The sad thing is it was not just my company which was targeted, but Apple removed this entire product category. We never knew the real reason why, or if it was bigger than just a random app reviewer trying to apply Apple policy, until May 2019.
That's when Bloomberg interviewed Phillip Shoemaker, who ran app reviews from 2009 to 2016 - regarding how Apple systemically removes whole categories of apps. I subsequently spoke to Phillip Shoemaker, who confirmed that Apple executives ordered the elimination of apps that drove downloads to the App Store. He said "Your app drove download volume. Apple doesn’t want any outside sources to drive ratings. So yeah, we got rid of all app recommendation apps." He said he thought it was unfair, but this was something Apple set out to do, and even as Senior Director of App Store (person directly in charge of App Review), he could not stop it.
The other thing that was hard to understand, is we used to have a great relationship with Apple. We were not flying under the radar. Since the App Store first launched in 2008, we used to be invited to all Apple events to see the new product launches, we met with the iTunes team to discuss upcoming initiates for the App Store, our apps were featured on the devices inside of many demo units into Apple Stores. It felt like a complete 180, and until this day I never got a formal conversation on what they actually objected to, beyond being pointed to a vague rule which was applied arbitrarily. They became a brick wall in terms of communication, and this is why I resorted to emailing Tim Cook. I assumed nothing would come of it, but it was the last thing I could think of.I never received a response, and never knew if he even got it, so I was shocked to see it again today from his inbox.
2) I worked at a mobile ads company 2013: kicked out of apple store
3) I worked at a mobile hosting company for small shops 2015: salons, restaurants, etc: kicked out of apple store
4) I worked at a mobile social network company (2017): kicked out of apple store.
5) I built an app where people can promote their github projects (2017): account suspended by github
6) Built another app to help locate doctors: blacklisted by google
The flip side is, you've been involved with a lot of projects. And that's often a big advantage. Some devs stay with the same company for 5 to 10 years.
Depending on how you play it, that doesn't have to be the worst thing in the world. The megacorps have an incredible diversity of roles you can try out.
So an unlucky developer could rapidly become even more unlucky, and infect others with that 'bad luck'.
More seriously you're a cautionary tale to what Stallman has warned us for so long.
Windows and Linux are third-party platforms too. I mostly develop for these two platforms (been doing for couple decades now), and never had the unfortunate experience of GP.
It's one thing if an app stops working on newer versions of the system due to fundamental change to that system. It's totally different if you get banned simply because the gatekeeper doesn't like your face.
3 - the apps for were too similar, we were kicked out for being "templated". eg two different hair salons stores had too similar functionality - but were aesthetically totally different
4 - the social network allowed people to post text, someone said something horrible on the network and reported it (with screenshot) to apple
6 - google reported the content was too similar, eg generated. every doctor had different content but the structure was too similar
This was clearly exploitation of their power. Let's find some horrible comments on Reddit now and report to Apple with screenshots, huh?
This feels a bit like “if you meet assholes all day, you’re the asshole” territory. Or someone who works in the space really doesn’t like them.
If a user doesn't like their moderation/filter, they can swap in a different one or disable it altogether.
I don't know why you originally eschewed the web. I've developed on closed platforms in the past: Facebook (when Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars were crazy hot), Silverlight, OpenSocial, Twitter, and now Google Apps Script. My work is always worthless in 2-3 years, and what I "learned" about that platform is useless.
Now when I develop for a platform, my mindset is only if it's temporary, and if I will be okay if this is shut down in a year.
Old, mature technology is a treasure. Not something to make fun of
Besides, I am not sure how anyone can argue that the level of churn is bad, considering that it is usually proportional to the volume of new ideas and an eventual winner emerging (albeit not always in a meritocratic fashion).
That's a caricature, but all these platforms provide a variety of scaffolding and security, and the optimal setup is non-obvious.
Most of what I’ve learned about Silverlight was directly reusable for the rest of MS XAML platforms: WPF, WinRT, UWP, and now WinUI.
Bam, just like that all Arcade games became non-Arcade with a single email.
If this is not clear abuse of power, then what it is? Don't tell me that a Trillion dollar company couldn't come up with a better name for its subscription service without hurting hundreds, perhaps thousands of small time developers?
Thank you for telling your story to the man up in the ivory tower in such a beautiful way. It may not haven been listened to there, but it certainly has impacted me.
They didn't just say that. They pretended it was some other rule. Which means what people suspected is true -- they lie to you about the reason for your app being removed. You may have zero chance of complying with the rule they said you violated, because it wasn't really about that rule at all, it was about another secret rule or policy decision.
To me that's far more alarming than the fact that they decided to forbid a class of app that had previously been allowed.
They could arguably defend the ability to forbid any category or type of app they want with no notice; it's their store, they make the rules, they decided that kind of app was unwelcome. Although that they don't simply admit this must mean they think it would make them look bad, and/or discourage developers from developing for their platform, and/or be evidence of antitrust illegality, and/or something.
But when they instead lie about it... it makes the whole sytem into a kafkaesque maze, you never know when they are lying to you about their rules and when they are telling the truth, when there's something you could do to "fix" your app so it would be allowed, and when they have just already decided the whole category your app is in is banned; it's not because you actually accidentally violated any rules, and there's nothing you can do to fix it, but they will instead try to, well, "gaslight" you (I normally am not fond of that phrase, but it seems apt) into thinking you were in violation of a rule.
> He said he thought it was unfair, but this was something Apple set out to do, and even as Senior Director of App Store (person directly in charge of App Review), he could not stop it.
I would like to believe if I were him, I would have had the courage to quit. NOT because it is unfair to the apps banned. But because LYING about it makes the entire App Review process illegitimate and unethical and "gaslighting" developers, and I wouldn't be willing to be the person directly in charge of all App Review if it's gonna be BS like that.
