not having an app on one of the Appstores is going against the basic expectations of consumers these days because it limits their own freedom (freedom to choose a platform). Nobody wants to be locked in. Apple is using this to their own advantage and tries to ignore this market reality.


A market reality distortion field, if you will.


>> Yesterday, the UK announced it was abandoning its own COVID contract tracing app and moving to the Apple model because they couldn't figure out how to make iPhones wake up via bluetooth (because that's a private API only available to Apple). A major western government is facing huge public embarrassment in a public health crisis over what comes down to not having permission from Apple to use a specific API in an app.

I would not take the government at its word here. Their entire contact tracing program has been a shambles. They contracted the work out to their friends, put the ex-CEO of one of the countries worst ISP's in charge and wasted months trying to hack together their own soution that was never going to work in the first place. If it was really an Apple issue they could go ahead and release their Android app.


Making an iPhone do work in the background is fairly non-trivial, and not launching for that platform is suicide for a contract tracing app.


Both sides need to use the app in contact tracing, therefore an Android only app is near useless. Anyway, it's open source and you can see third party enthusiast test results on GitHub. Also, Australia and Germany followed a similar path which you can see in the tech news.


They are correct though - that API is indeed private.


They contracted the development of the app to Pivotal, which is owned by VMWare — that's hardly outsourcing to a mate who happens to be a developer.


The UK followed the worst path both technically and in terms of project management; a large part of the work (although it seems not the app itself?) was handed to cronies: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/04/vote-leave-ai-...

> not having permission from Apple to use a specific API in an app

The privacy question is real. While it is very awkward to have companies making public policy, sometimes it's the more secure outcome. See also the FBI's use of exploits to bypass iPhone security.

This is particularly awkward when "a means to determine who has been where and with whom" coincides with a time of large public demonstrations.


What you say makes sense, the problem is that in the (strange?) world we live in I have more trust in Apple than in my government regarding my data, both technically and from an incentive perspective.


In the Netherlands the government uses anonymous data from cell towers to check how crowded areas are. I agree with the part about Apple having too much power over a too big part of our lives.

I don't agree with the public humiliation part of your post, don't really see it. It seems like a stretch to connect the Corona apps to this even though most of the world figured out how to slow down Corona without any of these apps.


I don't think it's OK to conflate the two issues.

Whether it's OK for Apple to keep those APIs private, that's a debate we can have, but it's not the same thing as the highway robbery they are doing with app developers.


It's about time they got hit.

This will show people the fact that apple is not going to protect them from the government (dispelling bullshit marketing). In turn, it will make people adopt truly open and ownable (?) tech, because for some reason people are way more negative about govt control than about apple control.

So it's a win in my book.


Apple wants to own iPhone consumers so that anyone who wants access to that demographic must pay the toll and follow their rules. It's far too much power for one corporation. Nice to see authorities are starting to take the matter seriously.


Don't count your chickens... Politicians love to grill CEOs in front of cameras and then do nothing about the issuea they find so they can grill them all again next year.


> Apple wants to own iPhone consumers so that anyone who wants access to that demographic must pay the toll and follow their rules. It's far too much power for one corporation. Nice to see authorities are starting to take the matter seriously.

Unfortunately, this seems like a problem where nobody has come up with a good solution. Google allows other app stores on their phones and they allow sideloading, which might seem like the ideal situation. The biggest issue then is that Google still has the monopoly on apps on Android because the size of the Play Store far eclipses every other store. So if Google bans an account or app unfairly, the only realistic option is to appeal and cave in whatever they want you to do. Because being relegated to an app store that nobody uses is essentially a death sentence for that app and its revenue.

How do you fix something like that? The power or the problem doesn't go away because there is choice. I feel like Google has neatly sidestepped the problem from their perspective and thus aren't being scrutinized, despite being in nearly the exact same situation as Apple.


