Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
You download the app and it doesn’t work (youdownloadtheappanditdoesntwork.com)
1044 points by DVassallo on June 19, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 543 comments

While I agree that Apple should probably relax their rules, this list of "exceptions" is not particularly compelling.

The majority of them are companion apps for physical products/memberships for which the rules around in-app purchases do not apply: Tesla, Soho House, Wells Fargo, Blue Cross / Blue Shield, WeWork.

Github has a free tier and doesn't require a paying membership to use.

Netflix is a digital content app for which there is a specific exemption under rule 3.1.3(a).

Bloomberg and Salesforce might also fall under the 3.1.3(a) exemption for "access to professional databases", I'm not sure.

App Store Connect is their own app. Apple's apps have always been able to use private APIs and do other things the rest of us can't.

The only other app in this list that is actually similar to Hey in terms of product type and monetization is Fastmail. (And it looks like Fastmail was recently asked to add IAP to their app as well.)

The rules around in-app purchases have been well known for a long time (by iOS devs at least, clearly not by the general public or even tech people).

Releasing an app that does not follow the rules and then publicly complaining when it is inevitably rejected is starting to seem more like a guerrilla marketing tactic more than anything else. (And a clever one too, I don't think yet-another-email-app would have gotten nearly the same amount of press coverage that this has.)

Its not a list of "exceptions".

Part of the whole point is the relation to the quote at the start.

In every one of those apps signing up "doesn't work" which goes against the stated goal of ensuring that users can download the app and expect it work. How can it work if you can't even sign into it because you can't sign up for it and they can't even tell you how to.

Except the app was not rejected for failing to meet the standards of the quote. It was rejected for failing to meet the App Store review guidelines.

This whole website is a strawman built against the false claim that you're not allowed to require a login to access your app, which has never actually been true.

He is arguing that the rule does not match the intent.

Except its not about rather or not the app was rejected

It's about the policy creating the trend of apps that don't work in that you can't sign up on them.

Except the policy doesn't create the trend. The Tesla app won't work if you don't own a Tesla. The Wells Fargo app won't work if you don't have a Wells Fargo account. These apps have external requirements by their very nature, the App Store policy does not change that.

Having a wells fargo bank account is not the same as having a wells fargo online user account.

You get the first, then sign up on the website or android app.

Try again.

You can't sign up for a Wells Fargo online user account without first having a Wells Fargo bank account. Therefore there is an external requirement.

Update: I just double checked. The Wells Fargo Android app and Wells Fargo iOS apps behave identically. You are immediately presented with a login screen upon launch. There is no signup flow inside either app but you can click a link that opens a web browser with a link to the registration page.

Your claim that the App Store policy is responsible for this trend does not hold up, considering the Android version is not subject to the same policy but behaves the exact same way anyway.

Update 2: Checked a few more apps. The Android versions of Github and Fastmail don't allow you to sign up in the app either. You are only presented with a login screen just like the iOS versions.

They're likely all webview apps with a single codebase though. If they remove it for Apple, it would likely be gone for Android as well.

Don't remember if they had a link for signups before though, just pointing out that you can't deduce that point from given facts.

(Nor is there proof for the original thesis, it's all speculation at this point)

Fair enough, but it's not like they couldn't provide a more direct signup option in the Android version if they wanted to. The fact that they didn't is telling, IMO.

To circle back to the original point, blaming Apple for the "trend" of not being able to sign up inside of apps is clearly nonsensical.

>While I agree that Apple should probably relax their rules, this list of "exceptions" is not particularly compelling.

Yeah, the first few items on the list were relatively convincing, but the convincing-ness takes a nosedive further down the list. I mean, who in their right mind would compare hey to a companion app for a car?

It's not about that. It's about the VP's explanation being disingenuous. Apple's issue isn't that the app doesn't work, despite their claim. It's that they can't collect money. They should just be honest.

I agree that's a crappy explanation by the VP but that's not the actual reason for the rejection.

I too think it’s a poor response from the head of the App Store but we shouldn’t pretend to think we know the “actual” reason that much better because we are given a link to the ever-changing App Store regulations webpage.

The actual reason is the app does not follow the rules for in-app purchases. This hasn't really been in question. Anyone who has been an iOS dev for more than a year or two will be familiar with the App Store review guidelines.

Are the rules overly restrictive? Yes. Due they place an unfair burden on third party developers? Probably. But let's not pretend they are a mystery.

You can purchase upgrades for your car via the tesla app.

HEY is a digital content app too. Rich e-mails contain content, and are digital.

Everything I look at on my smartphone is digital content.

Not by the definition given in section 3.1.3(a) of the App Store review guidelines.

Apple's trashy guidelines need to go to the dustbin of history.

Wow it's almost like Apple designed their rules so that most of the key businesses in this world don't pay an insane 30% of their revenue to Apple. Almost like Apple say...doesn't want to discourage important institutions from providing services Apple's customers might expect from iOS. Crazy coincidence. /s

I mean, 1) why is anyone surprised by this? 2) If you make an app that sells cat videos you would also qualify for the digital content exemption, "key business" or not.

What makes you think anyone is surprised? Do you think anger or frustration requires surprise?

Why would anyone be angry or frustrated that "Apple designed their rules so most of the key businesses in this world don't pay an insane 30% of their revenue to Apple"?

Because the reality is that smaller players are getting fleeced in this scheme. By design. And bigger players don't have to play the same ball game. By design. Not surprising, just more of the same seen everywhere, and very frustrating.

Maybe because of the word "insane"?

Re-read the quote and note the word "don't" which flips the meaning of the entire sentence.

Why is Netflix different?

Sending email is distribution of “digital content”.

This old game of wobbly semantics to describe “organizing electrons in silicon” is pretty much done isn’t it?

Society has hit an information entropy. Where the masses get one message “austerity” while the elites tirelessly bike shed the rules, struggling to maintain their old epistemology as they die off from natural causes, which is extinguishing their norms instead.

Varoufakis is right: leadership of the old generation is out of net new ideas and has us nickle and diming old ones to keep up the ruse.

Their only endgame, which isn’t driven by more than an intuition, is keep the hierarchy story looking like it did decades ago.

This is just biological survival instinct. There’s absolutely no real reason to carve up “digital content” into more than electrons zipping through silicon, except for financial Machiavellianism.

what a difficult comment to read

Releasing an app that does not follow the rules and then publicly complaining when it is inevitably rejected is starting to seem more like a guerrilla marketing tactic more than anything else.

And be sure to do it right before WWDC. We've seen this play before.

I've been a freelance iOS app developer for almost a decade. Apple has always operated this way. They have rules that are somewhat vague, and they choose when they want to enforce them and how they should be interpreted.

For example: you weren't allowed to show device bezels in app store screenshots for a long time, even though all the major apps did exactly that. If you were a small time developer though you would get rejected, sometimes, with that cited as a reason. There's currently the same problems with asking for app reviews. Everyone wants to filter users through the "do you like the app? Yes/No" popups to try and make sure only good reviews get through. It's explicitly stated in the app store guidelines that you have to use the system provided prompt that doesn't allow for that, but it's only selectively enforced. So if your competition is filtering reviews but you aren't allowed to, you're at a huge disadvantage. And there's plenty of other ambiguous rules like that. In app purchases being a major one. You could have your app on the store for a year and then suddenly get a rejection notice on a bugfix update that they don't like your payment setup.

Point is: Apple will do absolutely whatever they want, and you have zero recourse. If you're a small developer it can kill you. Plenty of people will say "just follow the rules and you won't have a problem", but the rules are arbitrary and selectively enforced. For example, there was the Steam Link app debacle that Apple decided to reject after it's big release, and they literally just wrote new rules to exclude it[0]. And if they allowed alternative app stores I think you could excuse a lot of it. But they don't. And they never will unless they are forced to.

0: https://www.macworld.com/article/3276327/the-steam-link-app-...

The press loves app developer David vs Goliath Apple stories.

Our now-shuttered startup Gliph brought in-app Bitcoin transfers to the App Store for the first time in 2013. Apple allowed the behavior for seven months before I got a call telling me it had to be removed.

Bitcoin was hot enough that our blog post generated a fair amount of press for our little startup. [1] and I also published the company's appeal publicly.

However, I did so with great trepidation about angering someone at Apple. [2]

Our approach did not seem to help things at all, though Apple did end up allowing the Bitcoin transfers to be brought back about 7 months later.[3]


One thing I find notable about this site and Hey!'s behavior on this is the scorched earth approach to the response. Basecamp seems ready, to go to "thermonuclear war" (as Jobs would say) on this one. People are hearing about Hey alright.

Hey's little mini site is convincing enough and it broadly escalates things. Particularly by using John Gruber's words against Apple, ouch!

