Archive for August 22, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Vesper Shutting Down

Jason Snell (tweet):

The app, developed by John Gruber, Brent Simmons, and Dave Wiskus, featured a tasteful interface design. (I used it a lot, especially for recipes.) But it’s hard to compete with Apple’s own Notes app, especially after Apple upgraded it dramatically with iOS 8. The last post to the development blog was in February 2015 when the app was updated to support iPad screen resolutions.

Brent Simmons (tweet):

We at Q Branch just released the final version of Vesper. It does one crucial thing: it allows you to export your notes and pictures. See the new Export section in the sidebar.

Sync will be turned off Aug. 30 at 8pm Pacific. We’ll destroy all the data, and neither we nor anyone else will be able to recover it.

Brent Simmons (tweet):

The iOS document provider feature — which was introduced after Vesper shipped (it was originally an iOS 6 app) — was just what we needed. It meant we could write the notes and pictures as files in a folder, and then a document provider could upload those files to iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or wherever.

Perfect. It works whether you’re syncing or not — it has nothing to do with syncing.

And it will continue to work even after sync shuts down. It will continue to work as long as you have the app on your device.


Belief inside Q Branch: if we had started with a Mac app rather than an iOS app, Vesper would have been much more successful. That wasn’t clear at the time we started, though (Dec. 2012).

Nick Heer:

All things must come to an end, and all, but it’s heartbreaking to see it happen to a great app like Vesper, especially since this serves as a de facto acknowledgement that a Mac version is never coming as well.

Evadne Wu:

I still firmly hold the belief that iOS applications are either loss leaders or loss generators, that iOS devices themselves are thick terminals, and that a proper iOS execution strategy must be backed with a useful service either involving real world consequences (i.e. get a ride or get groceries delivered), or a wider cross-platform strategy (i.e. build your document on one platform, revise on another).

Stephen Hackett:

Props to Q Branch for putting time into a dying app to make it possible to export user data. Too many apps and services don’t get that part right.

However, I would argue that apps should have an export feature from the first version.

Update (2016-08-24): John Gruber (tweet, Hacker News):

iOS 7’s appearance was so different that even an app like Vesper that was designed with many of the same ideals needed a thorough redesign. So we spent the summer of 2013 not building a sync system, but rather building an iOS 7 version of Vesper.


We suffered an enormous chicken-and-the-egg problem with our decision to keep to a small team and self-fund our efforts through revenue from the app itself. A notes app is only of interest to many people if it’s available both on their desktop and mobile device. The number one reason, by a long shot, that people didn’t buy Vesper is because it wasn’t available for the Mac. I get that. It makes total sense. Hell, I even cheat, personally, and run Vesper on my Mac in the iOS Simulator. The bottom line is we needed revenue from the first version we built to fund development of the next version, and I think we would have made money from the Mac version.


Ultimately, what we should have done once we had versions of the app for both Mac and iOS is switch to a subscription model. Make the apps free downloads on all platforms, and charge somewhere around $15/year for sync accounts. That’s where the industry is going.


With “Vesper” we were thinking things like beautiful, smart, clever, strong. In the end, the name was more apt than we knew, because it also carries heartbreak.

John Gruber:

From first comp to 1.0.

But the one on the right is what we shipped before we ever saw iOS 7.

We pay more for the server in some months than we do for Ideal Sans for the year.

Colin Cornaby:

It’s kind of bizarre the only healthy developer market in the Apple ecosystem right now is the outside-the-Mac-app-store Mac market.

David Sparks:

For years now I’ve been talking to app developer friends and they are nearly universally wondering how long they will be able to survive in a business where consumers expect to pay less than $5 for an app and expect that app to be maintained for years at a time with no further revenue to the developer.

This problem is holding back productivity software on the iPhone and–even more dramatically–on iPad. The iPad Pro hardware is, performance-wise, competitive with a laptop. The difference, however, is that people are simply not willing to pay the same for iPad productivity software as they are willing to pay for Mac productivity software.

Ruffin Bailey:

I think the most important take home here is that The Marco Effect is greatly overestimated.


At the time I was using Evernote and for me it gets the job done. I was getting tired of seeing good note apps for iOS but not a lot on the Mac. I only got into the app when version 2 came out but I never really used it that much because it doesn’t offer a Mac app.


Several bloggers have expressed curiosity as to why public interest in the App Store has waned so much. I can’t answer for everyone, but at least within myself, I’ve noticed an increasing and persistant reluctance to try new apps. It’s just that I’ve seen same pattern crop up over and over again. Somebody releases an interesting new app, touting fantastic design and improved productivity. The app gains some (but not overwhelming) traction. The app gets a few updates. The app lingers for a few years. And finally, the app untriumphantly rides off into the sunset, taking entire years of not just developer time, but thousands of users’ ingrained habits with it. The case is clear: most apps — and especially indie apps — cannot be reliably expected to continue operating.