Addendum:

A slightly different example. Internet Explorer essentially dominated the browser space for nearly forever until Chrome. There are any number of reasons, but the most obvious is that Microsoft could leverage their position as the platform owner to promote IE over all alternatives. EU tried to regulate it by forcing them to add a "browser choice" dialog, which didn't work. The only reason why Chrome became so popular was because Google did exactly the same thing as Microsoft. They could leverage their search engine, which by that time already owned 90% of the search engine market, to aggressively promote Chrome at every single opportunity.

There are all these examples of tech companies leveraging an existing platform to edge out competitors in clearly anti-competitive ways, and modern laws simply aren't up to the task of ensuring a fair, competitive market where massive companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon can't abuse their power.


That's fine, but how are you going to construct legislation that specifically targets Apple's walled garden without breaching the Fourteenth Amendment?


No new legislation needed. Existing anti-trust laws can be used to force them to de-couple the apps from the devices.

In the same way the government forced Microsoft to de-couple Internet Explorer from Windows.


Genuinely curious. I was under the impression that Constitution applies to people, and the govt. I'd appreciate if you point to any references for Constitution being applied to corporations.


Corporations have had personhood for a while, it's why they also have free speech protection and stuff. 14th amendment protection specifically was decided in 1886 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Clara_County_v._Southe...)


Correct.


> the Fourteenth Amendment

Citizenship rights?


Equal Protection Clause.


I believe Apple just don't see any reason to be nice. And probably that's what many companies would do if they were in that position.

We know that we can't stay dominant forever,

We know someone will force us to reduce Apple-tax later,

So we have to get as much as we can, for as long as we can.


[flagged]


This is why we have anti-trust laws.


This is a ridiculous meme. If you enjoy the mafia's services, don't be surprised if they ask you to pay. But it's your choice to go to them (ask to be put on their platform and sell to their customers). You can make your own internet corner shop, set up payments and distribution, ignore the Apple platform, and never worry about their #mafiatax.


That choice isn't a real choice though, as it's the consumers' choice to buy an iPhone not the businesses. Businesses only have a real choice about who their customers are when there is free access to the market. The issue here is precisely that you cannot set up your own internet corner shop and ignore Apple, as that means you have no access to consumers who use Apple. Internet distribution channels are inherently open and borderless, until companies like Apple artificially restrict the market.


But is the Apple app store the same thing as the "app market"? If I open a denim store in Spain, is that the same thing as entering the Chinese market? Why or why not? The "market" here isn't the app market but rather just Apple's customers. It also seems like people would be okay if Apple just shut down the app market overall, like that would be "tough luck" to developers and a matter for customers to judge.

An open and borderless web market is the kind of thing that just about every nation is rethinking right now.


> The issue here is precisely that you cannot set up your own internet corner shop and ignore Apple, as that means you have no access to consumers who use Apple

I don't understand why businesses are entitled to have access to consumers who use Apple. If you don't want to pay to play on their platform, imagine a world where Apple doesn't exist, and position your business accordingly. Nothing is actually forcing you to deal with Apple except your own expectation that being on Apple's platform is valuable. Then why not pay for that privilege?


Are you really saying you'd be okay with the same idea in any other part of you life? How about a neighborhood where you're not allowed to bring in any products except those offered by the company that build the neighborhood? How about car that you're not allowed to carry any items inside or any people that are not officially blessed by the car manufacture? How about a fridgerator that only allows food designated by the makers of the fridge.

It seems like your argument is people opted into buying things with those restrictions therefore it's ok but many things have been banned in the past along similar lines.


Yes. As an example, think of the juicero debacle. They tried that game, and failed miserably because the whole offering was not attractive. Most of your ad absurdism examples fall along these lines. I have no problem with restrictions that improve overall experience—-if it sucks, a competitor should be able to do better.


There's nothing preventing you from having an unrestricted device but having your improved experience. Plenty of people chose only to rent movies at Blockbuster Video because it was a bright and clean store with no porn. That didn't require Blockbuster to make their own special VHS or DVD player that only played the movies they offered.

> I have no problem with restrictions that improve overall experience

I'm sure there are plenty of restrictions that would improve the overall experience for many people of many things that are still banned. Plenty of people would like all of a certain race banned from their apartment complex or town. I guess by your argument if they opt in to that experience because it's better for them it's should be no problem.