I've experienced this directly a few times. In one case, we had an app in the store for several years and a random update that fixed a crash was blocked for violating the rule around allowing out of app purchases. It took a couple weeks to appeal and get it approved. In that process, we changed nothing functional and resubmitted with a couple bits twiddled to make the package different and that passed.
In another instance, we made three white-labelled versions of the app. Both differed from the original app only in the colors in the design palette, and the name of the publisher since these were to be published under our customers' own accounts. One passed review without comment, and the other was abandoned after several months of back-and-forth.
Once you get on their bad side with an App there is no end to it. The App Store review team will keep on rejecting every single update you do for totally unrelated random reasons.
One of my apps got approved when first submitted. Everything after that was just absurd to the point we had to abandon it. The App Store review team kept on rejecting any update we would make. The last one which was supposed to be a bugfix release got through three reviews. Each one got rejected due to different reasons. Each one addressed the problem the review team asked us to 'fix'. It was clear they did not want us in the store. We had to stop it. Half a year of work vanishing just like that.
It would have been so much easier if they had told us that they did not want us in the App Store. Such a waste of time.
That is impressive. We can't get our app past review because Apple is insisting we are permitting out-of-app purchases (not true, but they are insisting on in-app purchase capability).
They could be playing with people's livelihood in cases such as this.
They could have shut down in a more orderly fashion with 2.5 more months of severance.
In the context of criminal law, this is sometimes called "selective enforcement," and refers to the criminalization of normal behavior in order to provide plausible cover for violations of the actual, secret law. It's devastatingly unjust, and unsurprisingly applied in private jurisdictions.
I suspect there was a fairly detailed conversation about how apps such as yours could be supported while simultaneously being able to detect and mitigate 'cram and jam' strategies where apps pay per install. Short of doing quarterly audits of your books, I'm not sure how those dubious business practices could be avoided.
 And even with regular auditing, criminal enterprises manage to operate successfully with multiple ledgers.
At least they are not actively blackmailing you (yet).
The ads parent is seeing are not actually for shitty apps (as long as Apple does a decent job in app curation). They are part of the customer delight strategy, by making customers think "Cool, I didn't know my phone could be used for that".
The answer you never got from Apple was actually already in your own E-Mail all along.
Pay-Per-Install Ads will be a $118 BILLION industry by 2022. 
While you've missed out on millions of dollars, Apple sure saw this coming (Facebook probably was having quite a lot of success with it at the time?) and wanted those billions for themselves.
Protecting the user experience IS important to Apple, too, of course.., and it will always be the story they tell on the outside, but Craig, Phil or whoever was responsible for the AppStore at the time will have given a very different answer to Tim
Basically the idea was we helped you figure out which apps / games you would love and then link you directly to the official App Store to download it
I guess I'm asking: why did you choose to make this an app in the first place? Was that the only way to get commissions from apple?
I attended an Apple TV event in Berlin once, it was actually really good and well polished, but at the same time it felt like a marketing event aimed at developers to please make things for the Apple TV platform. They shared an e-mail address as well, going "If you've made something cool, send us an email and we may feature it".
Still a bit salty that I didn't pursue it further, but honestly, I need a team to work on an app. I'm comfortable with the technical side of things, but I suck at ideas, product management and design, and design is incredibly important.
Banning you guys from the AppStore is Apple’s loss. I’m glad to have found you now though.
Awkward but genuine question: is there anything out there like this for Android? :)
Seems like an app recommendation app.
The nuance here was there a fair number of bad players in this space and abuse was not uncommon. Ie, "ratings" apps that were not really ratings / user reviews were bogus / paid for etc.
Apple has a fair bit of visability into app store reviews (ie, did users actually install apps). That said, STILL lots of fakes on app store itself in terms of reviews, so in the end I think your app was actually the BETTER solution (curated lists meant you didn't have the app review spam problem, some ethics means you hopefully didn't push the adware type apps).
So yeah, apple screwed up. I do wish you could filter app reviews by verified in-country users (ie, apple uses the gps of the device and icloud account length / other verifications) to weed out the crappy reviews. If you look you can see where people "buy" their reviews (lumps of all 5 star reviews with min content length).
I know this seems completely pointless and useless, but.. this same disregard for UX is repeated in other major ways. Such as allowing less-than-60fps scrolling on modern phones. Last time I used Android was 2016 or so, and the inefficient animations are probably less noticeable now, but I bet it's still inefficient.
Everything just seems way more thought out and well executed on iOS.
To be clear, I'm glad you enjoy Apple products and I'm not trying to talk you out of that -- as if that were possible. But I do want you to understand that my experience with them is different than yours. Apple products don't delight me. I've tried them. Every time an iOS device ends up in my hands (something that happens way too often, including earlier today) it's a frustrating experience. They feel cold, uncaring and limited. Android has moved in this direction, getting more polished but less delightful over the years, but it's still a better experience for me.
Again, I'm not saying your feelings about Apple products aren't valid. They certainly are. I'm glad you've shared them and I admire your efforts to support the iOS platform. I just wish you respected people like me who don't experience technology the same way you do. I'm glad that iOS and Android products both exist in the market. There are audiences for both -- and then some.
And as for the web, we will have to agree to disagree. Not only do I think it's not dead, I don't think it will ever be dead. That's not something I'd say about either iOS or Android. The web can't go out of business or get bought. Anything it's missing can be added. The first web browser didn't support images! On the other side, it wasn't too long ago that people thought Blackberry was here to stay.
