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Serving at the Pleasure of the King (codinghorror.com)
375 points by tmcdonald on Oct 15, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments

If Microsoft added a feature to Windows that duplicated a popular application's functionality, developers would be screaming bloody murder and rioting in the, er, blogs and web forums

Utter rot.

This used to happen all the time in the 1980s and 1990s, before the DoJ anti trust lawsuit really got rolling.

It was most obvious in office apps (ever wonder where the third-party spelling checkers and grammar checkers went? Or the standalone mailmerge applications? Microsoft added their functionality to Word and killed an entire add-on market at a stroke each time they did so), but a load of that stuff happened in Windows too (the graphical shell that became an OS in its own right). The most flagrant late example was web browsing; the most recent one I can think of (not being a Windows user) was their antivirus/malware add-in.

(Honestly ... young 'uns these days ... wanders away mumbling into beard and waving walking stick in the air.)

Back then every big company was doing this, or attempted to do this. The goal was to dominate the desktop and get as much grip on the end user as possible. Proprietary file formats for just about everything. Remember Desqview (by QuarterDeck)? DR DOS? GEM (also DR)? OS/2 (IBM)? NetWare (Novell)? All those companies did what Microsoft was doing with one small difference, they stopped at the OS or Desktop layer and never saw beyond that, to the applications. They saw the system as the ideal place to dominate and they set themselves up for being slaughtered.

The combination of dominating two or more levels is what made it lethal, OS/GUI/Application companies aplenty back then but only one company that did them all and that used its own internal knowledge in order to make life very hard for the competition. And the final key in the lock was the Application level and nobody that made it big in the systems sphere ever got there besides Microsoft.

Microsoft may have lost their anti-trust lawsuit but the damage was done and it won them the war until the web came along.

If Sir Tim should be remembered for anything at all it was for breaking the stranglehold Microsoft had on personal computing, freeing us from the Application level headlock.

Oh, and in my time we didn't have walking sticks.

But you did have conspiracy theories. Politics, idiocy, decisions from above, spec from contracts, engineering idealism, planning for things which didn't happen, technical limitations, stuck with previous design choices, inexperience...

Proprietary file formats - what happens when you don't set out to make a shared format, or an evil plot for lock-in and dominance? You decide.

>This used to happen all the time in the 1980s and 1990s, before the DoJ anti trust lawsuit really got rolling.

Yes, and the reason for the DOJ anti-trust lawsuit? Developers were screaming bloody murder.

No, the reason for the anti-trust suit was that it was impossible for the government to look past a monopoly provider of software every computer user needed using their market influence to (a) lock up the distribution channels for all personal computers and (b) use their market influence and their control of distribution channels to attempt to obtain a monopoly in the browser market.

"Angry developers" enter into this in no meaningful sense. To the players actually involved in that fight, on all sides, developers were simply cogs.

Apple doesn't hold a monopoly on mobile operating systems and, even if it did, it would take more than simply putting someone out of business with a new offering to put it on the wrong side of the law. It's easy to see that once a company gets as big as Apple, any new feature it builds is going to put someone out of business somewhere.

(Instapaper will be fine, by the way).

Your parent's point is that the reason Microsoft doesn't do this as much now isn't because they are more benevolent, it's because they were so over the top tyrannical that they've been forced to stop.

Not really. Microsoft really is far less evil under Ballmer than Gates. It's also less effective, less farsighted, and slower, but it is less evil.

I think it is just as evil, just less successful at implementing the evil because Ballmer isn't half as smart as Gates was.

Even evil suffers from poor execution.

I dunno. They've (more or less) embraced web standards, made overtures to the OSS community with a bunch of commits to the linux kernel, and have generally been a whole lot less monopolistic. Granted, Ballmer may want to be Gates and lack the ability, but the end result is a far less scary beast.

The commits to the kernel were to make it run in their VM, even if you consider that a good thing (I'd say it's neither good nor bad) the patents they're claiming to hold on Linux, and the patronising language they use in connection with that, about people making use of their innovation is as evil as anything they used to get up to.

     generally been a whole lot less monopolistic
What makes you say this is a result of Ballmer vs being told by the government to be less monopolistic?

It's just more incompetent. That's what happens when evil genius moves aside, and the henchmen take over.

My sense is that that was definitely a factor, but it wasn't as much the ISVs screaming but the distributors like Dell. IIRC the things MS agreed to as part of the settlement had more to do with their "get a reasonable discount on Windows at the pleasure of the King" contracts. I.e., MS was insisting that a license be paid for every PC the vendor shipped, regardless of whether or not it was shipped with Windows.

You’re using trivial examples from 20+ years back. Things have changed.

Microsoft has practically walked on egg shells when dealing with additional solutions/features since Windows 95 due to fears of anti-trust and also alienating developers.

How long did it take them to get a s/w firewall and anti-virus solution? 10+ years after the fact. It wasn't because they couldn't figure it out.

How about simple features to VS.NET that have current 3rd party add-ons? It just does not happen.

Microsoft Security Essentials basically kills an entire industry (antivirus), however you can't really claim that scalp as it's really patching a hole in their OS security, something they should be doing for a professional product.