This situation opens an unnecessary and distracting attack surface for Apple, in advance the most important developer event possibly in a decade.

Apple should have just let this app do its thing.

This whole situation reminds me of how Apple tried to make Apple Store employees pay for the time they were getting their bags searched. Bad PR that should never have happened. [4]

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2013/12/09/how-does-apple-really-feel...

[2] https://19de10c0037730b31d67-c6cb9846d861a1213b31648a6cce64e...

[3] https://blog.gli.ph/2014/07/21/bitcoin-transfers-back-into-t...

[4] https://9to5mac.com/2015/06/11/apple-store-security-checks/

I honestly think they could turn it around and allow underdogs.

everybody roots for david vs goliath, but the story would change if goliath was actually defending the little guy.

maybe make in-app purchases cheaper for smaller apps.

or do something to take small reasonable developers under their wing. like first year 10%.

Another thing they could do, sort of the opposite, is to take 30% for smaller apps, but have a published scale as volume increases. presumably with scale apples costs would amortize, and developers would be in for the long haul.

They could also maintain 30% if a particular app has lots of chargebacks, like you would have with abusive apps.

> Hey's little mini site

There's a github link at the bottom. Doesn't look to me like there is any affiliation with Basecamp.

Edit: Your point still stands, however. DHH made it pretty clear when we said they'd burn it all down. (Don't remember the exact quote)

[site OP]

No affiliation with Basecamp.

You may want to clarify that!

Humans applying policy will be inconsistent. The alternative is Google where algorithms apply policy, and if they misapply a policy to you're simply screwed.

I think the inverse to "Apple employed humans make a judgement call" is "Apple is no longer allowed to control their App Store". I don't like that option, because the curated App Store is a big reason why I bought an iPhone.

> Humans applying policy will be inconsistent.

This is not my argument. It is not just inconsistent, it is selective. Major players are given far more leeway than small ones. There are obvious antitrust concerns, such as Spotify being required to give Apple 30% of it's revenue for it's service that competes with Apple Music[0]. There are concerns about freedom of speech and information, such as Apple removing an app that notified the user when there was a U.S. drone strike[1], or the Hong Kong protest app that China pressured them into removing. Or blocking all VPN apps in China.

And even if the argument at the end of the day is "I don't care; I like having a curated app store", why does that imply that Apple should be able to force users into only using theirs? How do you lose anything if users are allowed to install apps from other places, in some cases where there are serious human rights issues at stake?

0: https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/16/apple-pay-and-ios-app-stor...

1: https://theintercept.com/2017/03/28/after-12-rejections-appl...

It’s just one data point, but on the topic of IAP and revenue share, Spotify actually pays Apple 0.075% of its total revenue. It’s a 15% fee on 680,000 out of their 100,000,000 subscribers.

The 30% fee drops to 15% after one year, and Spotify hasn’t accepted IAP in several years, so everyone paying for Spotify through Apple is paying the 15% rate.

I do think larger clients should reasonably pay lower rates, as there’s a more equal/symbiotic value proposition between the two parties.

You can still sideload or use an alternate store on Android. The experience isn't very good, but it's still an option.

I think if the fees were split out people would lose their minds on more expensive apps because they'd recognize it isn't good value. Ex:

Hey: $70 / year

App Store Fee: $30 / year

Also, did Hey get the prices wrong or are they talking about keeping the prices the same and eating the 30%? If they want $99 in their pocket, they need to charge ~43% more. Assuming Apple takes 30% of the sale price:

- 99 * 1.43 = $141.57

- 141.57 * .3 = $42.47 for Apple

- 141.57 * .7 = $99.10 for Hey

So by taking 30% of revenue, it increases prices by 43% because if someone is taking 30% of your revenue, you need to increase your prices by 43% to break even.

I may be wrong as I don't have the rules under the hand but iirc Apple's rules state that the in-app purchases prices must be set as to not push users to go pay outside the app. So raising your price may result in a takedown of your app, meaning you have to eat the 30% if you want to stay on the store.

What if I offer discount code for outside payment?

> I don't like that option, because the curated App Store is a big reason why I bought an iPhone.

You can have a curated app store but still...not gatekeep what software the user can install. Installs via web pages, app store listings that are deprioritized or hidden from the default search view. I'd go so far as they should be legally compelled to do that at a bare minimum.

There are myriad apps that users wanted, but Apple nixed them. Whether it's shady rentseeking like the Hey instance or content they find objectionable. How many times have social media sites like Tumblr or Reddit had to deal with their pearl-clutching over nudity? Screw them, they have no right. I can't even imagine how miserable desktop computing would be if that were the paradigm over the last 30 years.

> I think the inverse to "Apple employed humans make a judgement call" is "Apple is no longer allowed to control their App Store".

I think the right alternative is "Users should have a choice of app stores"

And they do, if you want play store or huawei store instead of apple app store you can just get an android phone. Nobody is forced to buy an iPhone, there is no monopoly at play here.

In the mid-90s no one was "forced" to buy a Windows computer. How did that work out for Microsoft?

I think there needs to be some distinction between apps that are the main product (or close to it) and apps that support another product (like there is npo point to having the app by itself, you should already have gotten the product/account before downloading the app). I don't know too much about Apple's rules to know if they use that criteria, but it makes sense to me.

An app to manage your Tesla makes no sense unless you own a Tesla. You probably (definitely?) created an account when you ordered your car, so you don't need to sign-up in app. I suppose people that could buy a used Tesla without a Tesla account, but I'm pretty sure you need to link the used car to a new account before you can manage it through the app with the new account, so it still doesn't make sense to offer in-app signup. I see no issue with the Tesla app being approved.

Some of the other apps do seem to be legitimate complaints. Netflix being an obvious one- it's totally plausible for someone to expect to download Netflix on their iPad and then pay through Apple. Netflix could easily offer that but doesn't (probably because of the 30% cut). Apple would gladly reject a smaller app, but they approve Netflix because too many users would complain if they couldn't get Netflix on their iPad.

Edit: one other thing I haven't seen whether Basecamp could just charge $141.43 per year if someone pays through Apple, so Basecamp would get $99 per year after Apple takes their 30% cut. They are allowed to offer outside subscriptions for multiplatform products, as long as those subscriptions are also available in-app. That seems like it would follow Apple's rules. People that don't care about money could sign up in-app, but most people will sign up outside the app.

>one other thing I haven't seen whether Basecamp could just charge $141.43 per year if someone pays through Apple, so Basecamp would get $99 per year after Apple takes their 30% cut.

They could.

>People that don't care about money could sign up in-app, but most people will sign up outside the app.

The problem is that the iOS app cannot in any way or form mention that a) you can pay for the subscription outside the application b) the price of the subscription outside of the application is different than inside the application.

> The problem is that the iOS app cannot in any way or form mention that a) you can pay for the subscription outside the application b) the price of the subscription outside of the application is different than inside the application.

Thanks. Having to hide the difference from customers is worth the fight IMHO.

> Edit: one other thing I haven't seen whether Basecamp could just charge $141.43 per year if someone pays through Apple, so Basecamp would get $99 per year after Apple takes their 30% cut. They are allowed to offer outside subscriptions for multiplatform products, as long as those subscriptions are also available in-app. That seems like it would follow Apple's rules. People that don't care about money could sign up in-app, but most people will sign up outside the app.

There's been couple of times when I've eaten the markup that comes with paying through Apple simply because that means that I can go into my iTunes subscriptions page, hit the "stop" button on it, and it's done. No buried unsubscribe links, no "tell us why you're leaving" quiz, no disputing charges on my card. It's done and over and I don't ever have to think about it again.

If third-party payment services become the norm on the App Store, I expect a steep decline in quality of unsubscribe experiences across the board.

Tesla is definitely one of the easier cases to think about, the rest are in a grey area.

But even with Tesla it's not 100% crystal clear. There might be some buyers who pick Tesla specifically because of the fancy tech features like Summon mode. It's impossible to use Summon mode without the app. So for one of those buyers, the app is an essential part of the purchase, just like HEY subscribers who expect to read emails on their phone.

I don't think every app comes with a clear label attached, but I think most people could decide which apps are the product and which apps are just a feature for the product. For argument's sake, I'll claim the core distinction to be if the only realistic alternative to use a product is through an app on another platform or through a web browser, then the app is the core product and not just a supporting feature. The product can live on servers, but if it weren't for the app then the servers wouldn't matter.

I can still drive a Tesla without the app. It's clear that the core product is car, not the app. Some people may have bought it because of a defining feature, but you are not paying $80k for Summon mode. You are paying $80k for a car that has Summon mode.

Wells Fargo offers almost all of their functionality through physical branches and ATMs. Having an app is just a feature, a bank account is clearly not an app.