Clearly there are many features iOS and Android offer that are difficult to match with the web. For now. Clearly the development tools are more convenient than those available for the web. But there is one feature of the web that other platforms will never be able to match: it belongs to all of us. No one has to take a 30% cut of your revenue. No one gets to decide what you can and cannot make available. In your letter to Tim Cook you make it clear that you made use of that advantage yourself, even if you don't seem grateful. Freedom always comes at a price and it's up to you to decide whether it's a price worth paying. If it's not then develop for the platform you prefer. But please remember that there are people like me who think differently.
Imagine if you had spent years (maybe you have, I don't know you) building an app and a business for a platform you love only to have it snatched away.
Wouldn't it bring out strong emotion and cause you to want to appeal to them in the same way?
The author is grovelling to the point of it being honestly pitiful. The amount of derogatory references to the web and Android also make it really hard for me not to question the motivation behind this letter.
It’s transparently from an author who built their entire business on the shoulders of a single third party and is now horrified in realising it’s been taken away.
If anything, the lesson to be learned here is that if your business depends exclusively on another company for its survival then it’s not your business.
To the authors point - yes, Apple can change it’s policies whenever it likes, and can use those policies to kill other companies it views as competing with it’s own interests.
This in itself isn’t news. Dropbox got flat out told by Steve Jobs to sell immediately for whatever he felt generous enough to give them or he’d crush them with a competitor. There was a podcast recently wherein someone who sold to Apple (I’m sorry I can’t remember who it was, will try to dig it out and update) got his deal reduced by 25% or so by Steve Jobs in person - after accepting it and flying out to Cupertino just because Jobs could and he wanted to make a point.
This isn’t new information or a new policy, although maybe it’ll be a fairer playing field now that the hornet’s nest has received a good kicking.
This point is made frequently, and it's generally true. But, at the same time, every business is built on top of some kind of opportunity and there is no guarantee in life that opportunities are perpetual.
The mine runs out of ore. People stop buying records. The fish stop biting. The tax code changes. A foreign competitor appears with access to better resources. An invention instantly makes yours out of date. People stop eating out.
I don't think the answer is to avoid all possible opportunities that may not last forever. Instead, you just have to factor that into your business plan. That can mean diversifying, pivoting, or simply acknowledging that that particular business has run its course.
The App Store isn't a contract, but it is (or should be) quite a bit better than building your app on top of some open API that you have no assurances on, as the rules are published.
The problem is that there's no real introspection as to how the rules are applied, and not way to really appeal a decision and expect to influence the result, so the closest thing to a contract in this case is completely one sided.
Part of me wonders if the fact they charge for developer accounts means they might be liable in some way (although I'm sure this approach has been explored in the past), but Apple has deep enough pockets they could probably just refund every Developer the $99 and not bat an eye. If it affected the revenues they collected as their cut though... going after that money could really make a big dent if it was a class action (again, not sure this is even feasible under the law).
You do need to realize that this can change fairly quickly, so you should either use this as a springboard to something else, or just accept that it's a temporary business and not something that will stick around.
The concept still applies even if the problem isn't about being kicked out (which a contract could maybe solve), but simply about the market fading for one reason or another. One common thing that can happen is that the platform provider may decide to compete with you, which is often very hard to come back from - they usually have access to the platform in ways you can't replicate.
Perhaps this risk is not justified but that's a moral and legal issue not a business one.
The founders and dev team started a new company unrelated to apps. I tried my best to place our reviewers / curation team at other outlets. I had some success here, but it still pains me knowing that some of my previous team are still looking for something after all this time.
Seeing your response here has me appreciating your position in a way I didn’t above - given the circumstances and that you ultimately had to lay off your people I’m sorry for any offence caused. This must have been a rough time to work through.
The point I was making, and which I think is valid in any case, is that it’s simply not safe to build a business that’s reliant upon the whims of another company that has shown time and again that it’s policies will change with the wind.
Also, the web is still a wonderful platform with a bright future. Not least as PWAs aren’t subject to 30% taxes and subjective reviews!
The GP just didn't want to put in the effort to empathize with your struggle, so he tried to paint you as pathetic and stupid and therefore deserving of suffering.
>If anything, the lesson to be learned here is that if your business depends exclusively on another company for its survival then it’s not your business.
The problem is that these two ideas shouldn't coexist. If Apple does have monopoly powers then mobile app developers have no choice but to base their business's survival on the whims of Apple. Once a company reaches a near monopoly, both the laws and obligations regarding how that company must operate change.
This is standard behavior when talking to Apple. Since they're so incredibly editorial about what they permit on their platform, it behooves you to suck up as much as possible.
Source: have personally represented my previous tiny startup and Dropbox at Apple HQ. Have been pissing off Apple executives with my creations for more than a decade.
Honestly, I interpreted it differently, I saw someone passionate about something, respectfully addressing someone who’s extremely hard to get the attention, and succeeding at it!
The problem being discussed is genuine, but I had a good feeling seeing Tim Cook asking his top executives to ponder about it.
The way the letter writer feels a need to keep on praising Apple and their vision and how everything]else is not worth anything make me nauseous.
Well, that's what makes his letter interesting. There are a hundred and one people who don't like your product. There are all the undecided people and non-promoter users who won't write you about things about your product. And then there are the super-fans.
You can win over the undecided and the non-promoter users, you have the super-fans, and it'll take a lot of work to get the people who don't like you to like you, so you spend your time on the first two categories.
Given that only the last two write you, and you don't care about the last, it makes sense for the super-fans to make it clear that they're super-fans. And if a super-fan is telling you you're making things hard for them, you care.
You mean people who drive revenue for you and people who don't. Emotions don't matter.
Only the people that find their way to the 'right' arguments are consistently welcomed - more than a few famous people in the community had to backpedal into saying Epic is just as bad because they want to make money off app sellers too, and not only that, they _entrapped_ Apple.