> There's nothing preventing you from having an unrestricted device but having your improved experience.

Agreed. I, as a consumer, would like this option the best. If a free and open competitor to Apple made better devices and better software, I would jump ship immediately. I lament Apple's increasingly poor decisions, but have no better alternative currently, because competitors just aren't as good at what they do. The answer isn't to strong arm Apple into changing the way they do business on their own platform, the answer is to build better alternatives. (IMHO)

> I'm sure there are plenty of restrictions that would improve the overall experience for many people of many things that are still banned. Plenty of people would like all of a certain race banned from their apartment complex or town. I guess by your argument if they opt in to that experience because it's better for them it's should be no problem.

I know you gave this as an absurd gotcha, but yeah I have no problem with that. For the sake of argument:

- Town A wants to segregate, everyone in A would be happier with racial segregation. - Country X does not want segregation, the people have spoken and decided that segregation is immoral. - Town A should be free segregate to their hearts content, just not in Country A.


> I don't understand why businesses are entitled to have access to consumers who use Apple.

I don't understand how expecting a computer to just run software became entitlement. Why should anyone need Apple's permission to do anything?


Buy a non Apple device if you don't want to jump through Apple's hoops.


I did. I'm using a Galaxy Note 9. Apple device owners shouldn't have to abandon their favorite phones though. They should have software freedom and choice.


> They should have software freedom and choice

They have the freedom to buy a different brand, as you did. They shouldn't have the "freedom" to dictate what Apple does with the devices they sell.


To clarify, because there is difference: This is not about the consumers and their choices, it is about the businesses which play no role in that choice but are affected by it. The question is how large a barrier to the market should a company like Apple be allowed to erect before it's considered excessive or anti-competitive.


By that logic shouldn't companies be paying Microsoft for the price of being on Windows too?


If you could choose between a fee decrease to 15% or the ability to sideload apps bypassing the store, which is more important? To me, the only reason I avoid iOS is specifically because I cannot install my own apps without using the store.


I think capping fees would make it even worse, it would entrench the practice as acceptable.

Allow sideloading and the price should move towards the equilibrium price. Which very well might be 30%, since Google manages this despite allowing sideloading.

The tricky question I would say is the accessibility of the alternative stores. First there is the default/non-default install thing, we've seen how it worked out for Microsoft. Then there are all the warnings/toggles about unsafe external apps. This is much more difficult, since it's quite useful for security, but at the same time it makes it much harder for alternative stores/apps.


Visa and MasterCard charge somewhere between 1-3% (depends who you are and the details of the purchase). PayPal charge around 5%. Some two-way marketplaces charge upwards of 40%.

I think Apple is providing more value than PayPal, but less value than a two-way marketplace.

For me, 30% is extortionate and predatory. 5% is too low for the value they provide. 15% is quite high, but it can be justified given the value adds (advertising, content delivery, reviews, last resort QA, security etc).


I think the fees percentage should not be capped. Apple should be free to charge whatever they want. The main problem is the second issue you mentioned. That way apple controls devices without the owner of the device having any say in the matter. That should not be allowed. It is my phone, I paid for the hardware and software. So either let me install whatever app I want, or open source the whole thing so I can flash my own ios compiled from github.


If it became possible for consumers to side-load applications, the iPhone (and iPad) would lose what is in my opinion one of its biggest positive selling points: that Apple is acting as gatekeeper for executable code.

As soon as that capability exists, my elderly parent's and elderly in-laws' iPads will quickly fill up with malware and scamware like their desktop computers routinely used to.

And before you argue that you could choose to not open that pandora's box on particular devices. But as soon as enough developers decide that getting around Apple's fees is worth the effort, use of it will become commonplace and potentially unavoidable.


The high order bit is the inconsistent, capricious nature of the app review process. Hey attempted to participate in the established detente of "paid service, can't buy it here, wink wink" and Apple somehow decided this was the time to squeeze.

Clear, consistently enforced App Store rules, from a perspective of Apple desiring the best apps possible.