I cannot use Netflix without an app or browser on my TV, phone, tablet, or computer. There are movies stored on servers, but I'm not paying $15/month unless I can watch movies. That means Netflix's core product is an app and per Apple's rules they should offer in-app purchases.

WeWork is a little harder for me. They are a real estate company but I'm not sure you could call WeWork and get a workspace over the phone nor could you do it in person (you can call a landlord directly, but that is not WeWork's product). I think their core product is that you can book a space online or with an app. I think they need to have in-app signup and purchases.

Github is the most gray one for me- once setup, I use it mostly through the command line. I could claim that the core product is not an app, but I don't honestly believe that. I use a significant part of GitHub's feature set through the browser (discovering repositories, clicking through links to read about a package before cloning it).

I just don’t think the distinction is actually as clear as you describe it. Most of these apps are clients for a server-based product that you’re paying for. One could argue that the Netflix app isn’t the product, it’s just a video player that you use to connect to the server that you’re paying to have access to. If Netflix just exposed .mp4 links in a web browser, then it would work fine in Safari on an iPhone.

Or imagine a cloud-based e-book service that you can just SSH into. Should Apple allow apps marketed simply as SSH clients, but not allow an SSH client branded with that e-book service?

I addressed this. It's not a watertight mathematically provable law, but I think that with the majority of apps, a reasonable person making a good faith effort would have the same conclusion as me. I said if it's the only realistic alternative is to use an app or browser. I also said that the product might "live" on a server, but if you can only access it via app or browser then the product is an app.

Most of these products are not clients. A client is something like an RSS reader, where one company makes app but interact with services/products from other companies. Netflix does not sell you a subscription to watch movies and then allow you to watch it with third-party apps. They do not expose .mp4 files, so saying "if they did this" isn't relevant. They try their hardest to force you to watch with their app.

Overall, your arguments are silly. People have common sense and can use it. Using misdirection in your words doesn't change what the functionality of the product is. Coming up with strange corner cases that don't exist and aren't viable products aren't good examples. Until an actual commercial e-book service that functions through SSH exists then Apple doesn't need to waste their time addressing it.

I'm not disputing the fact that, barring some controversial edge cases, most people could probably agree on the classification. My point is that Apple clearly appears to be claiming that there are some very clear rules that are followed strictly without any personal judgement about any particular app or company. A lot of their PR about this stuff has been of the form "we're not making any judgments about you, we're just following the rules" (never mind that it's their rules in the first place).

But I think that's pretty clearly not the case, and moreover, I think people might be just as upset if Apple's policies said "we just use our common sense to classify apps and determine which features they can use on our platform" and then appeared to apply those determinations inconsistently.

> It's impossible to use Summon mode without the app

My Model X does summon using only the keyfob.

For Model 3 owners without a keyfob (it's an optional extra) - yeah, I'll give you that.

> just like HEY subscribers who expect to read emails on their phone

To use the service, you have to use a mobile app (or web app), the service won't let you access via POP/IMAP.

> one other thing I haven't seen whether Basecamp could just charge $141.43 per year if someone pays through Apple, so Basecamp would get $99 per year after Apple takes their 30% cut.

This is far from ideal for two reasons:

1) Some users will be paying 30% more just because they signed up in the app. How is this a good experience that protects the user?

2) most importantly, Basecamp loses the ability to manage the financial aspects of the customer relationship. They’re unable to give discounts, credit, refunds, add time to the subscription etc. It’s a hassle for all the back office management as now some customers come through a completely different billing + subscription platform.

> 2) most importantly, Basecamp loses the ability to manage the financial aspects of the customer relationship. They’re unable to give discounts, credit, refunds, add time to the subscription etc. It’s a hassle for all the back office management as now some customers come through a completely different billing + subscription platform.

I want to start by saying I think Apple is overstepping their bounds here and has been for years. But one reason I like the app store is because companies are generally terrible stewards. For example, I took my car to the dealer and the next week I get post cards for XM Radio (I will continue to get them for months because this has happened before). A few years ago I had a reoccurring donation to a popular Public Radio show. I was changing credit cards and was trying to update the subscription. There was no way to update it on their website or contact them to update (which included canceling). I sent email with no response. I ended up cancelling the card and with it my subscription. I'm now very skeptical about services that manage reoccurring payments.

The Tesla example is unfortunate to support he point because Apple doesn’t charge 30% on physical goods. A funny idea, maybe some apps should sell a physical card, or wearable that gives you access to premium features, but it would be ecological.

Depending on what you were selling it would be forbidden under either 3.1.1 In-App Purchase or 3.1.4 Hardware-Specific Content:

> Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc.

> In limited circumstances, such as when features are dependent upon specific hardware to function, the app may unlock that functionality without using in-app purchase[...] You may not, however, require users to purchase unrelated products or engage in advertising or marketing activities to unlock app functionality.

I believe you can upgrade your tesla capabilities from the tesla app, say enable autopilot for $7000 or the model 3 performance upgrade for I believe $2000 (?).

Case in point - I used Apple Pay to reserve my Model 3 for $1,000.

But not in the Tesla app. Apple Pay doesn't really seem relevant here.

An app to manage your Tesla makes no sense unless you own a Tesla

I just had a vision of Apple demanding 30% of the cost of each Tesla sold.

The distinction between app and web is blurred and I don't think it's easy to make this distinction.

Can anyone explain why some apps are mobile only, like the Shop app? I have not tried it yet as a result. Also, does Apple take a cut of those sales?

Maybe some world where those apps would be hidden from search, lists etc.. and you could only install it if you have link to it.

Good start with compiling the list .. a couple more .. AirBnb, All airline apps. Maybe they have contracts with the big guys for some lump sum deal, or maybe they are just letting them go as they have to ... We developers already pay for the subscription, WWDC, a shiny iPhone / MBP every couple of years (to test and develop the new features :(, learn a language and sdks just for the Apple world - We Devs need Apple for sure, but hey they need us too (!) .. high time for a push back .. Apple makes tons on the devices, they need to stop robbing from us little guy developers. Apple do the right thing and drop this 30% altogether .. you will not miss it :)

It is about 1/4 of net profit. They make 15 billion in revenue a year on the app store.


I agree with everyone else here that Apple’s weird rules and the inconsistent way they’re enforced are both bad. But I don’t think the solution is as obvious as “drop the 30% cut”.

How should Apple go about making money from the App Store? Paid apps are dwindling off. They do charge a flat fee per developer, but it can’t be too large or they’ll lose all the indie developers, and there just aren’t enough developers overall to make that a viable business on its own. They could charge a flat fee to the developer per app download -- something really small, a few cents per download -- but then what about free apps?

What they want is to take a share of the profits from developers who are making money on their platform, while also supporting free apps free of charge. The 30% fee is their attempt to do that. The problem is that it’s easy to game the system and just run your payments outside their store. Hence all the silly rules to try to prevent that.

Maybe 30% is just too much. Would people complain as much if it were 10%, or 5%?

Or maybe they should just give up on App Store revenue and focus on hardware sales. But it would be a little weird for them not to have a direct incentive to improve the store experience for users.

Dead simple: apple could charge a low fee hosting ($99/yr) and a higher fee for promotion.

Or Apple could drop the charade and charge users for access to apps based on whatever pricing scheme they want.

Those are good ideas, yeah, but nothing is perfect.

The promotions one is interesting; I think it has the same pitfall as AdWords: if my app / web page is the best result for the user for a given search, why should I have to pay money to promote it? If Apple or Google is doing their job right, taking money for promotions is actively detrimental to users. Not that that stops AdWords, of course.

Charging the users would make sense. It’s a shame that we’ve all been trained to expect this stuff to be free.

I guess subscription-based stores are a decent approach? Like Apple Arcade. But that has downsides for users too -- you potentially end up paying multiple subscriptions (like most people do now for streaming TV) so it adds barriers to entry for new (possibly better) stores. Who wants to pay for yet another subscription service?

Apple has never had a problem with physical goods not paying the 30%. So WeWork, Tesla, AirBnb, airline tickets, etc would all be fine. The 30% cut was on digital goods as I recall. My last company sold things like gym memberships and bicycle rentals and Apple never had an issue with it. Although they did question us the first time we hit the App Store and the Mac App Store. Once we explained we weren’t selling digital goods we got approved.

AirBnb and airlines are companion apps for physical services and the rules for in-app purchases don't apply.

Getting 30% from the whales and scammers is worth too much and a bit of bad PR or the loss of good apps isn't going to change that. They need the big players like Netflix, but after that scummy, high margin, do nothing, trash apps are the best for profits.

Out of interest, what apps are you thinking of? Games with in-app purchases and thinly disguised gambling?

Yeah. A huge percentage of the stuff marketed to children and teens is pretty unethical IMO. The thing is, those are cheap to produce and have huge margins, so that's what everyone tries to make.