Daring Fireball plays a key role in what exactly 'Get It' means - ex. the nauseating amount of people saying all this is cool because something something Epic is a big corporation too.
> To the authors point - yes, Apple can change it’s policies whenever it likes, and can use those policies to kill other companies it views as competing with it’s own interests.
And in a world without antitrust regulation, a monopoly or cartel can use its market power to make massive profits and squash any and all competitors. Your "lesson" is one that takes the status quo as a given (in this case, the anti-competitive power of platforms), even when that status quo should be changed.
It's also far too extreme to be reasonable, since practically every small to medium business that depends on non-commodity inputs fails the test (for instance, pretty much every consumer software company, ever). I think the real lesson is that no business is every truly independent of others, and the platforms have discovered new classes of anti-competitive control that need to be legislated against.
I’m wondering if the solution is forcing the platform vendors to allow the device owners to “bless” an App Store in the way that they can permit individual sideloaded apps.
But this means it's nearly impossible to build a software business that's "your business". Do you really not see the problem with that?
The major platforms are iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows and the web. Of those, the web is theoretically open, except that the browsers are made by Apple and Google, and both of them drive change to the platforms based on their business strategy (Apple hobbling PWAs, for example.) Firefox exists, but with single-digit market share, and with a substantial portion of their budget evidently coming from Google, it's not clear how much of a force they really are.
This is why I think even though these platform are not technically monopolies, some kind of regulation or oversight is warranted. The economic value of the software world is too great to leave entirely to the whims of private companies.
It's only a question of when, not if, app stores will get regulated. And given very cocky attitude from Apple, regulations will be likely pretty strong.
Like with all new technology, laws take some time to catch up with specific of it, but the spirt of regulation is very well known. Giving too much power and tight grip over the competition, in increasingly important part of the economy is not something government will allow for single entity to posses. Apple, and few other tech companies, are on a highway to be new Standard Oil.
I'm iOS developer myself but currently making more investment to learn other tech stack (flutter, reactnative, qt).
iOS is definitely a huge market especially the biggest regarding revenue, but globally their marker share is being slowly eaten by android. If WeChat will get banned globally from app store their market share will fell drastically. Apple not gonna disappear anytime soon but worth to ask yourself how the future might look in 10 years. Especially if you are indie or small shop and cannot afford supporting multiple platforms natively.
What? I think the motivation behind the letter is pretty transparent -- trying to get the app back in the app store. Groveling is pretty consistent with that.
Were you thinking the motivation was something else? What motivation are you questioning?
Cool, but some of the world's largest companies evidently care enough about the platform to develop for it anyways–or feel the need to do so. When you have a party that controls access to such a large market, then telling people who develop for that platform that it's their fault that they decided to do that is basically victim-blaming.
The alternative to ownership is an absurdity like gmail can't block spam because "antitrust".
A lot of people and developers feel the same way about these technologies as the author. They are just opinions, and yours is obviously different, but I wouldn't say it is pitiful.
make a point... to whom? The guy selling? He's already selling. He gave in. What more do you want?
That is the point, they relied on one thing only too much. It seems a job of passion too.
That's easy to say now 10 years later, when you can look back at history.
But not equally obvious in the beginning when the app stores had just appeared.
Did you find this? I would be curious to listen
Was it the task-manager / parallel execution developer?
I've had my own share of similar experiences with Apple in the past, one of which was here on HN recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23585682
Apple currently has an unreasonable amount of control not only on what apps can be available on their devices, but also on how they look, work, and generate revenue. They allow 3rd-party innovation to occur only down specific paths that they deem beneficial.
On top of everything, Apple is also systematically erasing all App Review rejection communications  and keeping most of this abuse in the dark, thus buying themselves more time to stay in this dominant position.
Something definitely needs to change here, hopefully sooner than later.
If someone were to sue them for any reason related to rejection of an app submission, they could probably obtain an injunction to bring that bullshit to a screeching halt. Just saying.
Here's the thing: why should anyone trust that you will actually honor this 3-day money back guarantee, or that even if you honor it now that you will continue to honor it in the future? Part of the benefit of the App Store payment system is that it puts the user in control of their trials and subscriptions and lets them easily manage, cancel, and request refunds in a way that is guaranteed. But if your refund form magically disappeared one day, no one would have any recourse against that.
My app has been repeatedly rejected because I do not offer free in-app trials (but offer money-back guarantee on my website) and also do not offer in-apps purchases.
I asked if I offered in-app purchases, would the app be approved?
No, since I offer 3-day money-back guarantee on website-based purchses, I must ALSO offer a free trial in the app.
But I don’t want to offer free trials. I’m ok offering a 3-day money-back guarantee, but Apple says that’s not an option for apps.
They insist that I (1) change my business model from 3-day money back guarantee to free trial and (2) purchase a shit ton more infrastructure to handle the audience that free trials attract (I’ve tried free trial business model and it created a lot of use but no more revenue than 3-day money back guarantee). The money-back guarantee seems to weed out a lot of free loaders, at least in this domain — not necessarily others.
Look again: He (/u/egocentric) linked to his HN submission of his twitter thread about his experience. What you are referencing is the top comment in the that discussion, by someone else (/u/TedDoesntTalk) talking about their app. So your (understandable) ire is directed at the wrong person here.
Sound like an abusive relationship, and like what an abused partner would say to try to rationalize the fact that they're economically dependent on the abuser.
Yet the same execs that were CC’d are in charge. I’m glad they had some great “thoughts” on the matter.
It was understandable at the time when everything was uncharted territory so Apple got to do whatever it wanted, but now that smart phones are so tightly integrated into the lives of many people, it seems Apple shouldn't be allowed to hold on to all those power. Is anything being done in that direction that might become effective?