I don't really see how Apple would be able to justify the 30% cut if sideloading was possible.


Hmm, like Google does ? Even that isn't a panacea, see Epic giving up on distributing Fortnite by itself.


Sideloading makes the other point moot I'd say since competing third party stores would appear?


I don't think it does. F-Droid exists but is essentially totally unknown on Android.


Only because Google is relatively freer than Apple. Android users and devs don't feel too constrained by Play store rules. If play store were to start behaving like app store, you can bet money f-droid, amazon store and others will rise in popularity.


Imagine if Credit card processing companies took 30%. I mean it's a little more than that being a marketplace too, so maybe since Stripe takes 2-3%, apple could take 5-8% that would seem more 'reasonable'. IMHO.


That would work if apple force eCommerce companies that has an app in app store to sell through apple payment system and give a cut of 2-3% to apple


One of the things I never understood is why Apple doesn’t have tiers of pricing and support.

Why not “5% for app-upload capability and a plain store page with nothing else”, up to “30% for lots of nice bells and whistles” or even “50% for regular featuring to potential customers”?

People would not complain about 30% nearly as much if there were any alternative. (And they are right to complain about how little 30% gets them currently.)


Apple has over 50% marketshare in the U.S. in the mobile market, so by marketshare they have a case for a monopoly.

So for 150 million people Apple are the Gatekeepers, you have to pay the Troll it's fee or it won't let you past.

And people here are saying if you don't like Apple, don't make apps for iOS? Please try to do a business project in a market where you ignore 50% of the market and let me know how you fair out :)

Jason Freid of BaseCamp gave a good argument: If you are handling the search, marketing and production of the app by yourself, why do you STILL need to pay the 30% tax? Imagine paying AWS 30% of your revenue just for hosting privileges :)

And don't forget that even IF you try to make the argument for hosting, they are hosting the app on Apple Store because Apple doesn't allow ANOTHER way of downloading an app. This is a really important fact. Imagine if you used Windows and you couldn't download programs except over Windows Store. Just try to imagine Windows not allowing Steam to distribute over the web...


Anyone who cares about this issue, just upvote, don't comment. HN's algorithm downranks posts where the comment to upvote ratio is too high.


Yeah and there is a reason for that and it’s working well to be honest.

Gaming the system is never good option.


Maybe they should change the algorithm then. There is an important discussion going on and the dumb algorithm thinks its better to just brush it away and kick the can down the road.


I think HN looks down on gaming their system. Comments like the above should be flagged.


Perhaps this is apophenia, but it appears that societal tensions are boiling over from all corners, against all kinds of established authorities, no?


This is the expected outcome from introspection (Corona period).


Rich people are introspecting, poor people are about to revolt.


Yeah and I wish it happened more often.


astrologers will have a different interpretation ;)


Eclipse + Solstice in 48h


Generally only gaming companies can afford to pay or money losing vc companies. Let me just state generally again, most other companies just don’t sell via IAP as it’s too expensive. I’ve been saying this here for months and Google is guilty too 100%. These two control discoverability (search and ads), hosting (all data to copy your app), and monetization (charge tax on any profit you make). Why? Because they can and are evil. Doesn’t leave room for new consumer startups anymore and increases prices for consumers.


As much as I agree with the stance against I hate the coverage and the press this is getting with people evangelicizing the CEO. He's regularly referenced on this site by his initials (which even as a regular reader of tech news I had to look up) which comes across as cult of personality at best and astroturfing at worse.


He actually is a kind of cult personality in the tech world because he wrote Ruby on Rails (which itself was kind of contrarian to most other things in that space), and it's the foundation lots of web software startups are build on. There would be no Twitter or Github without him.


>He's regularly referenced on this site by his initials

Yeah, it's his Twitter handle. Do you think people are evangelizing rms just because he refers to himself as that and that people are following his example?


He’s not the CEO though.


If the US Government wants to place limits on certain fees, they should pass a law limiting such fees.

Meanwhile, it's a bit hypocritical for the US Government to accuse private corporations of ‘highway robbery’ when they themselves are committing (or failing to outlaw) literal highway robbery in the form of civil forfeiture.


