Thursday, September 24, 2020

Coalition for App Fairness

Coalition for App Fairness (Hacker News, MacRumors):

The Coalition for App Fairness is an independent nonprofit organization founded by industry-leading companies to advocate for freedom of choice and fair competition across the app ecosystem.

App Store Principles:

  1. No developer should be required to use an app store exclusively, or to use ancillary services of the app store owner, including payment systems, or to accept other supplementary obligations in order to have access to the app store.
  2. No developer should be blocked from the platform or discriminated against based on a developer’s business model, how it delivers content and services, or whether it competes in any way with the app store owner.
  3. Every developer should have timely access to the same interoperability interfaces and technical information as the app store owner makes available to its own developers.
  4. Every developer should always have access to app stores as long as its app meets fair, objective and nondiscriminatory standards for security, privacy, quality, content, and digital safety.

Good luck with #3.

30% “App Tax”:

Apple first introduced the 30% fee on apps in 2011, which forced many apps to go completely out of business. Treehouse, an online training platform, developed a reading-based app, iFlow Reader, which was one of many that fell victim to the imposed new tax. “Apple just dropped a nuclear bomb on all of us,” Treehouse declared publicly, stating that the “draconian new rules” had made it “impossible for anyone but Apple to sell books at a profit on iOS.”

It’s important to remind people that, contra Tim Cook’s testimony, the fee has not been the same since the beginning of the App Store. It has been applied to more apps and services over time.

Consumer Freedom:

The idea that a consumer could only use software sold through the same manufacturer as their laptop seems ludicrous. Except that’s exactly the rule Apple has imposed on the personal devices in billions of pockets.

Florian Mueller:

Here’s an overview of the founding members of the Coalition for App Fairness[…]


The diversity of those companies and their interests may appear to be a strength, but it will presumably be a challenge for them to agree on anything other than the benefits to them of reducing Apple's and Google's app distribution fees. That's because their business models are so different.

Marco Arment:

I don’t think I’ll be joining the Coalition for App Fairness because I don’t like other people speaking for me, but I’m glad these big companies are forming a stronger counterforce to the App Store’s policies than any of us could create on our own[…]

Also, one of the founding members is Blix, which has a history of sketchy behavior.


Update (2020-09-28): See also: Core Intuition.

Update (2020-10-01): John Gruber:

What the Coalition for App Fairness is arguing is that Apple shouldn’t get to decide the standards for privacy (or security, quality, content, and whatever “digital safety” is) for its own platform — some other unnamed arbiter (perhaps the Coalition for App Fairness itself) would make such determinations.

Update (2020-10-09): Tom Warren:

Microsoft is making some firm commitments to the future of app stores on Windows today. The software giant has published 10 principles it’s adopting as promises to app developers, including that it won’t block competing stores on the platform or block specific business models an app may use to make money.

14 Comments RSS · Twitter

This could be very good news, if they actually achieve what their principles state. Principles 5 & 6 also seem important:

#5 is preventing Apple from competing with third developers, the was that Amazon has been accused of doing with its own brand merchandise

#6 is about preventing Apple from forcing developers to lie by omission (the "irrelevant information" argument), and to allow them to retain a means to contact their users if Apple decides to prevent them from doing so. ("Sign up with Apple").

Hah! I'm hearing developer this developer that developer knows his customer. Go away. I don't want to deal with every idiot and his nephew that create an app I download just to have a look. No. Go away with your spam. No you can't steal my data and sell it. No I'm not interested in your payment system or your private website that just works a little bit different from any other developers website I have to use. Go away and create programs and stop bothering me. If I need you I can find you. If I want a refund I deal with Apple and be done with it.

This whole coalition is just a bunch of idiots that each have a huge chip on their shoulder.

Ruurd: Your response sounds exactly like every head-in-the-sand response to previous generations of workers' rights improvements. ("Child labor? Safety standards? Fair hiring practices? Get lost. I just want to buy my widgets!") Decades of progress have demonstrated that improving conditions for workers doesn't mean sacrificing the economy or the market. In most cases, it helps, both in the short term and even more in the long term. Smart bosses want sustainable, empowered, knowledgeable workers.