Recently on HN there was a post saying that you shouldn't chase anything obvious and generic without expecting it to get 'filled in'. A cloud service for audio? Yep, when the big players get around to it, you're out. An imaging collation app for dentists? The big players are not going to do that.

Back in the 90's they also included a TCP/IP stack into Win95, which used to be a (horrible) 3rd party app on Win3.1.

Ah, good old Trumpet Winsock. :)

Well, Microsoft never set itself up as the gateway to install third-party software, or as the authority on taste and acceptable content, or on taking a cut on commercial activity taking place on its platform.

Yeah, they did not do that. But that's not the only way to be responsible (consciously or not) for killing smaller developers.

> authority on taste and acceptable content

I don't know about that. If I want something that Apple doesn't approve for their store - say Grooveshark, for plausible legal complications in the future - I get the Grooveshark app anyway, from some other store that's legal (hint: jailbreak).

Personally speaking: I would rather have someone make sure (for free) that the app that I download isn't buggy, or crash-y, or other stuff. In practice, I've never missed something on the App Store (iPad 2 that I bought a few months ago) although I miss a lot of stuff on the Android Market (Nexus One that I own since a few years now). I got an Android before I got an iOS device going by such arguments from the couch. But I'm glad I can choose my phone, and it's going to be iPhone 4S when it launches here. I'm glad you can choose your phone, I presume that'll be an Android. That way, both of us can be happy.

> I would rather have someone make sure (for free) that the app that I download isn't buggy, or crash-y, or other stuff.

Hello, apt-get and yum.

Curated software doesn't have to lead to locked-down systems you can only use at the sufferance of the curators. For example, look at the processes behind Linux distros.

The people who put Linux distros together have been doing this for nigh on twenty years now, with the big caveat that you don't need to 'jailbreak' a Linux machine to install your own software under /usr/local or on your home directory. Even Slackware has packages; the main thing it lacks is dependency-tracking package management.

And, yes, there are filtering processes and even bug-fixing processes in place; Debian, for example, has a lot of people who more-or-less 'own' certain packages to the extent they get the source distributions from the original developers, test them, and modify them to fix bugs and bring them in line with the Debian World Order. All or practically all Debian-derived distros leverage this, Ubuntu foremost among them.

First off, excellent post. Honestly, I find it quite baffling that people think (or imply) that you need some commercially backed, locked down system to assure software quality. It's simply not true, it's quite the opposite actually. The open alternatives are infinitely superior.

Furthermore, many packet managers (Arch's pacman, for example) offer the ability to rather easily create and install your own packages and manage them with the same system, allowing you to benefit from the advantages of a packet managing system without having to rely only on the curated repositories.

To be fair though, the quality of almost all of the end-user software available via apt-get is far below that of the iOS or Mac app store. Developers and users have voted with their wallets for Apple's model. Ideologically I'd prefer that this were not the case but it's hard to argue with the numbers.

As a Linux end-user installing most of my software through apt-get, I think it is your opinion and there is nothing fair about it.

Apple didn't invent this model, they put stricter control, nicely marketed and then monetized on something that's been the primary model of software distribution in Unix for quite a few years now.

Regardless of how nice the app store is, the argument remains that the process doesn't need to be so dictatorial to be successful.

Most Linux distros have their own repositories of software they've reviewed and approved. They each have their own requirements for apps submitted to them, most of the software is free (as in beer and freedom), but I'm willing to bet that if they started pushing for an app marketplace, the element of fairness would not be lost in the process.

One thing that bemuses me about Apple and the trick for which I really raise my hat to them, is how they manage to screw people and still have them rationalize and even advocate for the scam.

I've been as outraged as anyone about Apple's excesses and I don't think it's necessary to be as controlling as they are to facilitate a successful app economy. However, they're currently the only really successful example of this model so the burden of proof is on their critics to show that other approaches can work too.

Focusing on the mechanics of distribution is missing the forest for the trees here. It's about money and what kind of software economy it takes to bring high-quality applications to users. OSS has failed here.

  > they're currently the only really successful example
  > of this model
1. Is OS X more successful due to the Mac AppStore, or is the Mac AppStore just riding on the coattails of OS X's popularity?

2. You can't really compare Linux distributions and apt-get to iOS and its AppStore. People are buying iOS devices for different reasons than they would run Linux. You could probably only make the comparison if iOS and Linux were able to run on the same hardware (and if it came with either OS from the retailer).

Lock-down? Open?

If by open you mean extensible, that's what all those APIs are for. If by open you mean open source, that's a different debate all together - an easy argument against it would be Linux. If by open you mean where you can take the battery out and put in SD cards - I have a Nexus One and I've never done those things on it, although I could, but never had to take the battery out (and do what?). And no I don't have an iPhone or any other phone that I use. If by open you mean access to Apple's repo (App Store) against Apple's will, then well, that's not what I can say much about. (Jailbreak. If you say not many people do that and it shrinks your market, probably many people don't feel the need to do it. I don't think they don't know about it because it's been in the news so much.) If by open your mean something else, I would genuinely like to know.

> Lock-down? Open?