> Meanwhile, it's a bit hypocritical for the US Government to accuse private corporations of ‘highway robbery’ when they themselves are committing (or failing to outlaw) literal highway robbery in the form of civil forfeiture.

Indeed it is. So they should address both, not use the current existence of one to excuse the other.


To be clear, I wasn't saying that one excused the other. I was only commenting on the congressperson's poor choice of words.


That's what they want to do, it will probably end up like that - Apple and others will be capped to how much fees they can charge.

EU did this for roaming charges already.


help me understand. why such big fuss for such a small platform? isn't google's android much much bigger? if apple's app store is still the place to be due to profits made on the platform then apple is doing something right, no? if they stopped would the app store still be the place for apps?

p.s. haven't installed an app in over a year. i have no interest in mobile apps whatsoever.


The market share of the iPhone in the US is around 50%


Yes, and the next largest phone maker's market share is Samsung at 20-25%. Android doesn't make phones. Google makes some phones but their market share is tiny.


ah, this is an interesting point. thanks.


the world is a much bigger place than just the US.


Yes, but "Congressman David Cicilline" is American as far as I can tell


Perhaps it is a matter of my preestablished cynicisms but this seems like a campaign contribution shakedown/stupid election year publicity stunt where they rail against a big bad company for complete bullshit reasons. I don't get why people go with the Apple locked down system personally but they aren't even a majority of the market nor a plurality.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the House gives a shit about interoperability given the DMCA and lack of right to repair laws.


Google isn't much better. I suspect the government is going to force both of them to open their app store with anti-trust suits.


Apple may be robbers, but they're not trolling a public highway, they're demanding fees if you want to drive on the highway that they built. Build a better ecosystem around better devices, better software, better marketing, and better services, and you can also charge whatever you want, or make it free. That is competition. Wanting to drive on someone else's walled highway (which leads directly to eyeballs and open wallets) and also refusing to pay their fee is not competition.


To continue with the bad highway comparison, apple don't own the phone, the phone owner does. Apple don't own and run the infrastructure behind the 3rd party apps, their developer does.

So, back to the highway, you pay a 30% cut to drive on the highway they don't own for them to run a car dealership without allowing anybody else to run one and reviewing cars offered in the dealership with an arbitrary process.

Taking 30% off buying an app, why not. It's insanely expensive but that's their dealership.

Taking 30% off subscriptions makes absolutly no sense.

I'm really happy that someone start to look into it and if they are not happy with it they can always do what they told many other business to do "change their business model"


So are we establishing that if you want to create a paid email service with a custom app without wanting to pay 30% of your revenue to Apple, you need to create a competing mobile ecosystem that can rival that of Apple's ($260 billion yearly revenue) and Google's ($162 billion yearly revenue)?

How is this beneficial for innovation and for consumers?


What's beneficial for consumers is the fact that the Apple ecosystem exists at all. People pay because it's a good experience. Everyone is welcome to create good end-user experiences with open technologies like PWA, and distribute however they wish. It's strange to me to say on the one hand "we could not survive without the iOS customer pool, we need to make a native app because it's the greatest experience, but we don't want to pay the platform that makes it all possible".


>Everyone is welcome to create good end-user experiences with open technologies like PWA

Everyone who isn't targetting Apple devices that is.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that it is not possible to publish an application on the Apple App Store without paying. Period end.

I also don't see why there's an expectation that Hey has to pay Apple for providing the app. They are trying to bring out an app to allow their customers on Apple devices to be able to use their service. It's not like they're just putting their app there for marketing because the App Store is absolutely horrible at any kind of marketing.

This is a bit like expecting Netflix to pay Comcast, AT&T and every other ISP for the priviledge of using their networks. Netflix's customers are already paying those companies just like how Hey's customers are paying for their Apple devices.