These developers aren't looking to "steal your data and sell it". This "bunch of idiots", as you call them, are some of the most respected developers in the world, and the same people Apple wants to write software for their platforms. Their willingness to work together on this shows they're not trying to make something that "just works a little bit different from any other developers" just for the heck of it.

Is your response to any conflict to tell people to get back to work and "stop bothering me"? Or do you have some reason to believe their issues in this case are not genuine?

I'm kind of fascinated by your response Ruurd. Particularly the "Every idiot and his nephew" and the notion that all software developers wish to steal your data.

* Do you believe creating software is a trivial skill requiring little work or intelligence?
* Are you angry at the way people have been habituated to receive software for free by the surveillance capitalist giants and Apple, which means they are no longer willing to pay a fair price for its creation?
* Or are you just completely ungrateful for all the technology other people have worked incredibly hard to create? Do you believe you're owed it simply because you can buy it for so little money?

A lot of it sounds reasonable, except:

"Every developer should always have the right to communicate directly with its users through its app for legitimate business purposes."

If app developers want to communicate with me, they can ask for my address. I don’t trust them with sharing my definition of "legitimate" business purposes, since so many companies have signed me up to their newsletters or sent me special offers just because I’ve bought something.

The idea of sharing any personal information would immediately decrease my purchases, especially of games and newcomer apps.

Imagine Amazon letting manufacturers communicate directly with you … just no.

“No developer should be blocked from the platform or discriminated against based on a developer’s business model, how it delivers content and services,”

Apple absolutely should be allowed to discriminate based on business models, and ban apps that depend on monetized user tracking, or that use addictive games that use consumable IAPs to bleed “whales” of hundreds or thousands of dollars. That Apple doesn’t already ban such apps is a disgrace.

>Apple absolutely should be allowed to discriminate based on business models

That's the problem, right? There are a lot of App Store rejections that are absolutely harmful, harmful to Apple's developers and to their users, but there are also many rejections that obviously make the App Store a better, safer place for Apple's customers, and where Apple in fact currently does not go far enough, and allows apps into the store that directly harm their users (see also: gambling). Just telling Apple "put everything into the store" is not going to solve the problem.

"Apple absolutely should be allowed to discriminate based on business models"

I can understand a curated store for children, although I still think parents should also check the software their children want to use first.

However, I cannot understand why adults should be prevented from making their own choices. If software asks for unreasonable information, delete it. But if it wants something reasonable, such as a means to inform users of bugs, upgrades, or new releated software, that is reasonable as long as it isn't abused. Although Apple claims it to be irrelevant, their 30% cut is relevant to me, as is the existence of better non-sandboxed versions of software outside the App Store.

Adults are not children and should neither be treated as such, nor wish to be treated as such. Life is not a kindergarden.

What might be useful is if the business model were spelled out: Warning this product is addictive and affects your perception of the world (e.g. Facebook). Or here is the distribution of money that people spend on this app. That sort of thing is best required with regulation (e.g. the Surgeon General's warning about tobacco), not left to a competitor who might Sherlock you any day.

Also, speaking as a developer, it is helpful to hear from users what might improve my software. Only having fans or haters, is a lot less useful than users who tell me what works for them and what doesn't... A public "evaluate this software" section is not as helpful as one-to-one contact, since one often needs to ask clarifying questions.

>Life is not a kindergarden

But it is. That's the problem with the Internet, the kinds of problems you're insulated from in real life suddenly become an issue when they're scaled up and applied to a global audience. You're very unlikely to get robbed in real life in most places in the world, whereas online scams that attempt to take your money are so commonplace that we require software to detect it and filter it out.

>I still think parents should also check the software their children want to use first.

This was fine back in the 90s, when all parents had to do was check which cartoons their kids watched on the TV. Today, software companies employ teams of psychologists who come up with novel ways to trick children into gambling their parents' money away, while advertising these same applications as kid-friendly entertainment, and getting the ESRB to rate these apps as "suitable for everyone."