It's less risky to develop some skinner box slot machine because you aren't out much investment if it gets rejected. Plus, the digital goods are pulled from thin air, so anything you sell is pure profit.

Contrast that with a real app that provides a valuable service with backend costs and a subscription fee. There's a lot more investment to build an app like that, so getting rejected is a huge risk and, even at 15%, Apple's cut might be a big chunk of your margin.

Since Apple incentivizes low effort slot machines and detriments high quality apps, I feel like there's been an increasing portion of the app store is turning into what I consider garbage apps.

The subscription cut also creates the opposite scenario of what everyone is always parroting about iOS customers being profitable. They might spend more money, but they're definitely not more profitable (per customer) if you're paying 15% to a middleman.

They will when tesla is forced to cough up 30% of a feature when they allow an in-app autopilot or performance upgrade.

Basically every app that is used to sell goods or as an add on to a physical product doesn't have to pay Apple a cut. And it makes sense: the app is free and only the means to access a backend service or a something that was paid separately. I just don't get why it wouldn't apply to HEY: no idea of how it works, but I can imagine that for $99/year you get more than a shiny UI. That is only the means to access a backend service that is entirely independent from Apple's ecosystem (and in fact can be accessed through several channels).

[OP of the site]

I tried to limit the list to apps where you couldn't get to _any_ functionality without logging in. AirBnB lets you browse around etc. Airlines let you look at dates / availability.

I included Wells Fargo, however, because I thought it was wild that they're able to provide straight web links to Safari to sign up for banking services, whereas Hey has to pretend like accounts are bestowed via divine intervention.

If you don't know the difference between a bank and Hey, then there's probably nothing anyone can do to convince you that your position isn't tenable.

There is a difference, of course there is!

Why, then, did Apple decide to gerrymander its rules to extract rent from one industry and not the other?

Perhaps there's an ethical or philosophical argument why Apple feels entitled to one industry's revenue and not the other, but I haven't heard that argument.

Yea this is probably the best year to introduce unpopular, rent-seeking rules. You'll never be forced to see any of these people in person and the government has enough on its plate to even consider thinking about anti-trust issues.

I'm confused why they don't rip the bandaid off and just charge everyone at the same time though. Charging Tesla 30% probably isn't feasible but this seems like an ideal time to introduce fees for all companies that are currently allowed exemptions (Netflix, Lyft, Airbnb, Uber, Audible, Airlines etc). Yes they could put up a fight but at least some of them would cave.

Until the government gets involved, they are totally allowed to selectively and arbitrarily enforce the rules. Banning Hey but not Netflix just makes them look like hypocrites and makes them less money. Seems like the worst of both worlds.

You think Netflix would cave to apple on this? I don't think so. Netflix would just make it extremely public that Apple have blocked user access to the app on iOS. Apple is the one that will cave, not Netflix. I mean, come on, iPhones are popular but not even majority of the market.

> Charging Tesla 30% probably isn't feasible but this seems like an ideal time to introduce fees for all companies that are currently allowed exemptions (Netflix, Lyft, Airbnb, Uber, Audible, Airlines etc).

Since cars are physical goods, Tesla COULD freely sell the car in the app using Apple Pay, Credit Card, etc in the app if they wanted, just like Amazon, Walmart and other e-commerce apps do. They wouldn't pay the 30%, just the credit card fee.

Similarly, Lyft, Airbnb, Uber and some Airlines accept ApplePay, Credit Card, etc, all without the 30%, because it's a physical service, not software or a digital product.

Netflix and Audible just don't sell their stuff on the app. It's not an exemption, it's something predicted in the App Store terms: don't link to the signup/sales page. The problem here is that Hey is claiming that they should be allowed to use that rule that Netflix and Audible use.

I am amazed how many people on HN are defending Apple. I had the naive assumption that my fellow tech savvy would denounce this. The comments here are eye-opening.

It is as if a lot of people just don’t see or don’t care about monopoly or monopolistic behavior. The product is great, Apple is has the highest market cap of any company in the world, it’s founder has god-like status. What’s the problem?

A lot of people on HN also defend anti-unionistic behaviour.

It may sound unrelated but they're both the result of the American zeitgeist's blind commitment to free markets and unfettered capitalism. To be fair, it's worked well for the US economy (e.g. Silicon Valley) albeit at the cost of increasing the wealth gap and general "late-stage capitalism"-y behaviour.

Because it's not a monopoly. Apple is roughly half of the marketshare in the US, and dramatically lower than that worldwide.

They're also not saying that Hey can't be in their store, or even needs to pay them anything. Hey could offer a free tier and wouldn't owe Apple a dime. Basecamp already does this so they know it very well.

They certainly have a monopoly on "distributing software to iPhones." I don't get why no one makes this point. One could argue it's a monopoly they've earned. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But certainly there is a market for iPhone app distribution, and Apple has a monopoly in that market.

Because at that point you've redefined the word "monopoly" to the point where it becomes tautological.

How so? Seriously. There seem to be lots of people who don't consider Apple to have a monopoly in any market, and I just don't get it. Can you explain the argument for that position?

Because there are meaningful alternatives to the iPhone on the market.

If I claim that a gas station has a monopoly within a three block radius, that might be technically true, but only because of the constraints I applied. It's not actually a meaningful distinction if the consumer can drive down a bit further and find another gas station.

Right, but when it comes to selling software to people who have iPhones — there's a market for that, right? — Apple clearly has a monopoly in that market.

Imo it's more like saying, "Foocorp in the US doesn't have a monopoly, since you can always move to Canada and buy from BarCo or one of its competitors there!" Well, Foocorp is still the only seller in the US, so they have a monopoly in that market.

> Right, but when it comes to selling software to people who have iPhones — there's a market for that, right? — Apple clearly has a monopoly in that market.

Sure. I also have a monopoly in the market of "selling lemonade on my front lawn". Is that a meaningful distinction?

> Imo it's more like saying, "Foocorp in the US doesn't have a monopoly, since you can always move to Canada and buy from BarCo or one of its competitors there!" Well, Foocorp is still the only seller in the US, so they have a monopoly in that market.

No one would consider moving to another country a realistic alternative. So in that situation, yes, there is a monopoly because the consumer does not have a realistic alternative. If a gas station is the only gas station in the city, then it too would have a monopoly in that city, because driving to the next city every time you needed gas is not realistic.

Well there are US Supreme Court justices who seem to agree with that definition, so it might be tautological, but it's legally significant regardless.



Is it anti-competitive? Apple literally told them how they could reapply the app in a way where they would owe Apple $0.

Which again, Basecamp already does. They know this is how it is and how to work around it, but they're pitching a fit because they don't want to do it.

I'm a bit ornery about this because Basecamp is using the plight of other developers now only because it suits their bottom line. Where have they been for the past decade? They've been raking in money off the App store for years.

There are a lot of rules lawyers in threads about Hey trying to figure out "tricks" that Basecamp or others could use to avoid the rule. That is not how this works. Apple is not a court, which (usually) plays by well stated rules, and cannot remake those rules at its discretion.

No, if you find a "trick" to get around Apple's rules[0], what happens is that you get blocked when they catch you. They might update the rules to explicitly ban what you did, but they'll gladly ban you first and change the rules later.

That's if you're little. If you're big (Google, Facebook, Uber), you might get a call from Tim Cook warning you that you need to stop what you're doing or you'll have trouble soon. Or perhaps they'll ban your cafeteria app, while leaving your consumer apps in the marketplace. Maybe you'll even get to negotiate, if you have enough leverage. But what won't happen is that Tim Cook will say "Looks like the rules don't cover this situation. Awwww, shucks!"

[0] There are some rules they don't care about (like marketing using push notifications), and enforcement of rules can be mixed. This is for the rules they care about.

It’s worth noting that courts and legal systems generally don’t work like that either. There are some examples of weird loopholes due to some specific wording of a law and things like that, but in general you can’t just get the best of the legal system because you “technically” did such and such. For example, you can’t scam someone by having a contract with extremely small print that they technically signed.

My favorite example of this was the attempt, by the Hunt Brothers, to "corner" the silver market in 1979/1980:

"But on January 7, 1980, in response to the Hunts' accumulation, the exchange rules regarding leverage were changed, when COMEX adopted "Silver Rule 7" placing heavy restrictions on the purchase of commodities on margin. The Hunt brothers had borrowed heavily to finance their purchases, and, as the price began to fall again, dropping over 50% in just four days, they were unable to meet their obligations, causing panic in the markets."


It's a bit of a joke to be honest.

Hey are trying to market an app on the app store as a 'free' app. Not offering sign up also means they don't have to add the 'offers in app purchases'.

So they're advertising the app as free. Even though its $99 a year.

Apples 30% cut is obscene and should be less. But Hey are using a 'free' label to market their app.