> I'd also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that it is not possible to publish an application on the Apple App Store without paying. Period end.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the same is true for games on the Xbox, PlayStation and nearly every mainstream games console for the past thirty years. Pretty much every games console software title included a healthy cut for Nintendo, Sega, Microsoft, or Sony. And if you didn't have the explicit blessing of these companies, you couldn't publish your games at all. Period end.

Where was your outrage then?


First off I've always been outraged by those things but, secondly

There's a big different between a device used almost entirely or gaming and a device through which almost all personal communication, news, banking, payments, e-money, travel plans, plane and train tickets, medical services, political planning, etc. happen.

A smartphone has pretty much become essential for life. A game console has never been that.


Video game consoles are not comparable to smartphones, smartphones are an integral part of (Western) life, communication, co-ordination - a video game console is purely entertainment.


That may be true in practice, but it's not something you can create laws around. The US Government shouldn't be in the business of deciding which consumer electronics are integral to (Western) life. Particularly given that the vast majority of App Store profits are going to the makers of games.

If there are going to be mandated limits, they should apply to all companies which build hardware and charge platform access fees to software developers.


>That may be true in practice, but it's not something you can create laws around. The US Government shouldn't be in the business of deciding which consumer electronics are integral to (Western) life.

Why not?


Because they're not good at it and are guaranteed to screw it up somehow and especially at the margins.

Do these new rules include the Android Play Store? Does it include the Apple TV app store? Does it include the Play Store when purchased on a television running Android? Imagine if Mattel creates a new ultra-low cost video games console; should these rules apply to them? What if their console happens to run Android? What if their games console runs Android and the Play Store? What if apps bought on their game store can also run on a phone?

Ultimately it ends up just warping the market and adding yet more complexity into business—and complexity benefits powerful established players over new entrants.


>Because they're not good at it and are guaranteed to screw it up somehow and especially at the margins.

Is this a proven or unproven assumption?


A "proven assumption" is a linguistic contradiction. Furthermore your question is invalid as "not good" and "screw it up" are not objective criteria which one could prove or fail to prove.

But I must ask: have you ever seen A Government? That's a serious question. Look at any large Government around the world and look for any complex legislation that involves a relatively new business sector or financial instrument. Much of it is obviously terrible, or will turn out to be terrible, or is occasionally so terrible that it creates ripple effects which trigger financial crisis.

Australia launched a new economy-wide GST in 2000 which did many things, and one of them was a massive transformation of the cereal bar/museli bar/granola bar marketplace—changing recipes and picking new market winners—because Governments are terrible at writing legislation.


> Where was your outrage then?

There has been plenty of that in the last few years, especially regarding Steam fees. Large game producers complain a bit less because their IP is so valuable they can get deal.

Also, I don't understand why Apple apologists think the console market is a good defense of Apple behavior. Every time someone talks about it, all I can hear is it's high time to make a precedent because the situation is also terrible in this other related market.


>Where was your outrage then?

Where was the game publishers' outrage? Where was the game developers' outrage?

Gaming console makers and game developers have way better relations than Apple and the people developing for the App Store. And the game console makers' cut isn't just pure greed. Sony took an estimate loss of $240-$300 on every PS3 sold at launch just in order to widen out the install base.


Actually, game developers were pissed are xbox live (I think, when they finally started to allow 'Indies') I was one and remember talking with publishers that weren't too happy about it, the long contracts and jumping around to meet their guidelines.

Also, if Sony took a loss on the PS3 to get a wider base isn't that dumping?


> Where was the game publishers' outrage?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sega_v._Accolade

> Gaming console makers and game developers have way better relations

Let's set aside the unproven assumptions; so your logic is that if you're a nice platform monopolist, you can charge arbitrary platform access fees. But if you're a bunch of meanies, different laws shall apply to you. I'm sorry, I was under the misapprehension that you were making a serious point.

> Sony took an estimate loss of $240-$300 on every PS3

Now I know you're not being serious. Such behaviours are anti-competitive as it would be exceedingly difficult for a new market entrant to compete with such artificially low console prices. What you're saying is that the US Government should enact laws which favour dumping and loss-leader activity. Ridiculous.