Linux doesn't have the concept of 'jailbreak'. That's what I mean.

jailbreaking is indeed a way to get around the apple store, but how many people do this? Must be a tiny fraction of the market. I would like to know of a company that has made serious money targeting it.

there are a whole bunch of apps that you are either not seeing at all (eg, anything that involves shopping), or are seriously crippled through removal of the subscription / buy button: think kindle, netflix, etc. these guys are ok, because they are already established, but what happens if you are just starting up? what happens if/when the web has become a backwater that people just don't want to use anymore, and there's no easy way to make them subscribe to your service?

note also how the 30% cut that apple takes from transactions gives their own alternatives a huge advantage to provide the same service.

Never? I would argue that Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft actually made that model popular - on their consoles. They just never managed to push it into the rest of the consumer space.

What a long winded, and hyperbolic, story of doom.

Marco needs to get over his fears[1] and store the offline data in Documents. It is user generated and is absolutely not transient nor re-downloadable given that a core feature of Instapaper is offline reading.

Apple will get a deluge of bug reports and questions from all app devs that make apps that need to cache content for offline use - but not back it up or store it in iCloud - and will rectify the situation in some way. (I don't think Instapaper is in that camp but that's kind of beside the point.)

I know that most people hold Apple to a higher standard than many other companies but let's not forget Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." This is merely an oversight. Apple is never this hostile to the user experience, and the current guidelines make for a positively horrid user experience. It will be rectified. Is there a short-bets website? I'll make that bet any day.

[1] I think he was correct not to take chances in getting the first iOS 5 version out, but I hope that the minute it was "Processing for App Store" he had a build ready for submission that stores content in Documents to feel out the review team's reaction to it.

Did I really just read Jeff complaining that Apple shipped something that duplicates third-party behavior and compare them unfavorably to Microsoft in that regard?

I won't excuse Apple for acting like a King, but I think Jeff should find another poster boy for benevolent dictators. Microsoft is famous for steamrolling third-party developers, both from their applications group and their systems group.

I think this rant would read better if it complained about ALL proprietary platforms and used Apple as an example, rather than disingenuously implying that they are the rotten fruit in the barrel.

p.s. Joel Spolsky once said that companies always try to "Commoditize their complements." If you as a developer can create something that adds value to the platform in a broad way, it's inevitable that the platform owner is going to want to commoditize it, either by giving it away or making it easy for your competition to drive prices down to negligible levels.

Building it into the platform is the ultimate commoditization.

I don't think he was implying that Microsoft was any better than Apple in this regard. He was pointing out that the complaints from developers has been relatively mild compared to the outrage when Microsoft does the same thing.

The complaints from Apple developers have been around forever. Waxing nostalgic, I remember threads on the old Mousehole BBS about Apple and its love-hate relationship with developers. The reaction to Apple steamrolling Panic is classic, and there was a major furor over the dashboard and the way it steamrolled third party widget frameworks.

I suspect that Jeff is in a Microsoft-centric culture, so he simply doesn't spend as much time talking to Apple developers as he does Microsoft developers, so of course he hears more from them. Likewise, there are way more Windows developers than OS X developers, so you'll always hear more about anything from them.

iOS is popular, so there ought to be plenty of developers out there in the long tail. Maybe that's the real problem: Most developers are trying to grab a little tiny piece of the pie with a niche side-project, so they don't have the same perspective as someone who has employees and a big marketing budget sunk into their business.

If this supposition is correct, you'll see the same dynamic with other walled gardens from Microsoft and Google and whomever else gets into the "curated app store" business.

> The complaints from Apple developers have been around forever.

I have a theory. Apple developers and users are as angry and outraged when things break or their freedom is restricted, and they do complain (just look at the support boards for Logic, Final Cut, Lion), but they're not as loud to outsiders, because EVERY problem with Apple's ecosystem gets amplified 10x.

I still feel that after 10 years Apple still feels like an underdog to lots of users and developers, and, despite occasional problems, people still love it and want to protect it. Actually, I think the word is 'believe', and that's crucial to Apple success. I mean, who else has such a huge community with so many common goals today?

Funnily, I get the same vibes from the GNU/Linux community (oh, in both cases in a very positive way, btw).

It's tragically ironic that the very thing Microsoft would have been very happy to do -- lock down windows and control all apps on it -- is what is taken for normality everywhere else but windows.

I'm not trying to defend Microsoft. It's all too clear they have been very anti-competitive. But if windows had the controls on it that apps on iOS had we'd be hearing folks call for criminal prosecutions.

I understand the gee whiz factor of Apple. I own a bunch of Apple stuff and I love their design. I also understand that if you don't control your garden, all kinds of weeds grow in there. But geesh, folks, Jeff is correct. Perhaps this is the best future we could hope for, but it is an extremely sub-optimal destination compared to where we thought we were going.

He's right and certainly more levelheaded about these kinds of issues than most, but what most don't realize is that many of the software platforms we love have had worse policies for years. Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Sega all have/had extremely rigorous review process that was even worse than Apple's if you want to be on their game platform. Phone companies had all these build processes if you wanted to write Java ME apps to work on feature phones. And so on and so forth.