I am not really invested in either party but this comment is plainly wrong. They aren’t using the free label to market their service any more than Netflix, Tesla or any of the other apps in OPs link

This would be a legitimate complaint if Apple let you show an app as free with non-Apple subscription.

It is actually against Apple’s rules for Basecamp to make it any clearer.

The point of this website is precisely to show there are apps labeled as free but requires additional paying membership to use it.

Netflix is a "free" app.

You're catching some flak here, but I think it's a fair point. It says "free", but all you get for free is... an icon on your home page and a login screen.

Apple could solve this by allowing a "Free, account required" descriptor/category for Netflix/Dropbox/etc/etc.

So "Free" is a lie, but one many other apps have used beforehand.

I think Apple solved this issue years ago because they got flack about "Free" apps that would have in-app purchases. Apps are not marked "Free" in the App Store. Instead it simply says "Get" to download the app.

They could add a "requires account" tag like they have "in-app purchases" but I don't think that would satisfy what Apple is looking for here (money).

Excellent suggestion that would allow both companies to save face.

the app is free. it's not a hey account, it's an app that lets you access your hey account from an iphone. the account itself has no dependence on the app.

Right. Enlightenment can come from imagining the app and the service as separate companies, i.e. the app being some third-party client for the service. The app, in such a case, clearly does not cost money. It's free. It just doesn't do much if you don't have the service; just like pet toys don't do much if you don't have a pet.

It actually does. You cannot use a regular email application to access your email on Hey, they don't use POP/IMAP.

1. Fastmail has been asked to allow in-app sign-ups and they do use POP/IMAP.

2. Hey can be accessed via HTTP, so it's not app only.

The app is free, the service is not. No ambiguity here.

> "That’s not what we want on the store" -- Apple Vice President of Worldwide Marketing

What if I own an iPhone and HEY is what I want on my phone? How can I override Apple's decision? If I can't, who really owns this device?

Apple crafts their sales pitch around being a secure device that has a lot of restrictions (which means you can't install what you want, but it also protects non-tech savvy people from messing up their device or being hacked)

It is a pretty well established model. I don't like it sometimes either, but you know what you are getting when you buy an iPhone. It isn't like they changed policy after you bought the device.

> How can I override Apple's decision? If I can't, who really owns this device?

I know you're not, but - anyone earnestly asking this question hasn't been paying attention to Apple since, well, ever.

Not just Apple, the entire electronics industry.

TVs used to come with circuit diagrams so that people could repair it themselves at home using standard parts. I've not seen anything like that in many years, even for far simpler appliances.

> TVs used to come with circuit diagrams so that people could repair it themselves at home using standard parts.

Nowadays a brand new high end +2000€ Samsung TV comes with ads (!) in the menu and the apps feel like they'd be running on a potato. With that kind of Smart TVs, the hardware won't be the issue since it'll be the software that will be obsole way before the hardware. Smart TV is not a promise, its a thread.

My new Philips Android TV came with a circuit diagram. It was basically just a punch of arrows pointing to a box labeled 'SoC'.

I feel like that's a disingenuous comparison, given how complex the electronics of appliances must be nowadays (disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea, my experience is strictly at the software level) - but the general principle should still apply to be able to use products that you own in a (non-harmful) way that you choose.

Loads of appliances are still straight forward, simpler than TVs ever were. Vacuum cleaners are not exactly supercomputers.

Still there are components were a schematic would be useful. For example a schematic of the power supply, since 90% of the faults that TVs have are related to that. A power supply is not that complex and having a schematic would mean that repairs would be simpler.

Also nowadays it would be useful to have some sort of debug port, for example a serial port to connect and have a CLI to do diagnostic, upload a new firmware, etc. They have these interfaces in the TVs but most of the time are either disabled or protected so the end user cannot use them.

That would mean you could fix it yourself and cut out their authorized repair program. Better to just not put release the schematics, but also not go after anyone that creates the schematics either.

See dishwashers, microwaves, Apple iPhones, and washing machines. Car manufacturers still publish schematics for their circuitry (for a fee)

If you ask this questions, you shouldn't have an iPhone on the first place.

If you can state such a statement and not understand his statement, you shouldn't comment in the first place :)

Well pointed out, although critics will say, "it is not a bug, it's a feature", e.g. "walled garden life". Imagine if you bought a Microsoft Surface and you could only use the Windows Store to download apps on your device.. People would be outraged, but since it's Apple it is "expected"...

Hint, if it is expected, that doesn't mean it's still ok..

It’s their store, and they get to pick what’s in it. If you want stuff not available in that store, you need a new store. You own the phone, but you agreed to only load software on it from the one store, as it has been for the last decade.

No, they need to allow other stores with different rules and different pricing models. If not, then their store needs to drop the anti competitive practices. This is what the EU investigation is about.

Until the EU decides, they don’t need to do anything. And when the EU decides, if they decide it’s not anti-competitive, they get to go back to doing nothing. You have a choice of what device you use, and if you don’t like all of the things that come with Apple products, vote with your money and use something else.

When you bought the device, did you expect it to run “Hey”? If Apple promised that, sue them. If not, you’re just confused about what you bought and probably shouldn’t handle your own money.

You can override their decision by jailbreaking your phone.

If Apple provided an official jailbreaking tool, I would actually consider this a valid solution, even if it voided the warranty on the device.

Perhaps that's the one more thing at WWDC next week.

BaseCamp is free to offer in app subscription and charge 43% more than directly on their website.

Yeah, they just can't have anything in the app mentioning that they're doing so. That doesn't sound very user-friendly either.

Yes because most retailers like Best Buy let manufacturers advertise that you can get products cheaper at Amazon....

Best Buy also doesn't require you to sell your software in their store if you want people to be able to use it with the laptop they bought there.

And neither does Apple. You are free to offer both in app and out of app subscriptions and charge different prices. You don’t have to sell your app in the App Store, you have to distribute it.

This makes me wonder if they could charge $99/year on their website but $999/year via in-app purchase. Basically a price so high that no one would realistically buy it from within the app.

It technically fulfills the requirements specified in the review guidelines but I suspect it would be frowned upon.

It's a good thing for Apple that WWDC isn't in-person this year. I wouldn't trust the developers in the audience to stay quiet and applause at the announcements this year...

I'm surprised that Hey! managed to create such a big public outrage about that issue. Years ago Spotify complained about the very same thing and given that Spotify has a much bigger userbase I kind of expected the outrage to be bigger.

I suppose a large share of the potential Hey customers work in tech and might have a better understanding of what the app store tax actually means. And the EU anti trust investigations probably play role too?

Everyone is home on their mobile devices waiting for things to happen. I don’t think this outrage is as widespread as it seems, we just live in a tech echo chamber that is resonating pretty loudly right now. And, it’s the weekend before WWDC, so Apple headlines grab extra attention. I think if this happened six months ago, no one would be talking about Hey and they’d have acquiesced by now.

I expected that the tech-echo chamber plays a role, but I was askeby friends what this discussion is all about. Said friends don't work in the industry and aren't really tech-savy either. Sure, is obviously tech focused, but it seems more widespread than back when Spotify sued.

I people like a David (in this case, HH) vs. Goliath story and wants to root for the so-called little guy.

I tend to think Spotify is too big for the media and other pundits to consider to be the little guy.

One of the Hey founders created Ruby On Rails so he is fairly renowned.


I doubt that was a real factor, but maybe the webpage itself is. It is really well done: clear, compelling, and responsive, even. The Spotify website was more artistic, less visually readable, and didn't have as punchy points or counterexamples, at least to my memory.

Everyone is tired of Apple's nickel and diming. This was the last straw that broke the camels back.

Hey was extremely hyped before the launch. At least in certain tech / developer circle. And people have been wanting something new to email. With a waiting list of over 70K, and 10K from first day alone. People saying Hey is hyped up because of Apple is getting the story backwards. The waiting list is also not just filling in an email address but actually writing an email saying you want in. That is some friction involved and I have seen lots of people while interested but didn't bother with writing one.

Remember Hey isn't free. People on waiting list already knew this from day one. With 70K invite, that is $7M annual revenue already.

DHH also went on about making sure no mention of Sign up in Webpages as well as many other commonly known App Stores rules before the App was submitted. And many thought it would pass, and it did for 1.0. It is the bug fix 1.01 update that was blocked Due to IAP reason. For most if not all iOS developers. This is new. So new that Fastmail didn't get their treatment until now. [1]

This new IAP rule force 30% on new sign up, as you could not even allow the App to be on App Store without IAP ( hence this website ). Along with the threat from Apple about pulling Hey from App Store, and finally their tone, which was like adding even more fuel to outrage, and I quote

Thank you for being an iOS app developer. We understand that Basecamp has developed a number of apps and many subsequent versions for the App Store for many years, and that the App Store has distributed millions of these apps to iOS users. These apps do not offer in-app purchase — and, consequently, have not contributed any revenue to the App Store over the last eight years.