When talking about ethics and regulation, it’s not enough to simply say the status quo should be preserved.
"How far can we go before we get fined?" is ethically dubious and isn't behaviour that should be rewarded.
Stop buying iphones and macs.
Apple customers are funding this behavior.
This constitutes the evidence gathering/discovery part of the investigation.
This is why the web is so important. More to the topic at hand: this is why Apple purposely, broadly second-classing the web on iOS is so important, and needs to stop.
On Android, a directory-style app would be trivial to distribute on the web as an installable PWA that eventually becomes indistinguishable from a native app from the user's perspective. It's 2020; this is a sub-basement level of capability that all platforms should include by now. Let's stop pretending that ceding all the publishing power to one company is a trade-off that makes sense in the long-run (this goes for Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and all the rest).
But, your decision not to use it shouldn't come at the cost of someone else's freedom to distribute legitimate software or creative works to those users who seek it out.
Speaking for myself, most of the "apps" I use on my phone and desktop on a daily basis are PWAs, and they are generally indistinguishable from the native apps I use in terms of quality.
If you make a website and Google decides to remove you from their search index for whatever reason, the financial effects on most companies would also be disastrous. Perhaps even comparable to being removed from the App Store.
There are many verticals in which Google cannot drive traffic to anyone except the top players, so everyone not in the top 10 uses other means. Being in the top index, is a perk of being already being famous and successful.
Its amazing that people right here on hackernews, 5 years later, actually think it is about keeping iDevices safe when they see these legislature and regulatory movements against Apple
I’m glad to see your email now
So am I suppose to trust the government?
Of course, being involved in government / politic is hard and takes time. You cannot change things by posting on internet forums. I'm trying to be involved in politic on local, state and federal level. And here are some hints if you are in interested:
- Call a member of congress. Try to get someone on the phone, rather than leaving a voicemail (which, like an email, can be ignored). Ask to speak to the member of Congress.
- Find (or make) a group for key your issue
- Show up on town hall meetings (with your friends, group)
Let's be optimistic and assume 10% of the population is informed and passionate enough about a company's wrongdoings to boycott it. That company is still going to thrive just fine on the business from the other 90%. Holdouts alone won't stop it from accumulating power and reach.
Any power given to the government is worse than the power of a corporation. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you should be way more concerned about the power of the government. Have you seen what the government can do with its power?
How effective was the consent decree in the MS case two decades ago?
Apple can keep me from side loading apps. The government can literally reach into my bank account and take my money without any kind of trial through civil forfeiture and imminent domain. They can take away my liberty. They can actually compel me to do something.
As such, the feedback from customers to companies that is part of the “invisible handle of the market” is now distorted.
However I’m also someone who thinks app recommendation apps are a good thing and should be allowed on the store.
I think the author of the PDF is not only trying to provide a valuable service, but is also right in pointing out that there are problems.
These things are not mutually exclusive.
This is obvious in all Apple's decisions. Metal/OpenGL, UI changes, custom CPUs, etc. Apple long ago latched onto control as their path to success, and it's worked quite well for them. It's only natural for them to reach for more control wherever they can. Sometimes that doesn't really affect users or developers much, other times it does.
The strategy is control, most definitely.
The goal is to deliver desirable end user features, security being an essential one of these.
I worked in consumer electronics software development during the early 2000s, when Microsoft was still considered the dominant force.
There were many parts of the software stack where no individual entity had control and standards and features were beholden to consortia and standards bodies which were essentially political bodies, all about capturing leverage over one part of the platform or another.
The result was that the user was simply not in the picture, and obvious ways to improve the user experience just couldn’t be executed because every decision about how to do so was a political battle.
Apple’s strategy of vertical integration allowed them to avoid all of this and simply deliver proprietary features that users wanted.
The problem in this case was not Apple delivering proprietary features.
It was Apple’s competitors failure to cooperate to deliver what consumers wanted.
Android is where it is because it became simply a repeat of that early 2000’s failure, and of course Google was forced to abandon “Open always wins” in favor of progressively trying to take back control.
If we want a more open alternative to Apple’s ecosystem, we need to be honest about why they has been successful, and how the alternatives underperformed.
I think Apple’s continued success is contingent on there being no low end disruption (which is definitely not a given), and would be competitors continuing to fail to create a healthy alternative ecosystem of their own.
My contention is that the lack of a healthy alternative is not due to anything Apple has done.
Apple has been on this upward trajectory for nearly 20 years, and for most of that time they were not dominant.
The problem is that the comparing ecosystems haven’t figured out how to work together to make an alternative yet.
If Apple is failing to allow people to play the games they want, and gaming is an increasingly relevant cultural activity, this is an opportunity for growth outside of Apple’s control.
Just as the music industry and the cellphone industry fell to Apple giving customers what they wanted and what was possible, Apple can fall to a competitor to does understand the value of games.
The arguments about not being able to get people to switch are moot. It’s always true that there are switching costs to overcome.
Competing with Apple would take patience, good management, and a lot of capital being deployed.
There is no shortage of capital looking for a place to invest - there is only a shortage of management talent and imagination.
If we don’t hobble Apple artificially, someone will figure this out, and the whole industry will be better off for it.
Remember Apple’s renaissance began with Steve Jobs saying “We have been thinking that in order for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We need to stop thinking that way.”
Apple absolutely has done things to prevent alternatives to their platforms. Not only can you not make hardware that iOS and MacOS run on (and in rare cases where people have, Apple has sued them).
Can you run something other than iOS on an iPhone? Less and less possible, as they lock the phone hardware (and bootloader) down more and more.