The problem is, as devs we are spoiled by the web, where you can just push out new code that says or does whatever you want it to without any consequence because the web is a "relatively" safe runtime, so nobody cares.

We are like children who grew up with a silver spoon in our mouth and we've been asked to endure plastic. Sure, it's still a spoon, but it's not silver and that pisses us off.

> Phone companies had all these build processes

Well, yes, and that's why we had crappy phones for years before iPhone and Android arrived, as noted by Jeff Atwood. I think it shows again that, not unlike the first PCs and their open slots for third-party cards, openness is the right move.

Many people here seem to renounce to this, mostly because Apple's walled garden is currently at a pinnacle, but in my opinion it is an accident. Apple's products manage to grasp most of the attention around for emotional reasons, and some forget that the future is not built on closed formats, closed markets, etc. I am surprised that it is not so obvious, especially for US citizens. The Web builds on open protocols. The PC-era built on the fact that you could open the box and plug things of your doing in it. Wikipedia, which everyone uses constantly and forget, is an open community task.

My two years-old kid is learning a lot, but it is not linear, he sometimes go backward a bit. I think we are in this backward pulse, with everyone suddenly dissmissing the possibility to open, change, modify softwares, in exchange of a (temporary) slightly better user experience.

To the Apple lover crowd: please feel free to downvote, and check my past comments to downvotes them also if you didn't already. I'm used to it now, I don't care about my karma. Anyway, I'll loose some more re-upvoting all those perfectly acceptable comments I find grayed in some threads, apparently because they are not respectful enough to the King.

Oh, and I like Apple, I learnt computing on an Apple ][, I applauded to the very smart Unix move for MacOS, many of my colleagues and friend own a MPB or A, but none would be enough of a zealots to try to hide out comments expressing concerns about walled gardens.

Your comment would read better without the argumentative side-excursion in the second-last paragraph. You make this great point, then instead of resting on it, you distract me from thinking about what you're trying to say and ask me to start thinking about whether everyone who down votes you is an Apple lover. Wy make me work to re-read your comment to remind myself what you actually came here to say?

You are right, I should have split it in two probably.

You should have stuck to the matters of substance. It is not necessary to go throwing nerd politics into every discussion, even if you believe someone else will.

Drawing attention to downvoting never results in much of anything. It's always pointless to waste keystrokes on it.

That's pretty much my intuition too. The iPhone is still the best device, but the smartphone market is commoditizing rapidly. Android units aren't very far behind at all and are improving rapidly. And Apple is losing market share to Android, not the reverse.

Apple is milking their success right now, because developers have iPhones and they want to support their favorite hardware. But every story like this drives off a handful of developers. And every week the simple economies look more and more favorable to the competing platform.

Really, the Apple ][ analogy is very good. That platform too ultimately killed itself not for technical reasons, but because Apple refused to give up its margins in the face of the C64 and PC markets and assumed that its stocked developer mindshare would save it. It didn't.

some forget that the future is not built on closed formats, closed markets, etc

We are still in the early history of popular computing. It may be that openness tends to win in the end but I think this is far from established as fact at this point. I think you put this in unnecessarily black and white terms too. The future may favor hybrids of open data models and closed, native clients.

Apple is in the same place with the iOS platform as it was with the Mac in the second half of the '80s.

Back then, they had a huge lead over other platforms due to the then-revolutionary GUI environment on the Mac. Then Jobs was forced out of Apple, and their marketing and product design couldn't keep up with what was being developed in the more open and more chaotic corners of the industry. It's no coincidence that the most open hardware architecture won, and that the company that developed the most successful OS for that platform became the dominant software company for over a decade.

Android is to iOS in 2011 what Windows was to MacOS in 1990, and in 2025, Apple will probably look a lot like it did in 1995.

If you really didn't care about karma, you wouldn't have the need to mention it.

I don't care about karma. You are free to not believe me, I don't care about that either.

However, I care a lot about HN, and the possibility to have reasonable discussions here. I am not the only one to have sensed the impact of a the Apple lover crowd trying to bury down other thoughts or any slight criticism. Gosh, even the respected and respectable Fred Wilson did notice this issue on his blog (avc.com).

My only point is I prefer HN without meta-talk about karma and comment scores. Your disclaimer paragraphs probably do nothing to soothe the apple fanboys and can be annoying to those who actually agree with you. (Enough with the meta from my part)

Edit: brainfart

The problem is that downvotes make the text lighter colored and harder to read, which is a huge motivator for partisans to censor things they don't like or find inconvenient.

>We are like children who grew up with a silver spoon in our mouth and we've been asked to endure plastic. Sure, it's still a spoon, but it's not silver and that pisses us off.

No, we're like adults used to being able to do what we want with our own hardware. Being able to do what you want with hardware is the historical computing norm (gaming consoles being the exception). Android-based devices carry on this tradition so I use them, rather than paying Apple $99/year for the privilege of putting applications I've written on my own hardware.

Really, you are paying for the privilege to be listed in the App Store and to be distributed to customers.

Unless you jailbreak, you can't even make your own app and have it run on your own phone without paying $99/year.