Is not exactly helping and got even more outrage from developers who dont even use Hey. To me that is about the most polite way from Apple saying fuck you. ( If the webpage author is reading this I suggest you include this quote on the webpage, or make a new site with all the popular useful free Apps that helped users but contributed noting to Apple. )

I know there are many who hate DHH and Ruby Rails, but seriously I cant see how he could have orchestra the whole thing as marketing. As if he knew about the IAP rule changes before hand.


Hey was really hyped, it was actually crazy. I'm happy to pay for my mail service, but 99€ for an individual plan seems pretty hefty to me.

There are regularly stories about iOS apps getting removed for odd reasons on the HN tops, but the Hey story blew up pretty quickly.

> I know there are many who hate DHH and Ruby Rails

I also I also heard that a lot of people hate DHH and his Twitter comment bubble doesn't seem to like HN. Either way, he is certainly not wrong about the issue. I also don't see how Hey would profit from marketing around that. First of all, Hey is pretty expensive and has a pretty narrow target audience as of now. Most people are perfectly happy with their free mail, people who aren't are probably already aware that those alternatives exist. Even more importantly, I don't see how they are going to profit by putting their App Store listing at risk. I doubt an E-Mail service is able so succeed if it doesn't offer native applications or at least a integration with third party clients. Since they chose to not support IMAP etc, Hey's iOS app is integral to the buisness. No app in the store, no profit.

On a side note, I don't know whether it's intentional or not, but the whole story is a great marketing campaign for HEY. Clashing with Apple made everybody learn about the app in a matter of days.

> David, I’ve got to I ask you, because so many people have said this. You’re very successful. Basecamp is excellent at marketing. Did you do this on purpose? Did you time this to create this firestorm before WWDC?

> I wish I was that smart. Imagine if I was that good at 4D chess. Imagine just the mechanics of this: first, you have to plant someone within Apple that approves the application, which, and then, what, I plant someone on Monday that then disapproves it? How does any of this work? How powerful do I have to be to orchestrate this?

- https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/18/21295778/apple-app-store-...

They couldn't have relied on it getting rejected, but they must have been keenly aware that it was a possibility. What we're seeing is probably their contingency plan playing out.

They'll eventually probably capitulate. Maybe with a higher price on the IAP? They're very much making sure that Apple are earning their 30% through this campaign, though!

It is literally a play from their book, Rework. See the essay "Pick a fight."

So is Apple in on it? Remember, Apple initially approved the app.

No way. This is far too risky & damaging to them to be in on, unless they already plan to add lots of new exceptions/relaxations of rules around this.

I would say that if anything Hey was hoping that Apple would reject their app specifically so they could become a cause célèbre, and ride the streisand effect,

They've done a great job organizing their protest campaign. I would be extremely surprised if it wasn't planned from the beginning. They are ultimately depending on Apple caving under pressure.

This seems unlikely. They are at real risk of having their 1.0 app pulled, and even if it remains it has real bugs. Additionally, until this week I don’t think any iOS developer would have predicted this rules clarification/enforcement.

That said, they were clearly ready to loudly react to whatever trouble did emerge.

To play devil's advocate, maybe DHH hoped it would get rejected so he could launch his protest campaign, then when Apple approved the app only to turn around and reject an update, he was given an even more exploitable situation than the one he had hoped for.

Who knows? All I know is if the end result is that Apple is held accountable by regulators and is forced to stop engaging in capricious anticompetitive behavior, then whether DHH is a master astroturfer or not doesn't matter much to me. The end result will have been good for us all.

It isn't clear that Hey couldn't just be a PWA like many other email services?

Do you have any statistics breaking down how frequently mobile users access email via a PWA versus a dedicated app? Also surveys on the difference in user experience?

If not, please refrain from disingenuously advancing obviously problematic ideas. It adds nothing to the conversation.

It's not as though a statistic about how frequently mobile users access mail via a website is a measurement of some universal value. If that's the only way for iOS users to use Hey, then would find some users who are willing to do that.

What's wrong with this being put forward? I would go so far to say that this is one of the four main things that happen when an app is rejected from an app store.

1. Change the app.

2. Don't support the platform.

3. Sideload.

4. Direct users from that platform to the web version.

Apple intentionally doesn't support many the functionality required by PWA's.

PWAs are supported well by iOS 13 and you can add a shortcut to the home screen since the beginning - see https://love2dev.com/pwa/ios/

No push notifications, limits of 50mb on storage whereas a good email app requires around 500mb to 1.5gb including local indexes for quick search etc. Storage cleared after a week of no interaction. No way to do photo preview. No contact picker. No picture in picture API support. And lots of other missing API's. Look at the WebKit forms and see how many developers are begging Apple to support them for years. The ignore any request.

The web browsers that meets the PWA requirements are Chrome, Edge, Firefox (to a large extent), Brave, Vivaldi, all available on Windows, Linux, Mac, Android.

Not Safari. And all browsers including Chrome and Firefox are just Safari under the hood (on iOS) so no completion for Apple. Apple does not even allow a competing browser engine.

I wouldn't call this "PWA support".

When I talk to friends at Google that work at Chrome, and tell them to convince Apple to support many of the features, they tell me that they have given up on them, and I can go talk to Apple if I want. They told me they're gonna keep progressing the web even if Apple wants to stay behind, they won't stop.

I've talked to people at Apple about this, they don't care. They always have a far fetched excuse. I know it's not the engineers fault, they are ordered by the upper management.

Instead of giving the money to Apple, we could easily reinvest it to grow.

That's true, and it's probably for this very reason. That said, at a minimum it's very possible to have a somewhat usable website on iOS. If ever that stops being the case, hopefully consumers will finally stop buying iOS devices.


It was a serious question. I'm sorry if it caught you in a situation that didn't allow you to perceive it in that way.

It’s obviously intentional. I’ve never heard about Hey. Then today, first they post something else and now someone defrosts this tired whine about Apple monetizing, and Hey (whatever it is) tops the list. Sigh. Good work marketers, people seem to buy it.

So just because the publicity benefits Hey, the point about Apple's unequal treatment of devs on their platform is invalidated?

Also, I'm not sure how Hey orchestrated this - do they have someone on the inside who they had reject their app?

No, though it’s invalidated for other reasons, the enumeration of which would here seem only to cause a resounding whoosh passing overhead.

It’s child’s play to orchestrate this. It amounts to getting thrown out of a bar for not wearing pants, and then putting up ishouldbeabletovisitbarswithoutpants.com. Not something that requires a man on the inside.

They had a large audience before this.

They didn't change anything in their app. How could they have known that Apple would suddenly enforce a rule on them that they had not previously enforced?

“So how do we raise awareness”

“Well, let’s ask Apple for some workaround for the 30%, skirt the rules a bit”

“They’ll never go for that”

“Of course not, but while it lasts we’ll get 30% more. Then once we get rejected, sooner or later, we’ll write some blog posts and suddenly a bunch of nerds will see us as the brave underdog“

They already have a waiting list with 70K people motivated enough to write an "email story" to be there. They don't need gimmicks.

It's every independent developers benefit. The guy "DHH" - also the maker of ruby on rails said that he wants the rules to be consistent and changed for EVERYONE.

And well timed too.

Why is Apple's revenue here even percentage-based at all?

It makes zero sense.

According to Apple they need this revenue cut because of the cost of keeping the platform running.

If I offer a subscription in my app for 1$/month vs 10$/month what marginal expense is being incurred that apple deserves an extra $2.70 for the higher price?

This is my big problem with it too. The cost of maintaining the app store and the search is the same no matter what the app is. It should be a fixed fee.

On the other hand the argument is that all the $0 apps are being subsidized by the paid apps, so they went percentage based so that the cheap apps didn't have a huge fee. It would mean the cheapest paid apps in the app store would be a lot more to absorb the fixed cost, or if they shared it evenly, then there would be no free apps.

You still have to pay $100-$300 to publish a completely free app.

But not per user.

I mean, it would relatively easy to say 30% up to a maximum of $5, or something along those lines.

Apple's cost to maintain this ecosystem can't be anything close to the insane $50B in App Store revenue they hauled in last year.

I'm well aware it isn't close to what they make, but they are entitled to their profits too.

And users are entitled to better app stores. In other words, users are entitled to chose between businesses according to their abilities in utilizing their profits to deliver more value.

If there were competing app stores available on iOS, then we could say they are really entitled to that profit. But we don't know how much of this profit reflects the value they brought versus the rent they were able to get due to gatekeeping the only bridge into iOS-land. So no, we can't for sure say they are entitled to the entirety of that profit.