Can you run an alternative app store? Nope, totally not allowed. You seem to think that if enough capital was gathered, you could do so, but you can't. It's completely locked out by Apple, and any way you have to circumvent it is either blocked by EULA, contract, or digital and physical controls. Without legal intervention, this isn't happening no matter how much capital you have, because Apple has specifically closed off all other avenues.
So, is it possible to gather enough capital to compete? I'm not sure sure. You'd have to take a page from Apple's playbook and close everything down to control it, and that's far more expensive now than it was a decade ago, and somehow get enough developers and apps and users in a marketplace that doesn't have anything in it to start. And you have to close everything down to outsiders because otherwise Apple will just support whatever your standards are while not allowing you to interoperate with theirs (look at the history iMessage and XMPP, and why Google eventually had to copy Apple's tactic of a closed IM system).
I think it's important to note that this is, at it's essence, anti-competitive behavior. Apple leverages their control over their system to provide benefit to their users, but they do this in a way that denies competition at all but the highest level, even when working at the lowest level. Again, iMessage is a good example of this. You have to buy into the entire Apple platform, from hardware to OS to App Store and control to be able to send messages across that system, and only to other iPhone/MacOS users, because Apple refuses to develop or provide an API to utilize the system from any non Apple device, while at the same time automatically making SMS messages use the system for iPhone to iPhone communication, forcing their users to use it. Is it better than SMS? Yes. Does Apple give it extra capabilities that other systems can't compete with? Also yes. How is this different than Internet Explorer on Windows back in the day?
The bottom line is that Apple's behavior is anti-competitive (in the true sense of the word, whether or not it meets with the antitrust definition in all cases). They use their control of different levels of the platform to stifle competition on other levels. No piece of their platform can be exchanged for another, so there's absolutely no competition at individual levels, only on the platform as a whole.
I want to be clear here, currently it's not Apple vs Android, it's Apple vs everyone and everything else. There's plenty of Android hardware I can take and load AOSP, or LineageOS, or even a Linux based OS. I can take any of those OS's and run them on lots of different hardware (the limiting factor is what people have bothered to port, not what has been restricted). Calling for enough capital to support another walled garden that can compete on the platform level with Apple in the same manner is not only not useful, it's actively harmful to competition overall as they are only able to compete at the platform level.
I want to make one last note. Have you considered that the reason Apple provides a great product and service isn't because they've leveraged their profit from anti-competitive behaviors to their own benefit, to make it even harder to compete with them? What if instead of a couple hundred billion in cash reserves held at Apple, it was partially spread around to various competing companies in the different segments the platform covers over the last decade? A valid third contender maybe? I don't know, but I have a hard time believing that Apple's been the most efficient steward of all that capital, nor that preventing competition leads to a better situation in the end.
It doesn’t do anything to prevent others from developing their own hardware or software.
It’s not as if Apple has a monopoly on good operating systems or developers. Apple’s software isn’t magic.
It’s just well designed and managed relative to the competition. There is no reason it can’t be bettered, except that nobody is trying.
As far as the ‘at every level you can’t substitute other components’ definition of ‘anti-competitive’. That doesn’t work. Every company is like that. The only things which aren’t are certain open source licenses.
At any point where you want substitutable components, one must have agreed interfaces.
As I said earlier, the competitors failed in the early 2000’s because the process of agreeing on interfaces was hopelessly political. At that time the prevailing wisdom amongst VC’s was ‘there’s no money in hardware’.
The only way around that is for competitors (or open source contributors) to establish a truly open platform that commoditizes Apple’s core asset, and then for them all to realize it isn’t in their interest for anyone to seize control of it. That, or someone to just outdo Apple with low end disruption.
I’d like to think that this is what Google will do with Fuchsia, but anyone else can do it.
I actually agree with you that it would be good to have competition at levels other than the platform.
I believe that over a time it’s possible that such an ecosystem could be better for consumers than Apple’s ecosystem.
I do not believe that you can create such an ecosystem by forcing Apple to open certain arbitrarily selected parts of their system.
If anything, I think this would prevent the emergence of a new model indefinitely.
I also don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that it would be better - only that it is a possibility.
As for the cash reserves. Those look quite wise in the present situation. At Apple’s scale, geopolitical risk is real. China as a last resort in the trade war with Trump could easily make it impossible for them to continue to work there. Trump could do the same.
$200B seems like a reasonable hedge against needing to rebuild their supply chains without Chinese cooperation.
It’s also just a concentration of wealth.
Look at all the other players with concentrated wealth who could just as easily be funding a competitor, and actually have a business interest in doing so.
If your argument is that Apple should be funding its competitors, surely that same argument should apply to anyone with enough money.
VC funds, Hedge Funds, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.
The part we agree on is that someone should be funding serious competition against Apple.
There is plenty of capital outside of Apple which could be doing this.
The reason it hasn’t been doing so is that there have been much quicker and easier ways to make money. Advertising engines, Ride share services, Office building scams, etc.
Any way you look at it, building a giant company slowly over decades is a bad way to make money compared to a quick investment in a Unicorn which never even becomes profitable.
That’s what we should be addressing.
Actually, since they also provide the hardware, in the truest sense of the word, it is. They are preventing alternative hardware for their software (they've sued over this), and preventing alternative software on their hardware. No competition is allowed in these areas, to compete you have to replace both.
If you then consider that they lock down what apps can run on their software, that extends the link to software able to run on the device. That means to actually compete on an App level with an Apple app on iOS, you need to not just write a better app, but provide an OS of comparable quality and hardware of comparable quality means they have artificially prevented competition at those levels, since there's no reason that they have to be linked. It provides some small benefits, but there's a large difference between not supporting their OS on other hardware and actively preventing it from running on it, and not providing any softawre except their own for their hardware, and locking it down so no other software will boot. That difference is why those actions are anti-competitive.