And as far as paying for the privilege of being including in the App Store, seems like the 30% cut Apple takes should more than cover that.

Long before the web, coding for Plain Old DesktopS also had the property that you could push out new code without a gatekeeper between you and your users.

1. Windows has always done this. Occasionally people complain; usually they don't. Honestly, I normally consider it a good thing - the Windows functionality is usually bland and relatively feature-free, but works perfectly. There was a time when TCP/IP support was a purchased add-on, after all. I think we all agree that's better to have built in from the get-go and consistent on every aged uncle's machine we're asked to fix on Thanksgiving.

2. The cleanup feature doesn't really support his point. If I store data on my phone and the phone deletes it all without warning when it thinks I have too much, that's not protecting me at the expense of the app developer - that's just plain screwing me and the developer at the same time. Honestly, I find it incomprehensible that any professional could possibly have considered it a good idea, and I think it's indicative of Apple's manic secrecy that it wasn't headed off early instead of being ignored until release.

I know Apple's doing really well in the market lately - by innovating quicker than anybody else, which has been fantastic for everyone. But in the long run, this arrogance is not going to be good for them. It shot them in the foot for two decades with the Mac, and it's going to bite them now.

Microsoft, as evil as they may be, have always had a rather open eco system. Even when Windows was at its prime, you didn't have to get permission to develop or install applications on the platform.

True - I was responding to his assertion midway that if Windows had preempted a popular app, people would scream. It's just not true.

Remember when hordes of WinZip enthusiasts flooded messageboards with angry complaints after XP was released with that functionality built in? Neither do I.

Have you used the most recent WinZip? I had to install the demo to open a .zipx file that nothing I had would unzip. It's a little scary - they've gone quite markedly beyond what you would expect from a compression tool.

It's the developers who flood with angry complaints. And yes, they did. It's called Netscape.

WP7 apps have to be approved.

Previous versions were open. I suspect AppStore has lead the way to this (proved that consumers are OK with this model).

I disagree with point number 2. From Apple's perspective, it's deleting temporary storage (after all, they're called Caches and tmp. You wouldn't store anything important on /tmp on your desktop, would you?)

The "correct" place to put user data on iOS 5+ is any place that syncs with iCloud. That's the crux on this issue: iOS 5 is Apple's assertion that App Store users are their customers, not the app developer's customers, and they want to handle the backup and security around their customers data.

Ah, I see - well, chalk that up to my having very little knowledge about the iOS ecosystem. I think my larger point still stands, that Apple's arrogant assertion of ownership of everything is going to bite them; arguably this is just telling everybody where they have to store their data. With Apple.

And honestly, if /tmp were the only filesystem I were allowed to touch, then yeah, I'd try to do something with it. That's kinda screwed up.

That's not the only folder. There's the Documents folder, but the whole drama is that this folder is backed up on iCloud, which is not necessary for offline data. Not a big deal in my opinion. Apple should and probably will add an Offline folder and all of this will be over like the Antena gate

> The "correct" place to put user data on iOS 5+ is any place that syncs with iCloud.

Um? My understanding is that Apple has forbidden developers from storing in cloud-sync areas anything that is re-downloadable or temporary. Instapaper pages are almost by definition re-downloadable; and there's no need for permanence or even synchronisation with the cloud, just a need for the system not to silently delete the files.

Is my understanding of Apple's policy flawed?

> Is my understanding of Apple's policy flawed?

Yeah. They're encouraging devs to minimize the amount of data that needs to be backed up, for obvious reasons, but there's nothing forbidding Marco from storing the articles in the Documents folder instead of the cache, and indeed that's probably what he should have been doing all along.

His insistence on keeping them in tmp has caused me to lose a number of articles over the years when I've had to do a clean wipe and the original site has long since disappeared.

Browsers have used cache and tmp directories for as long as I can remember and none of them automatically delete that content for me.

Is it really so hard for me to get some type of notification from the OS saying I have very little free space and I have x amount in temporary files stored and give me the option to remove them. It could tell me that removing these files may have adverse effects on 3rd party applications I might have installed.

Even ordinary users are beginning to understand this. My sister was upset at Amazon because the Kindle app on her iPod would not let her buy books directly. After she found out that Apple was demanding a 30% cut of those sales, she changed her mind. Now she's unhappy with Apple.

I understand the impulse to look at however many millions of IOS devices and to immediately want to get into that market, but the long tail is not a comfortable place to be in a land of 99c standard prices. Having an arbitrary and capricious landlord makes it worse.

Why is she unhappy that a retailer gets their cut for supplying the MITM service?

I don't like Apple philosophy in the slightest and don't own any apple gear (old ipods excepted), so I'm not a fan of theirs in the slightest. But this 30% thing is just a non-issue. They're a retailer providing content. 30% is a boringly normal number for the retailers cut.

If amazon wanted to share their profits with the retailer (like book publishers have to with brick and mortar stores) then those books would be available. If Apple allowed those purchases for free, then they don't get any benefit for providing the service.

Why is she unhappy?

At a basic level, it's because her mental model of How Things Work broke. She thinks that it's reasonable that using the Amazon Kindle application on any platform she ought to be able to buy books from Amazon as part of that app. After all, she's signed in, Amazon knows who she is, at most they ought to ask for a password confirmation to let her spend her money.

And that doesn't work.

So she was unhappy with Amazon. Reasonable. She was so unhappy, she posted on Facebook about it, where a dozen of her friends pointed out that Apple wanted a 30% cut of content sold on their device.

Their device. Not her device. She paid for it, but now she sees that it isn't hers.

She thought that an iPod was like a computer: you use it, you select software to put on it, you use the software.

Her mental model breaks AGAIN, because she thought she owned the iPod. Now she finds out that it's actually an Apple-owned store that doesn't like competition.

Apple got their benefit when they sold her a device. They got more benefit when they sell her software to go on the device. Why should they get more benefit for interfering in a transaction between her and Amazon?

She knows what rent-seeking means, and she doesn't appreciate it.

Does she also have a problem that Amazon takes the lions share of the remaining money, instead of it going to the authors? Amazon is just another MITM - a facilitator of getting product to consumer.

Same argument with the kindle, right? "Amazon got their benefit when they sold her a device"?

Perhaps she doesn't realise that the App Store is the same kind of service that Amazon provides - after all, the Kindle is also locked down. You have to do Frowned-On things to read your other ebooks on it.

Perhaps you should inform her of this, and watch her mental model break yet again.

30% cut only applies to subscriptions so in this case it is Amazon's choice to sell books on their website and not from app directly.

The 30% applies to all in-app purchases, and attempting to circumvent IAP is against Apple's guidelines.


That post rings true. But then it is true about every single platform provider and 3rd party external dependencies on the market: Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Facebook, Twitter

Even big apps will eventually include features initially provided by plugins. See Photoshop or Jira.

Not to mention the strategy of web giants like Google who will purchase existing successful commercial companies and the offer their product for free, thus crippling entire markets. See Google Analytics, Earth and Sketchup.

This is one of the reasons that I hope Metro apps crash and burn - if the only way to get hold of them is through the MS store, with all the same issues that the Apple store has, then I just don't want anything to do with them.

I know that the Android equivalent has problems (piracy, for instance), but I'd rather have that than something completely locked down.

I can't imagine how MS would save face if Metro crashed and burned. Seems like it would be tantamount to checking out of the consumer market.

Seeing as Metro/Win8 is MS last desperate push to enter the market for tablets that in the near future will replace the market where they currently hold almost all their monopolies (the desktop), that's a very accurate description of what will most likely happen.

And seeing as Windows is not and never was an OS for power users, they will lose the remaining desktop niche - which will be populated by exactly those power users - as well once the tablet will be our primary multimedia communication device.

A lot of Windows users do consider themselves power users even if they have minimal knowledge of other platforms. For example, it's quite frustrating to participate in PC building or gaming communities where every schmo thinks they're an authority on computing.

I think this too will fade with time as gaming moves to the tablet/other platforms. My prognosis is that the only people using desktop machines in the future will be scientists, professions performing heavy computing and programmers/developers.

About a year ago, someone asked me why I don't write apps for the AppStore. I told them I have too much self-respect.

So Apple pushed out it's browser sync feature at the same time it pushed out the cleanup feature which effectively broke the competition? How Microsoftesque.

That is absurdly limited thinking. Ponder that iCloud was invented to ensure the following scenario: that a typical user could not, in any reasonable scenario, irrevocably lose the user-state associated with their purchased applications.

Apple is gunning hard for a market worth one trillion dollars, not Marco Arment. He is inconsequential collateral damage in Apple's race to a 100% managed computing experience.

Thats no different than Microsoft in the 90's. The business goals are different but the strategy of getting there is the same.

I don't feel this situation is the same.

Microsoft didn't win for two decades by nibbling small potatoes off of everyone else's plate, they won by persecuting swallowing entire industries that were evolving rapidly. Word processing, fileserving, WWW access, telephony, video gaming, SQL, e-mail, ad infinitum...

Instapaper is not an industry of this scope - it's a single webbrowsing feature.

Go read the top comment in this thread, cstross did a pretty good job of explaining it.

When you are developing for a platform that is active on multiple layers (say, both OS, GUI or APP) then you are essentially validating the market for whatever you come up with. You have to calculate that in, if you are successful you will have competition, and if you are very successful the entity controlling the market will re-implement what you have already proven works.

If you develop something that is just an 'add on' or a missing feature you are setting yourself up for eventual trouble.

Such products have a life cycle and you can't reasonably expect the situation to continue unchanging forever.

Did Apple really once provide a direct link to Instapaper as the inspiration for their new built-in features?

If so, did they actually ask Marco before they took that link out?

If so, did Marco ask them to take it out?

And, if he did - which, having heard Marco speak on this topic, I do not assume, but merely suppose - was that the right call?

My understanding was that an App Store developer might kill for that kind of free publicity. Could it be, for example, that Apple stopped linking Instapaper so as to avoid playing favorites? Might one of Instapaper's competitors have complained about that link?