I think the overarching point that's emerging here is that those profits are a consequence of monopolistic rent-seeking...

You’ve seen through it, congrats: they are pricing based on value, not cost.

McDonalds, Nike and Gillette do this too. Hey, maybe you’re doing it yourself: is your salary really the cheapest way for you to produce the work you get paid for?

Do you price your subscriptions purely by the marginal expense of serving the content/service to another customer? Or do you price them according to what the market will pay for your product?

Totally different. The goal here is to maximize my profit and minimize my expenses.

Then don't be surprised that Apple works to maximize their profits too. Which neatly answers the question why Apple does pricing like that.

It's not different, both are price discrimination. If they cut the price for the expensive products' apps, they'll have to raise it for the inexpensive products' apps. If the inexpensive products can't afford it, they won't have an app.

Do you think that isn't the goal for Apple?

I assume it’s percentage-based to allow for free apps (which are an important part of the overall ecosystem).

How do you allow free apps but still collect money? Maybe you could make a distinction between free and paid apps, and charge a flat fee to the paid apps, but then people would just make their apps free and process their payments separately anyway; essentially the same problem you hit with the 30% fee.

this is a salient point, fixed rate would make much more sense

I have no horse in this race, but it has been interesting to watch the conversations grow over the past few days on this topic. Some people are so pro-Apple on this, clearly ignoring some of the primary complaints (like no option to not use the App Store for distribution).

As I get older, I can't help but wonder if these people are simply shareholders of Apple (or any company in a discussion like this). Is this good for society overall, to have such a strong financial incentive for so many people to willfully ignore the other side of important arguments?

> Is this good for society overall, to have such a strong financial incentive for so many people to willfully ignore the other side of important arguments?

Ironically, you're wilfully ignoring the other side of the important argument, and telling yourself the lie that anyone who disagrees with you must be being paid to do so, rather than listening to them and thinking about why they may think that way through their own reasoning.

> and telling yourself the lie that anyone who disagrees with you must be being paid to do so

I specifically said "can't help but wonder". It just crosses my mind, no assumptions are made.

There's no need to accuse people of being shills. Some people legitimately prefer walled gardens.

(I'm not one of them, by the way: I'm 100% on the side of Hey.)

Seems like a lot of these examples are intentionally ignoring the rules that allow them as exceptions just to build up a bigger strawman:

* Netflix: Reader app (reader is a special Apple exception for movies/tv, books, news... mass-market media)

* Github: Offers a free tier

* App store connect: I mean come on, it's an Apple dev tool

* Tesla: exception for physical goods

Basecamp/Hey knew this was going to happen. It's a wonderful marketing campaign for them.

Apple has zero incentive to change this. The buzz around it is niche and they'd lose countless dollars if they opened the door for exceptions. Basecamp knows this.

Also, where has Basecamp been for the decade prior? Funny how they're propping this as some rightgeous issue when it suddenly impacts their bottom line.

> Also, where has Basecamp been for the decade prior? Funny how they're propping this as some rightgeous issue when it suddenly impacts their bottom line.

I think they testified in the US Congress about Apple’s practices recently

Recently enough that they happened to be working on Hey at the same time.

Your point being?

the best time to complain about apple was ten years ago. the second best time is now.

I'm really enjoying all this.

I don't care about Hey and I'm not an iOS user, but I would love to see this situation, which represents something increasingly accepted as normal but that none of us quite understand, forced into a proper accommodation with reality.

One of the problems is that as a consumer, I like the features Apple implements with this.

I can just use Apple Pay instead of handing over my credit card. Don't want a subscription? No complicated process. No need to call a number. No need to email anyone. I just click to cancel and I am done.

As lousy as this is, the consumer experience is dramatically improved.

> As lousy as this is, the consumer experience is dramatically improved.

I also am a (generally) happy iPhone user. That being said, I don't think this is a strong argument in support of Apple's monopoly on the App Store.

Make it the default so that non-techy users have no difficulties, but other methods for loading/installing apps should be allowed. If Apple's experience truly is that much better for the consumer, then let it win on its merits.

I disagree about the value of the ecosystem but that's just personal taste. From an economic perspective, Apple is raking in cash and it only investing part of it back into feature development. They're 30% in-app purchase rent could just be 15 or 20% and they'd still be able to easily fund their UX teams. They're not charging what they need to operate, they're charging as much as the market can bare. And the market can bear a lot because users allow it.

What company doesn’t charge what the market will bare and has a goal to just break even?

Any company that wants to stay competitive. The entire point of this post is that iOS app makers are deliberately hurting their customer experience because their monopolist platform is charging unreasonable fees.

Unreasonable compared to what? Physical store markup? Other digital marketplaces like Google Play, Kindle? Spotify? Steam? If App makers in general are hurting and they are all paying the same 30% cut, wouldn’t the market have 43% markup?

You also act as if money on the store is coming from small Indy developers and not big corporations and mostly play to win games. Especially since the former big money makers have stopped allowing in app subscriptions.

So much this. I use an iPhone because of the ecosystem. Apple Pay is massive part of that and that's because of the easy to manage subscriptions.

The biggest issue is how big apples cut is. 30% is a lot for a company that is so impossibly wealthy.

Except that the developer gets 30% less money. I mean come on, it's effectively a commission on the transaction, and I think that such an high commission on the transaction would be illegal in most countries. But Apple is not a bank and can probably get around this (but isn't effecitvely acting like a bank in this situation? I wish that the EU investigates this behaviour)

>As lousy as this is, the consumer experience is dramatically improved.

Is that worth paying $43 extra per year on a HEY subscription?

Probably could be a lot less than $43/mo if Basecamp didn't feel the need to spend 7 figures on a domain.

They're not filling some massive need; it's yet another email service. If they can't justify it at $142 a year how do they justify it at $99 a year? You reap what you sow.

Not to me, but that's my choice to make. I just won't use it.

Unfortunately Apple's intention is that you would not hear about an alternative way to pay for the subscription and that the alternative way is cheaper.

I mean if you partnered with Target to sell your shampoo I think they would be rightfully pissed if the bottles you sent them to put down said something like "Buy it on our website instead for 30% cheaper!"

I imagine that if a consumer sees a product at Target, they have an idea that the product might be cheaper somewhere else. However, do consumers have an idea that if they seen an in-app purchase that the exact same thing might actually be on sale somewhere else and that it has a different price?

If the app says that "One year HEY subscription" is $142 and the app is from HEY itself, what reason is there to believe that it's not just the plain old price of HEY?

Harry's razors are sold at Target, and they do a subscription service for razor blades.

I think this point is worth highlighting. Although I'm not at all on Apple's side here, they are offering something of value. What galls is that they're demanding 15-30% of all revenue for it. Payment processing simply isn't that costly, and I doubt the app store is that expensive either.

They're not charging for the payment processing though. They're charging a premium because you're using their platform/store as part of your sales funnel. They know that being able to sell your stuff on iOS devices is worth a lot of money and that you'll make more money after the 30% cut than if you didn't sell in the store at all.

Apple knows that customer acquisition is extremely expensive outside the store and is charging accordingly.

They are charging (at least partially) for payment processing.

So do you think any retailer tries to just break even?

But Hey.com's iOS app would not force you to use their service. That's the point. Giving the end-user the choice.

Some prefer IaP, like you, so won't sign up to Hey, others don't and may actually have already paid for the service on desktop.

I do too. But, a better middle-ground needs to be found which services both consumers and developers. It could literally be as simple as something closer to a 90/10 split.

There wouldn't be uproar if it was 10%. Everything else is perfectly reasonable but taking a 30% cut is extreme.

Paying 10% of your revenue for them to usurp your customer relationship seems like a bad deal to me.

For developers I think a possible strategy would be to sell two products; standard edition and iOS optimized. Charge +30% for the iOS version since Apple users are (supposedly) willing to pay more.

Charging iPhone users more was actually one of the suggestions Phil Schiller made. I'm pretty sure Spotify charges more for people who subscribe from within the iPhone app. They made a lot of noise a year or two ago about this and ended up with this approach.

Personally, I'm very skeptical of subscription options since many companies are bad actors; making it difficult to cancel or throwing adds and promotions at you.

A lot has to do with how it is framed. I think Apple would have less pushback if they charged 50% and told developers, we're providing the devices, the user base, the app store, the promotion, the dev tools, the payment processing, you're providing the app. We each need each other so let's split revenue 50/50. Seems it would be tougher to argue that, than 70/30 which is an arbitrary declaration.

Why though? Apple is well-aware of their worth in your sales funnel and know that customer acquisition outside of their store/devices is a lot more expensive.

Nobody would be complaining if you Apple's user-base wasn't so juicy that your best option is forking over 30%. If it was easy to acquire customers outside the store it wouldn't even be an issue.