> I do not believe that you can create such an ecosystem by forcing Apple to open certain arbitrarily selected parts of their system.
And yet the only reason we don't have that competition is because Apple has closed certain non-arbitrary selected parts of their system/platform. I'm not sure why preventing them from closing those to competition wouldn't help spur more competition in them.
> If anything, I think this would prevent the emergence of a new model indefinitely.
I'm not even sure "model" means in this context. What do you suspect preventing arbitrary removal of competition, which is what Apple does, would somehow prevent a new model?
> $200B seems like a reasonable hedge against needing to rebuild their supply chains without Chinese cooperation.
Having a few full years worth of profit stacked away so they can replicate their entire manufacturing infrastructure needs of a nation that specializes in manufacturing is ridiculous. The comparison to Japanese Zaibatsu was apt before, but you're actually saying it's a good idea if some conditions are met here. Those are known to have outsize negative effects on economies.
> If your argument is that Apple should be funding its competitors
No, my argument is that they have too much control over their platform, with allows them to be anti-competitive. This makes them more money, but at the expense of their users (who do not benefit from that competition), and most likely some ceompetitors, unless you believe Apple would still provide a much better solution, in which case it's just he users that win.
> The part we agree on is that someone should be funding serious competition against Apple.
The fact that you think VC is the answer is part of the problem. Right now VC is the answer, because it's almost impossible for anyone to compete without huge amounts of money, but that's because of Apple's arbitrary barriers to compete.
Ok, what do you think they should do if China starts to interrupt their manufacturing there?
I’m saying the risk is obviously real, and that it’s obviously reasonable for them to make contingencies.
What would you do in their situation, and how much would it cost?
The rest of your argument is based on the idea that the only way to compete with Apple is by using either their software, or their hardware.
That seems like an extraordinarily claim, which you need to justify.
At face value it is obviously false given that most phones do not use Apple’s software or hardware.
As for the comment about VC. I didn’t just say VC. I listed a range of people who might be interested in investing in competitors to Apple.
It seems like a weird argument to suggest here on Hacker news, that competing with the world’s largest corporations shouldn’t require investment.
This is a very bizarre assertion.
I’d seriously like to live in a world where it was true - e.g. where we had UBI and hackers could get together to collaborate on an open solution without having to make a living. I’m not saying this as a rhetorical maneuver. I am quite serious.
However, solving that problem has nothing to do with Apple.
As for the ‘model’ question. What you are talking about - where there is competition at every level of the stack, is known as a modular approach.
Generally modularity is possible when the components are commodities. People agree on standards and then innovate in other areas.
If we want the competitive environment you are proposing, what we are talking about is a modular approach to personal computing.
Apple’s approach is an integrated one, where modularity is not part of their offering. M
One way to attempt a modular environment would be to seize control of apple and have a committee dictate how they open up parts of their system to competition.
This is what you are proposing.
Another way would be for a group of people who believe that a modular approach would yield better consumer products to create a modular platform.
I believe that this is what Google originally wanted to do with Android.
The reason they failed and reversed course towards an integrated approach is that we simply are not at the stage where software can be treated as a commodity.
The pace of change in how we build
software is still rapid.
I agree with you that a modular landscape might potentially be better, but I believe that we can only know if it is by building a modular platform that produces better consumer experiences than the integrated ones.
Again, I don’t think this has anything to do with Apple.
I see no reason why for example, WASM couldn’t be a vehicle for a more modern, modular approach to software creation.
Of course you can argue that Apple will hobble it, but that doesn’t matter over time. Their platform will become expensive to develop for compared to the others, and stop being people’s first choice.
If it yields a faster path to better software, the open platform will win. We just need to build it.
But if we just dismantle Apple by force, it will not.
> Ok, what do you think they should do if China starts to interrupt their manufacturing there?
Choose another manufacturer in a different nation? China is not the only one on the market. Saving up enough monety to create a new one from scratch instead of finding a new one "just in case" is ridiculous. That's like you renting and saving up enough money to buy a house "just in case" your landlord evicts you, even though you're perfectly happy renting. There are better uses for that money than sitting as a contingency plan you're better off not doing anyway even if that case happens.
> The rest of your argument is based on the idea that the only way to compete with Apple is by using either their software, or their hardware.
No, my argument is based on the fact the only way to compete with Apple is on the whole platform level, because they've erected barriers to make it impossible to do otherwise.
You can't create better hardware for Apple OS software. You can't create a better OS for Apple hardware. You can't create a new App store for their OS, and you can't even compete on a specific App they don't want you to. You can compete on these specific items of their stack only if they allow you to, and at this point that means you can create apps. Usually. Hopefully.
> Generally modularity is possible when the components are commodities. People agree on standards and then innovate in other areas.
It doesn't take modularity to allow competition. I can buy a Ford automobile and put another engine in it. Because I can do that, I can sell engines that work in Fords. I can also buy Fords and alter them with new engines, and any other new parts I want, and then re-sell them. This is how Shelby American created the first Shelby Mustangs.
If Ford were to take a page from Apple's book, they would both create custom screw and bolt sets for all items in the car, and only sell under a contract that says you aren't allowed to disassemble any parts they don't give explicit permission to, and you're only allowed to use certified Ford parts, except they can't because those are consumer rights protected under law.
> One way to attempt a modular environment would be to seize control of apple and have a committee dictate how they open up parts of their system to competition.
> This is what you are proposing.
No, I'm really just proposing that consumers have more rights over the devices and software they buy. That gets tricky because we don't "buy" our software anymore, we lease it, but we sure as hell buy our hardware, so why is it okay for the manufacturer to use a technical block to thwart a right we are already guaranteed under law?
> I agree with you that a modular landscape might potentially be better, but I believe that we can only know if it is by building a modular platform that produces better consumer experiences than the integrated ones.
Every one of these platforms is already modular, because that's the only way we know how to build software this large and complex. Modularity is not the problem, it's the coordinating updates between components and explaining of the interfaces Apple doesn't want to deal with, because it allows them to provide a smoother user experience. That's nice, but Apple wanting something does not, IMO, excuse the anti-competitive practices used to achieve it. They could easily sign all the components they provide and always show whether you're running official or non-official components not care at all about third parties knowing how to interface with them, and as long as they didn't actively prevent third parties, we'd still be a thousand times better off than we are with regards to choice and user control.
> I see no reason why for example, WASM couldn’t be a vehicle for a more modern, modular approach to software creation.
WASM runs in the browser, iOS only allows for one browser runtime, so they control what capabilities are allowed from WASM code. Again, everything is locked down from Apple as much as they want. They could, arbitrarily, decide tomorrow that only WASM signed by an Apple Developer account and certified by them would run in Safari, and nobody could do a thing about it. Will they? Very unlikely, but the fact there's absolutely no user recourse in that case means WASM fundamentally is no different than something from the App store, even if right now it seems less constrained in some ways and more constrained in others.
> But if we just dismantle Apple by force, it will not.
Nobody is saying dismantle Apple. They would survive just fine if they were forces to provide a mechanism to allow a different App store, or a new OS on their hardware. Since only a very small amount of people would do so, the only difference is they would be slightly less profitable, which is still immensely profitable.
How are Hey or xCloud about keeping iDevices safe?
And if it's about content, I doube Apple is pre-approving every Netflix show. I bet some of the offerings on Netflix even show female nipples.
Do you really not see that there is a difference between watching a movie, and controlling a remote video console which is playing a fully interactive video game?
Most people in the world would think you insane if you said you perceived them to be the same thing.
The comments you’re replying to suggest that executables are being streamed or something, and they’re not.
A steaming app (game or not) can pop up a fraudulent credit card payment interface at any time.
If video streaming is so bad, Netflix should not be on the App Store for "iDevice security". If video game streaming is so bad, Twitch should not be on the App Store for "iDevice security".
It's not just streaming, it's interactive streaming where it could well happen that PayToWin / LootBox / etc games can appear.
Now, of course, they already exist on the App Store (and I honestly wish Apple would ban them outright) but there, at least, Apple has some kind of leverage - with xCloud, they have none.
But Netflix can read the same rules the rest of us can, and know that they signed a contract that doesn’t allow App storefronts.
One reason people spend so much money in the App Store is because it is relatively safe to do so.
Hey was able to alter their app trivially to comply with the guidelines, so it actually represents nothing at all here.
xCloud can’t be altered to comply, but nevertheless if app steaming were allowed in general, all of App review could be bypassed by bad actors.
Sorry but no.
What mechanism was “Hey” using that could possibly be abused by a malicious app or malicious app author?
If “Hey” advertised themselves as B2B without any self-service option then Apple, by their own words, would have let the app on the store. Being B2C or having self-service (even if the self-service is outside of the app!) means Apple requires you to have a sign-up form in the app - and if you take punters’ money then that means you need to use IAP and so give Apple their 30% rent. The outrage isn’t over this requirement itself, but because Apple arbitrarily carved-out undocumented exceptions for Netflix, Amazon Kindle, and other “reader” apps even though they’re B2C and self-service - which we can tell is because Apple would get into a worse spat and lose public opinion if they tried to pull Netflix or Amazon’s apps for the same reason.
Netflix, Kindle and others are exempted from the self-service sign-up requirement because Apple knows they can’t win a PR fight against them. Spotify has self-service sign-up in the app, but that’s because they’ve always had a free tier, where’s there’s no free/gratis membership tier for Netflix or Kindle.
If you try it yourself right now Apple will require you to have a self-service signup flow in your app, which is only viable if you have a free tier - otherwise you’ll have to pay the 30% rent or let your iOS users use your service for free indefinitely because you can’t put up a “your free trial has ended” message.
Don’t accept the bullshit Apple offers for the App Store. It has always been about the benjamins, and to over a trillion dollars of success.
Apps can be used for fraud in ways that video cannot.
It's just some code you got off the internet and run on your phone
That’s the question you replied to without answering before.
I don't agree at all, but the way our government is, it's a one way ratchet to get new laws passed. Speech laws only get stricter (one inch at a time) over the years, never looser. Gun laws only get stricter (one inch at a time) over the years, never looser. Intellectual property laws only get stricter (one inch at a time) over the years, never looser.
Lives are saved every time the ratchet torques an inch of freedom into security, so I guess that's the upside. I just worry that life won't be as fulfilling when we are perfectly secure.
I'm sure enjoying my fulfilling free life as I make plans to sit alone in my apartment for another entire year because I live in the land of freedom, where people can dine in indoor restaurants without a mask.
If yes => you prefer security over freedom. And that's okay.
If you are the out group -> govt will be after you (depending on which administration is in power the out groups may change). I'm all for subpoena's and access to records, but there is a whole secondary national security letter / secret process you never get to challenge. And yes, there are agents harassing ex-girlfriends using their existing tools.
So what's amazing to some of us is that there are folks looking to gobble up whatever garbage is coming from the regulatory movements against apple.
There is a reason Apple get to charge so much. They are TRUSTED - trusted FAR FAR more than tump admin political appointees running DOJ / FTC etc despite the fact the govt spends trillions and should be most trusted player out there.
Heads up - look to australia to see govt "succeeding" - pretty soon we will all have to pay a mandatory murdoch license fee if the regulatory lovers get their way.