> Let's set aside the unproven assumptions; so your logic is that if you're a nice platform monopolist, you can charge arbitrary platform access fees. But if you're a bunch of meanies, different laws shall apply to you. I'm sorry, I was under the misapprehension that you were making a serious point.

You're not entirely wrong:

https://www.ign.com/articles/2019/10/07/report-steams-30-cut...

> One source explained that although Steam only takes 30%, other fees and deductions mean they are usually collecting closer to 65% on their end, while they say console sales return much closer to the full 70% but are stingier with refunds and the like.

> Another source also stressed that just because a retailer takes 30% doesn’t mean the developer of the game actually gets the other 70%, saying publishers often earn between 30-70% of a sale themselves depending on the deal that has been struck. There are also engine licensing fees to consider (games that use Unreal have its 5% fee waived if they are sold on the Epic Store), taxes, and other costs not factored into what many people assume the actual creator of a game earns. One source said their takeaway from a physical retailer at the end of the day is often between just 10-15%.

You know, maybe this doesn't have to end with Apple. The Google Play store charges a 30% service fee as well. Maybe the entire pricing system of the industry is fucked, and worth further scrutiny. Furthermore, it's been repeatedly brought up in the discourse over the publishing industry's recent lawsuit against Internet Archive that the industry standard for book publishing are contracts where the publishers pocket 75% of book sales, while the author retain the rest. Meanwhile, you hear horror stories out of the music industry where artists are paid a pittance. This can be an endemic problem that's afflicting multiple industries at once. Maybe we can confer our righteous indignation both at Apple, and the rest. And maybe we ought to figure out a better way to help creators, whether app developers, game developers, authors, or musicians, get the pay they're due.


FWIW, I completely agree with everything you wrote. I'm not opposed to new laws that set a limit on platform access fees—but such laws can't be targeted at Apple exclusively. They have to be applied to any company which charges fees for access to an exclusive market.


Certainly, but maybe this public outcry and exposure from an antitrust investigation will educate people about the structural problems in this industry and lead to greater change that will apply to more companies than just Apple.


I'm totally cool with that.


>if you're a nice platform monopolist, you can charge arbitrary platform access fees

If you're a nice platform monopolist, you're not charging arbitrary, excessive platform access fees. You can have a monopoly on a platform, charge fees and still act in a way that makes those fees seem reasonable.

Sony for example seems to have a pretty positive relationship with its developers. Here's for example something I found related to the PS4 dev kits:

>Although this $2,500 price [for a PlayStation 4 dev kit] is being cited in development circles, the game-makers we spoke to all said that Sony had lent them dev kits for a limited period of one year, for free. As of right now, there are no dev kits being sold. Sony is sending whatever it has available to favored developers. "All the indies I know got them for free," said one developer. "Sony has been amazing about kits and development thus far."

>Another developer said that Sony is focused on loaners, rather than collecting fees. "They are handing them out like candy," he said.

There's also various accounts of Sony providing support for its developers, including launching a $10 million fund for independent developers.

https://sonyreconsidered.com/playstation-commits-10-million-...

If Sony and the like were every bit as bad as Apple, Google, Steam, etc., I'd imagine we'd hear a lot more negative stories about them. I tried to find stories of Tim Sweeney talking shit about Sony's cut, but couldn't really find any. Only really found things like this:

>“We’ve been working super close with Sony for quite a long time on storage,” he says. “The storage architecture on the PS5 is far ahead of anything you can buy on anything on PC for any amount of money right now. It’s going to help drive future PCs. [The PC market is] going to see this thing ship and say, ‘Oh wow, SSDs are going to need to catch up with this.”

Maybe developers are more forgiving towards platform fees when they feel like they are working together with the charging company rather than against.

>Such behaviours are anti-competitive as it would be exceedingly difficult for a new market entrant to compete with such artificially low console prices.

Sure. But it also works out in game developers' favor. Console makers are cutting the cost of the device to reach a larger install base, which then increases the potential customer base for game publishers and developers.

>What you're saying is that the US Government should enact laws which favour dumping and loss-leader activity.

I'm not.