Forking over 30% isn't the best option. It's the only option.

If Apple had unlisted apps that didn't show up in the store listings and required a click through from your website to get to the app's store page, I bet some developers would opt for that if it meant they didn't have to pay the 30% tax.

Right, but the value isn't that you're listed in the app store, the value is that you can collect payment on-device. The store isn't the retail space, the whole device it.

You could not release an app in their store and ignore their existence entirely. But that's ridiculous and you can't afford to do that because their user-base is so valuable. And so Apple charges a premium because they know that.

No, the other option is to not fork over 30%. If your app is so good that Apple needs you more than you need Apple, they’ll come to the table.


This is the second time in less than a day that you've broken HN's guideline against accusations of shillage, astroturfing, etc. It says this:

Please don't post insinuations about astroturfing, shilling, brigading, foreign agents and the like. It degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried about abuse, email us and we'll look at the data.

That rule is in place for good reason: the overwhelming majority of such accusations are pure imagination, which makes them poison. It's also a cheap, aggressive internet tactic, which makes it ubiquitous. Cheap ubiquitous poison is an environmental hazard, especially on a site which is trying to deviate from internet default, so it needs to be regulated. This rule is how we do that here. There is plenty of past explanation at https://hn.algolia.com/?sort=byDate&dateRange=all&type=comme... for anyone who wants it.

Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules from now on.

I only repeat the argument so I get to hear a bunch of people’s takes on it. Once you’re deep in a thread it’s pretty much only you and the person you’re replying to.

I don’t think the App Store is the source of customer acquisition. I think being able to sell on iOS devices is the source of customer acquisition. Being able to upsell a user to your premium service right there on the device is the valuable thing that costs a premium.

This is a really ambiguous, unusual, and (in my opinion) inappropriate use of the term "customer acquisition".

The App Store is a marketplace that connects people developing for a platform (iOS) to customers using devices compatible with that platform. It is also the only marketplace that does this. In this way, it is best thought of as a (monopolistic) distribution channel.

But why is the “App Store” the distribution channel and not the device itself? I mean Apple would be within their right to just not allow 3rd party apps at all on their devices so why is it weird that they take a cut from anyone who wants to set up a booth on their land?

Like it feels wrong to punish a company for not closing their platform like consoles do to any only working with a few select partners.

Ordinarily I would be inclined to say that as a "private marketplace", Apple is entirely within its rights to selectively enforce rules (and whims) like this so as to maximize their profit, but surely there must be a limit when about 45% of US smartphone users (so about 36% of the population) have an iPhone [1]?

At this point this is no private dark pool, but a public market place, the transactions on which affect an unfathomable number of consumers, and Apple should and must be subject to the level of government regulation and oversight that governs other public market places like the NYSE and the CME. I suspect that this will come sooner or later, or otherwise these markets will be broken up entirely, but behavior like this from Apple only hastens this outcome.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/236550/percentage-of-us-...

I am surprised no one has mentioned the Amazon getting special treatment from apple on in-app purchases.


I dislike the 30% IAP cut as much as the next developer, but what is it about perceived tech monopolies that bring out the hyperbolic comparisons?

> Apple should and must be subject to the level of government regulation and oversight that governs other public market places like the NYSE and the CME.

First it's Facebook should be treated as a Public-as-in-Government Square, and now the App Store should be governed like the stock market?

I think Apple's morally in the wrong here. But the solution isn't just going to be just pulling some lofty regulation out of thin air and trying to re-apply it.

> But the solution isn't just going to be just pulling some lofty regulation out of thin air and trying to re-apply it.

That's exactly what the solution will be. Apple will eventually be responsible for ushering in regulation that kills software distribution monopolies like the App Store. It'll be an interesting new landscape to be in for a lot of markets.

I’ve been working on a side-project SaaS (primarily the backend to this point) and a few weeks ago I’d decided I didn’t want to deal with the JavaScript front-end world (I deal with it at work) and thought I’d build mobile and desktop clients instead. At this point I’m ready to reverse my decision. Screw Apple and Google. They’ve built these App Store ecosystems to drive sales/adoption of their platforms (Apple sells more hardware and google collects more eyeballs.)

Somewhere along the way they forgot that apps are why people use their devices/platforms.

So nice for the people of Basecamp to be fighting the good fight for everyone and the small developers. It’s not like they were perfectly fine with the system as long as it didn’t affect them, being one of the “famous” companies out there, while independent developers and small start-ups had to deal with this for years and years.

I was excited about hey before, and even though I don’t agree and don’t like the way the App Store works, I find Hey and the superstars behind it so hypocritical and annoying now. It’s funny how we hate here AMP and other technologies that are killing the open web, but we’re fine with a closed email system that locks you in Basecamp’s walled garden.

I mean, they give you MBOX export and forwarding forever even if you stop paying them. What else would you want them to do? The feature stack would be impossible to implement on IMAP, and all of the features would have to be exposed in every client anyway. They are trying to change the paradigm for people who hate how email works today, and I don't think that'd work if they said "Okay, first, add this new address to Mail on your iPhone. Cool. Now if you go on our website you'll get a great email experience."

(With that being said, there's no reason they couldn't publish an API so someone else could write a client...)

> I was excited about hey before, and even though I don’t agree and don’t like the way the App Store works, I find Hey and the superstars behind it so hypocritical and annoying now.

I don't understand this sentiment. You don't like the way the App Store works and a company comes along and is willing to fight against Apple for it, and then you start disliking them? Why are they hypocritical? They are pointing out flaws and being loud about them. Yes, I am aware that it's because it aligns with their financial/strategical interests, but ultimately it's a good thing that they are pressuring Apple, no?

> It’s not like they were perfectly fine with the system as long as it didn’t affect them, being one of the “famous” companies out there, while independent developers and small start-ups had to deal with this for years and years.

What about Netflix, GitHub and all of other companies who are able to get away. They are apparently big enough that Apple cares about them to bend the rules; why aren't we annoyed that they're not willing to stand up for other developers as well? They certainly should have some way of pressuring Apple.

> It’s funny how we hate here AMP and other technologies that are killing the open web, but we’re fine with a closed email system that locks you in Basecamp’s walled garden.

How is Hey "a closed email system"? It sends and receives emails using SMTP. Closed source email clients is far from a new invention and

The client doesn't use SMTP, you send your email to their server, probably using a json payload. They then send it for you over SMTP. Since the client doesn't use SMTP or POP/IMAP, you can't use Hey with a traditional email program, you must use their client.

I think that’s the whole point though. SMTP/POP/IMAP are pretty bad protocols, especially for mobile. Also they imply that the email client/server have to work in certain ways but hey! Want it to work in different ways

> How is Hey "a closed email system"? It sends and receives emails using SMTP. Closed source email clients is far from a new invention and

It intentionally doesn't support IMAP, so exporting email is tricky/impossible. Whether or not you care is another thing entirely.

They weren’t fine. They spoke against Google, Facebook and Apple last year in front of Congress.


Last year in front of Congress (while actively developing this new product). They never mentioned it despite Basecamp being in the app store for years and paying Apple $0.

The "oh my this is shocking and unfair" act is all a ruse. They've been well aware of this since the onset, they even copied Netflix's app text so they can feign "see we're just like them!" despite knowing they're not.

Last week, effectively every iOS developer would have looked at their implementation and predicted App Store approval. It’s important to understand that because if you just read Apple’s rejection letter (you’ve read it as you repeated a talking point from it), you might think Apple was just clarifying a rule familiar to app developers.

I suppose you’re not affected by app store policies. Otherwise you’d be extremely grateful to DHH to step up and fight publicly, instead of trying to deal with apple in private or just cave in.

It has never felt so close to actually breaking up apple tight grip on its developer community, and it’s all thanks to him.

Because they are being ridiculous already. It’s one thing to help developers and try to bring up their stories and issues with the App Store, it’s another thing to come up with ridiculous examples (Tesla, banking apps, AirBnB and so on, that have nothing to to with SaaS, subscriptions and IAP) and this insane campaign for their own product.

It should be noted that this website is not created by Basecamp, but is a personal project by someone else. Yes, they are giving Hey free marketing, but this is not an official attempt at marketing Hey.

What about Netflix and Amazon? Those examples seem very valid to me.

I interpreted the "reader app" definition in their policy as:

either - app value is content driven (netflix) OR - data-driven (bloomberg) OR - or physical (airbnb, amazon)

in cases where you could say, the client is the "main driver of value" they are pretty consistent.

take a game, for example -- or hey's proprietary filtering system.

that said, I don't agree with 30%, jsut my understanding

.. haha true, one walled garden at a time ! Maybe Hey will do the right thing and let you export out the email, whenever you wish .. as json or txt !

The redirect offer is also nice to see. Kudos to them for that.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact