Archive for August 11, 2020

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Setapp for iOS

William Gallagher (also: MacRumors, Mike Schmitz):

Having launched back in 2017 with just 61 apps, Setapp is a continually growing subscription service which gives users access to paid-for apps for one monthly fee. Currently hosting around 190 Mac apps, the service has now added its first iOS ones.


At launch, the major titles in the eight are the Ulysses writing app, and MindNode mind-mapping tool. It also includes Taskheat and 2Do task managers, the Paste clipboard manager, PDF Search, and SQLPro Studio.


Once you have an iOS device registered to your Setapp account, each eligible app’s page on the Mac Setapp app contains a pair of QR codes. The first downloads the app from the App Store to your iOS device, then the second unlocks it.

Ryan Jones:

THIS BREAKS A GAZILLION RULES. We spend weeks making mental pretzels to understand the latest rule bullshit, and the something that breaks multiple explicit rules is allowed.

I heard about this a while ago and always assumed it would be allowed, because even though the guidelines forbid unlocking via means other than IAP, they specifically allow unlocking for multi-platform apps. This works for Microsoft and The Omni Group, and I don’t see why Setapp unlocking the iOS versions of Mac apps would be any different.


3.1.1 In-App Purchase

If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.


3.1.3(b) Multiplatform Services: Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase.


We would never put our vendors at risk. Therefore we’ve received approval from Apple before going forward. It was confirmed that applications with integrated Setapp iOS framework fulfill the App Store Guidelines.

But a lot of people shared Jones’ reaction, so I guess we’ll see. The rules are anything but “transparent and applied equally,” as Tim Cook stated. WeChat (via Hacker News) remains in the App Store despite offering a store within a store, and it’s threatened more on iOS by the U.S. government than by App Store policy.

(My ToothFairy app is available on Setapp but is unaffected by this issue as it’s Mac-only.)


Update (2020-08-12): Markus Müller-Simhofer:

Section 3.1.1 is mentioned a lot when people comment on the legality of Setapp for iOS, but based on my reading it doesn’t apply here. It’s correct that Setapp uses a QR code, but this code doesn’t unlock the app. It contains a “magic link”/“account token”.

This token is used to login the user into their account (similar to how Slack uses a magic link in emails to login). This token identifies the user and based on this information the Setapp framework tells us the subscription state of the user.


Based on my interpretation this is similar to what other companies (e.g. Microsoft) are doing with their cross platform subscriptions. We also never mention Setapp in the app, the App Store description or App Store release notes. We only promote the App Store subscription.

Adam Engst:

When I asked if Setapp planned to add any iOS-only apps or if the only iOS apps would be companions to Mac apps, Setapp PR manager Julia Petryk’s response suggested, albeit a bit ambiguously, that iOS-only apps might be in Setapp’s future: “Yes, iOS apps will go through the review process by the Setapp review team and in case of their approval, they will join Setapp.”

Given Apple’s explicit prohibition—Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc.—it’s hard to imagine that Apple will allow Setapp to provide access to iOS-only apps. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned with the App Store, it’s that Apple reserves the right to interpret or change the rules as it wants.

Mozilla Layoffs

Frederic Lardinois, in January (via Hacker News):

Mozilla laid off about 70 employees today, TechCrunch has learned.

In an internal memo, Mozilla chairwoman and interim CEO Mitchell Baker specifically mentions the slow rollout of the organization’s new revenue-generating products as the reason for why it needed to take this action. The overall number may still be higher, though, as Mozilla is still looking into how this decision will affect workers in the U.K. and France. In 2018, Mozilla Corporation (as opposed to the much smaller Mozilla Foundation) said it had about 1,000 employees worldwide.

Mitchell Baker (via Hacker News, 3, Jacob Kastrenakes):

Today we announced a significant restructuring of Mozilla Corporation. This will strengthen our ability to build and invest in products and services that will give people alternatives to conventional Big Tech. Sadly, the changes also include a significant reduction in our workforce by approximately 250 people.


To start, that means products that mitigate harms or address the kinds of the problems that people face today. Over the longer run, our goal is to build new experiences that people love and want, that have better values and better characteristics inside those products.


Recognizing that the old model where everything was free has consequences, means we must explore a range of different business opportunities and alternate value exchanges. How can we lead towards business models that honor and protect people while creating opportunities for our business to thrive? How can we, or others who want a better internet, or those who feel like a different balance should exist between social and public benefit and private profit offer an alternative? We need to identify those people and join them. We must learn and expand different ways to support ourselves and build a business that isn’t what we see today.

This is all rather vague, but it sounds like they want to diversify away from Firefox and have laid off most of the Servo team. What could be more important to the mission than maintaining an independent browser engine? On the other hand, Firefox is expensive to develop, and it’s not clear how to replace the funding that had been provided by its primary competitor.

Catalin Cimpanu:

Mozilla’s contract with Google to include Google as the default search provider inside Firefox is set to expire later this year, and the contract has not been renewed. The Google deal has historically accounted for around 90% of all of Mozilla’s revenue, and without it experts see a dim future for Mozilla past 2021.

Maciej Stachowiak:

For Mozilla folks looking for a landing spot, Safari and WebKit teams have a number of openings.


Update (2020-08-12): ploxiln:

It was making 100s of millions of dollars per year from the default search provider deal, for over a decade. It could have saved most of that money, spending it only on 50 to 100 browser engineers. Branching out to MDN and websocket or webrtc libraries would also make sense. But the rest of the crap, the marketing, the rebranding, the Pocket purchase and integration, Firefox OS, the voice recognition and AI stuff (and notice the announcement, they’re keeping the AI division, really need that part apparently), stuff that nobody remembers, that’s all a waste of money that could be saved by the non-profit foundation to just support the low-level engine keeping the open web viable.

Kat Marchán:

So to summarize what we know so far, the following teams at Mozilla have been either eliminated or gutted to oblivion[…]

Update (2020-08-17): Ted Mielczarek:

I’m convinced that the biggest problem Mozilla had was that the business model we stumbled into (ad revenue sharing from search providers) gave us a firehose of money that was mostly disconnected from our execution no matter how you measure things.

Ted Mielczarek:

Google actually hired some Netscape folks and paid them to work on Firefox. (And then turned around and had them build Chrome, naturally.)

John Gruber:

It is a very good thing for the world and the web that a truly independent browser exists from a privacy-minded company, but there’s not much of a business model for it unless it’s popular enough to get the dominant search engine to pay for placement.

Nick Heer:

It has been a long time since I was a Firefox user, but I cannot imagine building stuff for the web without MDN. I feel terrible for the hundreds of people laid off, for the impact their absence will have, and for the general downfall of Mozilla as Google has become a de facto web authority.

Thank You MDN (via Hacker News):

MDN Web Docs is the life blood, the home, the source of truth for millions of web developers everyday. It empowers individuals and teams to build amazing services and products, to learn, to create their own opportunities, and to express themselves on the open web. As a community of developers we have access to all of this information for free ♥️

Mozilla Lifeboat (via Hacker News):

Mozillians are everywhere! It doesn’t matter if you’re a former employee, contributor or simply a fan — if you’re looking for a new home, start with this list of Mozillians actively hiring kind, passionate, awesome humans.

John Carmack:

Just last night I was thinking about how it was possible that, given the relative trends, Mozilla’s greater legacy might turn out to be Rust, not Firefox.

Mike Conley:

Super talented Mozillians looking for work! Here’s the official talent directory! Get it while it’s hot.

Update (2021-01-06): Lawrence Abrams (via Hacker News, Bogdan Popa):

The Microsoft Edge browser is now being used by more people than Mozilla Firefox making it the 2nd most popular desktop browser.

Cal Paterson (via Slashdot):

The real problem is not the royalty cuts, though. Mozilla has already received more than enough money to set themselves up for financial independence. Mozilla received up to half a billion dollars a year (each year!) for many years. The real problem is that Mozilla didn't use that money to achieve financial independence and instead just spent it each year, doing the organisational equivalent of living hand-to-mouth.

Ian Bicking (Hacker News):

There are many concerns about Mozilla right now, and reason to be concerned. While I am no longer with Mozilla, it’s still a place that supported me for many years; I believe in Mozilla and want the project to succeed.


The answer is clear to me: if Mozilla wants to improve its financial position, then it needs to increase the number of Firefox users. That’s always been the right focus, and it’s still the right focus.


At some point I took to asking people in Mozilla: what is the purpose of Firefox? This was during Firefox 3 days when optimism for the product was low.


And I did get all those answers, but also one I didn’t expect: Firefox exists just to give Mozilla a seat at the table when the web is defined.


Mozilla was never going to be happy building a great browser that its users loved.

Dithering Preview

John Gruber:

The obvious downside to a paid subscription podcast ($5/month — cheap!) is that some prospective listeners naturally want to know what the show is like before paying. We’ve been thinking about this since we initially conceived of the show, and last week launched our solution: Dithering Preview, a free podcast with the best clips from each month’s episodes.

Gruber and Thompson are a good combination.