He is a bit unfair. Good platforms vendors paved the way for everybody. And they ALWAYS do it THEIR WAY (ask Netscape, Novel and Real). One can argue that Instapaper is actually a missing browser feature.

But Apple is pushing the envelope: they are the first platform to break the "specific device limit". Android competes on phones, Windows on the desktop, Amazon with content, Samsung on hardware. But Apple is everywhere. And they are not the underdog anymore. This is Tim's Cook real challenge, and we wish him luck.

So Apple can never ever implement bookmark sync in their browser? Because that’s what they did and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. It’s a minor obvious feature, not some big complicated thing.

You know what I also don’t understand? What this has to do with the big open vs. closed debate. Apple implemented a new feature in their own browser. Google can just as well implement the exactly same feature in their browser. Open vs. closed doesn’t figure into this. At all.

That whole cleaning behavior of iOS debate is just stupid. Apple screwed up. So what.

The telling thing is: it's existed for years with Mobile Me. Reading List isn't new.

I guess Jeff doesn't remembers "After Dark" anymore.

It is just the most recent (I wanted to write last, but I'm sure it is not the last) of many similar stories and articles, which can be summed up as "Do not be a sharecropper." Some previous ones:

http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/07/12/WebsThePla... http://weblog.raganwald.com/2004/11/sharecropping-in-orchard...

True, but didn't it used to be that sharecropping mainly meant building plugins to existing applications (i.e. adding a plugin to Microsoft Word). Suddenly sharecropping is broadened to writing an application on someone else's Operating System! This is extremely scary that we now consider that sharecropping as well.

> Suddenly sharecropping is broadened to writing an application on someone else's Operating System!

Yes, because operating systems have been written that make you a true sharecropper - not only you do need permission from the liege to distribute your app, but the permission can be revoked at any time, whenever your lord feels like it.

This was not the case with the proprietary systems of the past. Even Microsoft, being criticized as the evilest of evil did not try to stop you from distributing your Windows apps.

Funny how Android Instapaper (a 3rd party app) is infinitely better than the iPhone version (the official version) since it plugs right into the browser.

I think some good ant-trust regulatory lawyers would have a field day with this. But one would have to have deep enough pockets to pay the legal bills!

Reading List doesn't have an API, so for the moment it doesn't come close to what instapaper provides in terms of instapaper and third party apps.

Nobody has a monopoly on ideas.

I guess you've never heard of patents.

the final image is wonderful. where did you get it from?

It strikes me that this is exactly the position every web developer has with google.

Google can arbitrarily and capriciously exclude them from their index. When google excludes you from the index, there is no appeal, there is no explanation, and, unlike Apple, google will not publish a set of (reliable) rules. (It gives a lot of advice but is inconsistent.)

Also, like Apple, if you are not able to get in the big leagues for distribution, you can distribute your product thru other, less popular channels that are more of a hassle.

Unlike Apple, however, which give you explicit feedback on the feature that was the problem (with screenshots if needed) and always cites chapter and verse from the handbook for the exclusion, google will not tell you why, or give you any way to resolve it.

With Apple, you can resolve the issue and resubmit it. Your app will be on the store in about 7 days. With google, even if you figure out what the problem is, and you resolve it, you have no way of knowing if you'll ever be let back into the index.

>> Google can arbitrarily and capriciously exclude them from their index.

As a web developer on SEO forums, I hear of these cases all the time, but when you analyze these sites, usually 1 of 3 things is happening:

- Web developer(s) made a mistake, causing a (search engine) accessibility problem.

- The site is in violation of the Google webmaster guidelines.

- The site lacks (unique) content, or otherwise doesn't contribute at all to a healthy search engine index.

I never read of a case of Google arbitrarily or capriciously excluding sites from their index, offering them no way to appeal. In general, I also think the advice Google gives is far from inconsistent.

This could be a popular position for a web developer who got a site de-indexed, but maybe apply Occam's razor first. A mistake? A trend? An algo change? Worthless content? Blackhat SEO? Bad architecture? Got hacked?

Or do you want to jump immediately to Google arbitrarily removing well-intentioned sites from their index? I guess then you can blame bad luck of the draw.

While Google may not currently arbitrarily remove a site/app from its index, it is obvious that they could do that at any time.

Just look at the removable of co.cc a while ago. While they had some reason (malicious subdomains etc), it was still highly arbitrary and kicked out a lot of legit sites too.

Aren't those index exclusions done by algorithms? If that's the case, just telling you why they removed you from their index would be a huge disclosure on Google's technologies.

Example: "Your website has been removed from our indexes because it displays too many X's.", when no other search engine has thought of filtering websites based on X.

And because the decision is probably based on many, many parameters and weighted, it would have to tell you the values (and descriptions!) of each one of them, making the message even more sensitive.

You don't need to pay google to be able to access websites that you created yourself, whether for personal, community or commercial use. You don't need to jailbreak your Internet to do it either.

When was the last time you hacked something together for yourself on an iOS device?

You don't need Google indexing you to be successful on the web. Just look at Facebook.

Wasn't there an incident a few months back where the top Google result for "facebook login" temporarily pointed to a non-Facebook site, and suddenly thousands of people were complaining that they couldn't get to Facebook?

