Apple’s leaders continue to deny developers of two obvious truths:
- That our apps provide substantial value to iOS beyond the purchase commissions collected by Apple.
- That any portion of our customers came to our apps from our own marketing or reputation, rather than the App Store.
For Apple to continue to deny these is dishonest, factually wrong, and extremely insulting — not only to our efforts, but to the intelligence of all Apple developers and customers.
This isn’t about the 30%, or the 15%, or the prohibition of other payment systems, or the rules against telling our customers about our websites, or Apple’s many other restrictions. (Not today, at least.)
It’s about what Apple’s leadership thinks of us and our work.
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It isn’t the App Store’s responsibility to the rest of Apple to “pay its way” by leveraging hefty fees on certain types of transactions. Modern society has come to rely so heavily on mobile apps that any phone manufacturer must ensure that such a healthy ecosystem exists as table stakes for anyone to buy their phones.
Without our apps, the iPhone has little value to most of its customers today.
If Apple wishes to continue advancing bizarre corporate-accounting arguments, the massive profits from the hardware business are what therefore truly “pay the way” of the App Store, public APIs, developer tools, and other app-development resources, just as the hardware profits must fund the development of Apple’s own hardware, software, and services that make the iPhone appeal to customers.
The forced App Store commissions, annual developer fees, and App Store Search Ads income are all just gravy. The “way” is already paid by the hardware — but Apple uses their position of power to double-dip.
And that’s just business. Apple’s a lot of things, and “generous” isn’t one.
But to bully and gaslight developers into thinking that we need to be kissing Apple’s feet for permitting us to add billions of dollars of value to their platform is not only greedy, stingy, and morally reprehensible, but deeply insulting.
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Apple further extends the value argument, and defends their justification for forced commissions, by claiming responsibility for and ownership of the customer relationship between all iOS users and each app they choose to use.
This argument only makes sense — and even then, only somewhat — when apps are installed by a customer browsing the App Store, finding an app they hadn’t previously heard of, and choosing to install it based on App Store influence alone.
But in the common case — and for most app installations, the much more common case — of searching for a specific app by name or following a link or ad based on its developer’s own marketing or reputation, Apple has served no meaningful role in the customer acquisition and “deserves” nothing more from the transaction than what a CDN and commodity credit-card processor would charge.
The idea that the App Store is responsible for most customers of any reasonably well-known app is a fantasy.
It isn’t the App Store that has enabled all of the commerce on iOS — it’s the entire world of computing and modern society, created by a symbiotic ecosystem in which Apple played one part alongside many others. The world was already moving in this direction, and had Apple not played its part, someone else would’ve. The App Store is merely one platform’s forced distribution gateway, “facilitating” the commerce no more and no less than a web browser, an ISP or cellular carrier, a server-hosting company, or a credit-card processor.
For Apple to continue to claim otherwise is beyond insulting, and borders on delusion.
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At WWDC next week, these same people are going to try to tell us a different story.
They’re going to tell us how amazing we are, how important our work is, and how much they value us. And for thousands of Apple employees who’ve made the great products and platforms that we love, including the hundreds of engineers presenting the sessions and working the labs, it’ll be genuine and true.
But the leaders have already shown us who they really are, what they really think of us, and how much they value our work.