Obviously there should be laws to stop this, but that will take another decade to happen in most countries. Meanwhile, Apple is profitting off these scams. They should not be.

The only reasonable solution is to allow sideloading, and clean up the App Store.

I might be a hell of a lot more sympathetic to the view that Apple prevents bad actors if it banned social media companies entirely. Disinformation is A-OK, learning how to weaponise the oxytocin circuit against one's users is A-OK, but Lord preserve us from tiny companies making utilities!

I completely agree with that. The "rules" Apple now uses to decide what to put into the store, and what to disallow, are often reprehensible, and only serve Apple's short-term interests.

(I don't think Apple needs to ban social media companies, but since Apple anyways polices app content, it could do things like force social media apps to show a linear feed of posts from people's actual friends by default, rather than "personalized recommendations.")

"Apple absolutely should be allowed to discriminate based on business models"

No. Somebody slept thru their business law classes or didn't take any, that's called "tortuous interference" and if Apple is doing that they deserve to be slapped. HARD. Lukas and the anime hair working at Apple probably never got taught this and don't understand this.

Life really isn't a kindergarten except in the insular, monolingual, monocultural halls of the donut and other enclaves of silly valley. And the main issue with Apple's rules seems to be that no one has any experience running an ASP (Application Service Provider, a term that predates the "AppStore"). Apple has a raging case of "Not Invented Here" that would be comical if it weren't so tragic.

The "young workforce" that Tim Apple seems to take pride in so much has learned nothing, and the flowery MBA rhetoric from this "App Coalition" is no better. Better to be direct so normies can understand the grievances. Allow me to translate from flowery MBAspeak:

1. Your AppStore sucks. Your Payment system sucks. Open up your platform, we're not paying for your mistakes.

2. Our business models work for us and not you. Some even existed before you, and you should stay out of our business because it's none of your business.

3. There should be no "private APIs." You guys are a joke. All APIs should be public and well-documented.

4. (Number 4 is a toothless gimme to Apple, it should just be, "STFU and just be an ASP dumb conduit. The only thing you should be worried about is outright fraud, and you can't even do that right.")

There was also a few other points, one of them being "Our customers are OURS and not YOURS, GTFO of our customer base you cretins." That's actually part of the --

"Every developer should always have the right to communicate directly with its users through its app for legitimate business purposes."

Again, Apple needs to get out of the business of being in other people's business, unless that is outright FRAUD. And yes, my relationship is with the developers, NOT Apple even before the coming of Tim Apple.

It's been mentioned here (in another blog entry) that Apple has "500 experts all over the world" ... in what? "Content curation?" I don't feel like paying for "Tim Apple's Kindergarten" nor for "500 experts" to run it.

They should all be fired and if Tim Apple really cared he would poach developers with expertise in fraud from the credit card world. Apple could go back to being an engineering driven hardware company as Steve intended instead of being a "broken ASP, services company that makes bad TV."

>Somebody slept thru their business law classes
>or didn't take any, that's called "tortuous

No, it's not, but it would be pretty funny if there was such a thing as "tortuous interference". What would that be, maybe a particularly confusing play in American football?

But anyways, Apple is already getting sued for tortious interference in other cases, so that didn't stop them in the past, and it isn't clear at all that not allowing apps with abusive monetization schemes into the App Store would actually be tortious interference. I guess we'll find out.

>Lukas and the anime hair working at Apple probably
>never got taught this and don't understand this.

You probably already understand that, but maybe it's still worth pointing out that insulting people is not the same as making an actual argument that supports your position.

>Open up your platform, we're not paying for your

Right, that has to be the solution. Just putting everything into the App Store is not going to work, but drawing a clear line for what can be in there, and what can't, is also not really going to work (that's the situation we're in now: porn is not okay, but gambling aimed at children is).

Just allow sideloading, and lock down the store properly, so we can actually trust that it contains good stuff.

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