[flagged]


If you are not going to argue in good faith, please don't respond.


Here's that good faith you asked for:

> you're not charging arbitrary, excessive platform access fees

What's your legally enforceable definition of arbitrary? What's your legally enforceable definition of excessive? How do they apply to Apple and not to (for example) the Steam store?

> Sony for example seems to have a pretty positive relationship

Emphasis on "seems". These relationships involve very aggressive NDAs which would have a chilling effect on developers speaking out. Not to mention most developers will work for very large companies who would frown upon freelancing their opinions about a corporate relationship that is responsible for 50% or 100% of the developer's revenues.

Compare that to the App Store, where a million rando developers have paid their $99 and are complaining because Apple won't publish their malware or torch app.

> There's also various accounts of Sony providing support for its developers

There are (relatively speaking) an extremely tiny number of game developers on these platforms, and a lot of potential upside in landing exclusives, so you can expect such largesse and personal treatment from Sony and Microsoft.

> including launching a $10 million fund

For the video games industry, $10 million is crumbs. No, it's fractions of crumbs. No, it's atoms. I haven't looked into this PR exercise aka "fund" beyond the link you offered, but how much do you want to bet that access to that fund requires a period of console exclusivity in return?

> I'd imagine we'd hear a lot more negative stories

Again, the number of console publishing licenses is relatively tiny.

> But it also works out in game developers' favor.

Does it? Or does it just lock out new entrants in the hardware space? If Sony and Microsoft were unable to sell consoles at a loss, perhaps new market entrants would be able to create new console platforms of similar quality, and compete for developers by offering better financial terms.


Microsoft lost money for each Xbox they sold for multiple generations of Xboxes.


I believe no one actually says "we don't want to pay", it's more like "we don't want to pay 30% of our income".

I could eventually live with a one-time 30% tax, but taking that much for a recurring payments? Calling it a highway robbery is totally on point.


Honestly it's probably easier now than it was in 2006.


Apple literally shutting down NFC for everyone in the world except for their own payment method is what I would call the 180 degree opposite of 'That is competition'. That's abuse, and it is more and more clear every day, both in Google, Apple as well as other such as Amazon that it's really not fair for the owners of the platforms to also compete with their customers on their own platforms.


It's their devices, they can add or remove features as they see fit imo. If they make enough choices that negatively impact user experience, there will be a vacuum for a better offering.


No offense but that's not at all how competition law works.

There is a reason regulators in the world are investigating Apple right now and it's not because they are a model citizen.


None taken, I am definitely not a antitrust lawyer. I'll be following the case with interest!


Why should I pay $99 per year for a hey.com email address? Robbery! I demand the courts lower this to 9¢ immediately, which I deem to be the true value of an email address. Hey are abusing their monopoly power over the hey.com domain...this will not stand! Burn it to the ground! Write to your congressman! I’ll spend my millions fighting this! Over my dead body!

I’ll chase them round the moons of Nibea and round Antares Maelstrom and round perdition's flames before I pay $99 for a fucking email address!

* I’m available for podcast interviews to promote my wares for a very reasonable fee. Hating hey.com is optional. No purchase necessary. Other email providers are available.


The rules change when a company has a near-monopoly and practices anti-competitive tactics to nerf their competition.

That's why we have anti-trust laws.


>It’s crushing small developers who simply can’t survive with those kinds of payments.

Oh I don't know. The "small developers who can't survive" he's talking to here have multiple hypercars and I don't think they are small or facing survival challenges.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagani_Zonda#HH

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

Sure there are smaller developers. But the sense of entitlement is a bit much. Once you've written some software, that does not mean you are entitled to have people pay for your life from here on out.

I mean you have developers who have written software once, do not maintain it, and would charge subscription fees if they could, for software they don't update. There is a spectrum of behaviors, and there is a cost for running a store to corral all those behaviors into some order that average consumers can deal with. And then there are even legal bills to pay, for fighting off people who own hypercars and feel wronged.

There could be some room for the fees to come down now that the App Store is well established. But it's not quite how it's being portrayed… highway robbery? Way too dramatic.




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