Cesare Rocchi:

That said, hats off to the dream team for building a well done and well engineered application. The diary that Brent wrote about synching is still a great read, after three years.

This is an adventure that every indie should learn from. Sometimes a great design, a great production and a great engineering is not enough. There’s many more factors to take into account[…]

John Gruber:

Vesper has had more downloads since Sunday (when it went free, and was announced EOL) than it did in 3+ years as a paid app.

I think it’s a little more subtle than that. They will pay, but not if there are free options. And most of the time there are.

John Gruber:

We didn’t omit export from 1.0 because we didn’t think it was important, we omitted it because we found no good solution.

Update (2016-08-25): Brent Simmons:

Way back in 2002 I wrote Why I Develop for Mac OS X — it’s because of what Joel Spolsky called an “emotional appeal.” […] It’s still true, 14 years later. And it’s why Vesper didn’t start as a web app, and why we’re not converting it now.

See also: Under the Radar, Kirk McElhearn, Eddie Smith, Importing to Ulysses, Jonathan Poritsky.

Update (2016-08-26): Trello Importer.

Update (2016-08-30): Brent Simmons:

We will make Vesper for iOS, Vesper for Mac, and Vesper’s JavaScript sync service open source on my personal GitHub account. This code will also be provided as historical artifacts: they’re not intended as active projects. They’re also not intended as examples of how to write apps these days.

Update (2016-09-06): Allen Pike:

Software is deeply impermanent. While it is often built painstakingly and methodically, it is experienced ephemerally, in the moment. Apps are hard to preserve for study or posterity. Network-backed apps, doubly so.

Update (2016-10-07): Adam Rush:

Some people are finding success on the iOS App Store — and I congratulate those folks. This includes Omni, where I work.

But I do think it’s far more difficult to make a living as an indie iOS developer in 2016 than it was as a Mac developer in 2005. My suspicion is that in the Mac market, 2016 is not very different from 2005, and you can still make money there. But iOS is like a giant curtain laid across the map, so people don’t see the opportunity.

Swift App Size Bundles

David Owens II:

Alrighty, so this is looking better, but still not great: 10,138,624 bytes (approx 10 MB). This of course is missing some of the frameworks that I was using above, like Swift support for AV Foundation, but seeing as libswiftCore is the primary culprit of the size, I think it’s safe to say that budgeting for 15 MB for Swift support should be sufficient.


I should also note that the App Store does compress your bundle as well. At the end, it’s really hard to know exactly how big your app bundle is going to be without actually publishing it up to the store.

Which is too bad because then you can’t be sure whether your app fits under the 100 MB limit for cellular downloads.

Chip Card Nightmares

Joanna Stern (via John Gruber):

After pulling out the stopwatch for over 50 transactions at various retailers in recent days, I can confirm that it takes twice as long to pay with a chip card than with a card swipe or mobile payment—on average, 13 seconds versus 6 seconds.


And that doesn’t count the time playing swipe-or-chip roulette. Consider yourself lucky when you encounter a “NO CHIP!” sign or a duct-tape blockade over the slot.

Lately, I’ve been spared. I’ve only seen signs saying not to use the chip reader and had cashiers tell me to ignore the sign saying to insert my card.

“Many [retailers] don’t yet take EMV because the longer lines tend to be a much greater hit than the fraud that they’d have to pay for,” says Joseph Koenig, a technology manager at Index, a company that implements software in point-of-sale terminals.


Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay were all twice as fast as current chip cards in my testing. Hold up your phone, press on the fingerprint sensor to confirm it’s you and six to seven seconds later, you’ll hear that pleasing ding that you’re done.

It seems weird, though, that I still have to sign on that awful electronic pad after providing my fingerprint.

Josh Centers:

CVS Pay is part of the CVS Pharmacy app for iOS that combines access to your debit or credit card, ExtraCare rewards card, and a Health Savings or Flexible Spending account. Like CurrentC and Walmart Pay, CVS Pay uses barcodes to transmit information.

That’s wonderful considering that their terminals are never able to scan the ExtraCare and prescription barcodes from my phone.

Previously: Why I Started Using Apple Pay.

Google to Automatically Link to AMP Results

Dieter Bohn (via Nick Heer):

Google’s “Accelerated Mobile Pages,” more commonly known as AMP, are meant to be a reboot of the mobile web. Designed to fix mobile webpages that suck because they’re too slow, they have been available in a specialized carousel at the top of search results since February. When you click on an AMP link, you get a stripped-down, faster version of the article you wanted — often delivered directly from Google’s own caching servers.

Now, Google has announced that it plans to expand the delivery of AMP links beyond that carousel to all mobile search results. So when you search for a story and an article from an AMP publisher shows up in search results, clicking on that blue link will take you to the AMP version of the story instead of the traditional website.


If this sounds familiar, it’s because Facebook just did the same thing with its own mobile-focused Instant Articles format — instead of loading a webpage when you click a link, the Facebook app loads a proprietary Instant Article from participating publishers, complete with lightning bolt icon.

Previously: Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages.