This is one of the many ways regulation as the “cure” could be worse than the “disease” of paying Apple 30% of near-zero marginal cost digital goods and services. I went from zero tech experience to a successful software business in ~6 months thanks to the low friction.
And that’s why I continue to think that the best outcome here isn’t across the board drops in app store commissions (though free money is always nice), but exceptions for business models with incremental costs that don’t work at 30% or even 15% commissions.
As Epic itself recognized (in an email submitted as evidence in the case), they are about the least sympathetic company to be bringing this case. They are already wildly profitable even paying the 30%, so reducing or eliminating the commission is about more profit, not viability.
1/ This is one of the many reasons why I don’t think Apple is playing 4D chess with ATT. If this was such a deeply considered, strategic play to kneecap FB/GOOG and regain control of the App Store, they would’ve rolled things out differently given the current regulatory climate.
2/ My impression is that Apple started down this road very specifically to clean up the privacy disaster they enabled with the IDFA (and knew they couldn’t fix with App Review policy), which came to a head in 2018: wsj.com/articles/your-…
3/ That it may help their growing ad business and harm Facebook/Google was a side benefit not a primary motivation (other than as a way to force Facebook/Google’s hand on the privacy front).
1/ This is what I care far more about than Apple taking a 30% cut on near-zero marginal cost digital goods and services. They are killing innovation by not having flexibility on the 30% for business models that require it and through App Review policies.
2/ “…if a significant number of people involved in iOS development start to fear App Review the way I have the past couple years, that changes the game. And I’m not just talking about indie developers like me. Contractors may steer their clients away from taking risks.”
3/ “Project managers at companies like Facebook and Pinterest may think twice before pitching a new feature. Venture capitalists may pass on a fledgling company because its product is too dependent on an iOS feature that might get rejected.” davidbarnard.com/post/101267474…
Over dinner I told my wife one of my tweets ended up in a court case against Apple. Her first reaction, without even knowing what it said: “Is Apple going to retaliate?!” So yeah, for almost 13 years of making a living on the App Store, we‘ve lived in fear of Apple.
I know so many kind, amazing people at Apple that have been so helpful to me over the years. But I think it’s lost on Apple institutionally just how disfuncional it’s relationship with developers really is. How much we fear App Review. How much we fear speaking out.
On an episode of the @SubClubHQ podcast, @ncsh commented how Salesforce runs its developer platform as a “benevolent dictator”. That’s been rattling around in my head since the moment he said it. In contrast, Apple comes across a bit more… Machiavellian. castro.fm/episode/gFDVuR
Part of me now wants to find a way to sue Apple just for the discovery. To better understand the discussion around the volumes of email I’ve sent about scam apps, App Store policies, etc. Haven’t seen one yet, but I’m expecting at least one of my emails to pop up in the Epic docs
I’ll just dox myself in the mean time. Here’s a good one from 2019 on App Store dark patterns and the Touch ID scam:
Never got a reply to this one. Had Apple taken me up on this, or just taken the situation more seriously, I would’ve helped clean up the App Store before @keleftheriou was forced to start doing it publicly.
Ah… the heady days of 2016, when I thought Apple was finally going to make more than token changes to the App Store. Felt the same in 2008, and 2009, and 2010, and 2011, and 2012, and 2013, and 2014, and 2015, and for some reason still hope Apple rethinks the App Store in 2021.
2/ 2014: “I’d love to see Apple wield that power to shape the App Store in ways that will sustain and encourage meaningful development over the long-term and not let the current success of the App Store blind it to issues that are impacting the trajectory of the App Store.”
1/ This email from @pschiller looks bad on the surface, but one of the things Apple should be arguing in this case is that by running the store and collecting the revenue they have protected consumers.
2/ Thought experiment: if instead of adding IAP to the App Store in 2009, Apple had allowed devs to collect payments directly inside apps, would there have been less fraud or more? Would subscriptions be easier to cancel or harder? Would paywalls be less deceptive or more?
1/ Advertising helps businesses bring attention to their products and services, and that’s not a bad thing. Targeting made ads better for everyone, including those viewing the ads (I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve grown to actually enjoy Instagram ads)
2/ I’m thrilled that Apple is essentially deprecating the IDFA and preventing all the creepy tracking that’s been going on. But I think they’ve thrown the (targeting and measurement) baby out with the (creepy tracking) bathwater.
3/ That whole interview between @eric_seufert and @benthompson is a fantastic, nuanced exploration of the far-reaching implications of Apple’s fundamentalist approach to these privacy changes.
Steps to reproduce: 1. Search a high traffic keyword like wallpapers, scanner, VPN, etc. 2. Download the top 5 search results 3. At least one (often multiple) will be shady apps pushing expensive weekly subscriptions using various dark patterns 4. Get mad at Apple all over again
2/ More steps to reproduce: 1. Browse TikTok and tap on app ads until you find a shady subscription app 2. Start a free trial in that app (TikTok has now identified you as an easy mark) 3. Tap on any new app ads you see and explore just how bad things really are on the App Store
3/ I spent a couple hours doing this on TikTok and sending the apps to Apple. Most are still up. Example: $2/week for a handful of bad live wallpapers (ad on TikTok was nothing like the app) apps.apple.com/us/app/aquariu…
1/ I wish it were this simple. Unfortunately, allowing access to the IDFA allows a heck of a lot more than just personalized ads. Eric’s point is valid though, the combination of SKAdNetwork and App Tracking Transparency don’t actually give consumers choice.
2/ When a consumer allows tracking, they are allowing anything that app might do with any of their data. And for personalized ads to even work in this paradigm, they have to allow tracking for multiple apps, not just Facebook/Instagram/Google Chrome/Whatever.
3/ Real consumer choice would be a beefed up SKAdNetwork with modes for personalization ON or OFF. With personalization on, SKAdNetwork would allow apps like Instagram to get 100% conversion tracking when the consumer allows personalization.
2/ Developers can use the IDFV to individually identify all users across their portfolio of apps & collect as much data as they want. Apple doesn’t prevent Facebook from doing that. Apple is preventing them from tracking users across any app (with their SDK installed) and the web
3/ Facebook’s accusations ring hollow unless they can point to specific ways in which Apple is leveraging it’s data to unfairly compete with Facebook and 3rd party developers. The privacy as a cover for profit also rings hollow for so many reasons.
1/ One thing a lot of people forget in the App Store take rate discussion is that Stripe only operates in 42 countries, doesn’t automatically collect/pay sales tax, doesn’t handle local compliance, etc. There are Stripe apps you can pay to handle some of that, but not all.
2/ The App Store operates in 166 countries, collects and pays all taxes, handles local compliance, etc. Calculating the overlap would be a PITA, but after a quick look at my revenue this year, I’d guess I earn at least 5% more because of all the additional App Store countries.
3/ China alone (where Stripe doesn’t operate) is 1.5% of my revenue and has been higher in the past. So, the 15% I’ll be paying Apple in 2021 really feels more like 10% because they help me make an additional 5% with support for all those additional countries.
Exactly. Most apps don’t flirt with $1M, they blow right past it. And many of those will be subscription apps with some growing percentage of revenue on the 85/15 subscription split. Which means it’s not that one day you’re paying 15% on all revenue, the next you’re paying 30%.
2/ There’s been a lot of focus on the $1M threshold (including by me), but I’m warming up to it not being an issue. It’s like the tax arguments about how raising taxes on people making over $400k will disincentive people from making over $400k. That’s just not at all how it works
3/ Here’s a more nuanced discussion on why it’s probably not a big deal. As @jeiting mentions there’s also a lot of precedence for businesses facing new taxes and regulations as they scale. subclub.co/episode/app-st…
1/ With rumors flying that Apple is delaying the iOS 14 privacy changes, I thought I’d share some nuance on why that would be a good thing.
2/ Apps being able to do cost-effective marketing ultimately benefits everyone involved: consumers, Apple, developers, ad networks, and even the thousands of growth/ad tech/infrastructure companies (including @RevenueCat) that help facilitate that marketing.
3/ Most apps need to make money to be worth building and updating. And being able to measure marketing spend is an important part of the complex App Store economy that powers so many of the great apps we depend on every day.
1/ The recent brouhaha about Apple’s ad personalization being on by default missed an important point: Facebook’s ad personalization is also on by default, the IDFA isn’t needed in its own apps. @benthompson did a great job addressing the nuance in today’s @StratecheryMO email
2/ Facebook can collect as much data as they want (or can legally) in the Facebook app, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc. and then use that for ad personalization. iOS 14 only limits their collection of data in 3rd party apps (including advertised apps and apps that display ads).
1/ The xCloud on iOS situation is a perfect encapsulation of the antitrust argument for and against Apple. Microsoft is going to be just fine building their business on Xbox, Windows, and Android. iPhone customers who care about Xbox can switch to Android.
2/ This, in some ways, reduces Apple’s power over their customers. A compelling feature exclusive to another platform might actually cause some number of people switch from iPhone to Android. Having compelling platform exclusives _can_ be healthy for competition.
3/ Any argument that Apple is wielding monopoly-like power over its platfom hinges on switching costs. Do people stay on iPhone because its too much of a hassle to switch or because the iPhone experience is compelling enough to keep them even without xCloud & other rejected apps.
1/ I have to disagree with @benthompson’s take in the @StratecheryMO email this morning on the App Store search brouhaha. Given how crude the search algorithm is, I don’t think @pschiller and @cue are lying about Apple’s apps making it to the top organically.
2/ Early on, App Store search was heavily weighted toward cumulative downloads, eventually they started shifting _some_ of that weight toward download momentum and even download rate for specific keywords. But that made it extremely difficult for new apps to ever get traction.
3/ I complained about this for years and Apple eventually added a ~7 day SEO boost for brand new apps to give them the opportunity to gain momentum in search. That combined with a boost from Apple’s other apps being so popular explains why new Apple apps shoot to #1 on day 1.
😔 Apple is still letting top grossing apps (@calm) get away with things that they’ve been rejecting other apps for. I (and lots of other developers I’ve talked to) was told that the price has to be on the button and in a font of similar size/weight as the other button text.
Now that they’ve fixed the Touch ID issues and improved the “buy sheet” (