>Also, like Apple, if you are not able to get in the big leagues for distribution, you can distribute your product thru other, less popular channels that are more of a hassle.

Are there any alternative channels that don't require jailbreaking?

There is openappmkt.com, but there are certain hardware features which are inaccessible to web apps, so it's a subpar solution.

Conclusion: don't be dependent on google for your traffic (search) or your income (adsense).

no, not all. the web is fully open. google is not the exclusive gateway to the internet. if google were to become wildly inaccurate,, or start to willingly leave out relevant results, other search engines (hello bing!) would take over pretty fast. remember, the cost of switching search engines is approximately zero. this is precisely why the market leader in search does not behave this way.

and obviously, there are other, extremely simple and effective ways to reach a website: typing in the address bar, links by email, facebook, twitter, etc., etc.

the app store is the one and only gateway to the iOS platform.

These are the exact reasons that I decided to quit developing for iOS. I loved the APIs, I enjoyed the platform and access to millions of users. In the end though, I just wasn't willing to bend the knee.

I think the Apple app store policies is the bigger problem, because Apple is using it to control not just quality, but content, and forcing applications to use its payment gateway; which in itself, wouldn't much of a problem if they didn't take this gigantic 30% cut (10x more than other payment gateways), and prevented you from knowing your customer.

This is truely unprecendented. Microsoft could screw you by cloning your app, but they never blocked third-party applications, nor tried to be the commerce gateway to the internet.

If Apple succeeds in making webapps obsolete, and competition cannot be strong enough to force it to be fairer and more reasonable in its app store policy, than to me an ipad/iphone app world sounds like a regression from the webapp world.

And this is why I never understand why so many Apple users want Android & Windows to fail. As a customer, you should want other platforms to be succesful, so that we don't end up again with a monopolistic platform that screws us all. Didn't we try this before??

> And this is why I never understand why so many Apple users want Android & Windows to fail.

Huh? I thought it was the other way around, no? (i.e.: it's not fee, must die, etc)

And really, webapps aren't going anywhere. The App Store was created because of user demand (not because Steve Jobs was a genius), and with Webkit and newer mobile IE it's probably the best time ever to write an web app. It's up to developers to choose.

The AppStore isn't just a payment gateway. It's essentially a retail store. You would be hard pressed to get to keep 70% from many other retailers.

70% is about right, give or take. Depends on the industry. But retailers certainly don't ever take only 3% like payment gateways do.

This whole 30% thing comes from a new demographic that has never had any previous experience with business, who don't really understand the value of distribution channels and middlemen.

I was referring to 'in app' payment gateway

I love that the iphone and ipad are locked down. I gave ipads to family members and I'm finally done with tech support. My parents, girlfriend, and brother were bit by endless amounts of spyware, spam, and trojans because they used windows. I had to reinstall windows on my gf's laptop 3 times because adobe are useless worthless fuckwits who fill flash and pdf with security holes and her computer was repeatedly infected. Every time I went to my parents house I had to clean endless amounts of crap off their computer. My brother's laptop was infected with a virus that tried to get into bank accounts. He owns a pair of pizza stores and does his accounting on his laptop, and he accesses bank accounts with significant funds in them. Using ios fixed all the above.

While in theory it's nice that people can run any application they wish, in practice, it sucks. People end up having to be experts on computer security. As a group of computer professionals we've pounded on this for twenty years and it simply isn't fucking working. If telling people to be careful what programs they run or what websites they visit worked, it would have worked long ago.

Instead, I give them ipads for casual browsing and they're finally secure. My parents don't need my help to get pictures off their camera. There finally is a way for non experts to securely use the internet and applications -- just buy stuff from the app store. It won't spam you, it won't steal information, it won't install spyware, and it will most likely do what it claims to do. If not being able to run arbitrary apps is the price we pay... well, we tried doing it the other way for 20+ years and it didn't work.

>While in theory it's nice that people can run any application they wish, in practice, it sucks.

While in theory it is nice that people enjoy essential liberties, in practice, they suck.

Franklin sends his regards.

> it won't steal information

So, it's okay if Apple collects your personal data instead of some criminal? Sure is hypocritical.

>well, we tried doing it the other way for 20+ years and it didn't work.

You know why it doesn't work? Because we let people use computers, but don't require them to learn how to use them. I still don't get why people think they are entitled to use a computer. It's the same as demanding to drive a car without knowing how to operate it, in addition to having no clue about traffic rules. We're not attacking the root of the problem, we're simply slapping the symptoms around.

> So, it's okay if Apple collects your personal data instead of some criminal? Sure is hypocritical.

Criminals: steal tens of thousands of dollars from your bank account. And you may well be stuck with the losses. Apple: knows a bit of your personal information. So yeah, those are comparable.

And computer training? Another stupid idea that demonstrably doesn't solve the problem. People have been trying that since at least the windows 95 era. Strangely, there are still bot nets, viruses, malware, spyware, electronic theft, etc. But I'm sure it's going to really work any day now.

Congratulations on not getting what I was saying. But carry on, I'm out.

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