Thursday, September 23, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Lies About Epic Again

Apple:

As we’ve said all along, we would welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else.

Tim Sweeney:

Epic has asked Apple to reactivate our Fortnite development account. Epic promises that it will adhere to Apple’s guidelines whenever and wherever we release products on Apple platforms.

Apple:

Apple has exercised its discretion not to reinstate Epic’s developer program account at this time. Furthermore, Apple will not consider any further requests for reinstatement until the district court’s judgment becomes final and nonappealable.

Tim Sweeney (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Apple lied. Apple spent a year telling the world, the court, and the press they’d “welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else”. Epic agreed, and now Apple has reneged in another abuse of its monopoly power over a billion users.

[…]

Late last night, Apple informed Epic that Fortnite will be blacklisted from the Apple ecosystem until the exhaustion of all court appeals, which could be as long as a 5-year process.

This seems clear-cut to me. Yes, Epic willfully disregarded the App Store guidelines last year, and Apple had cause to terminate its developer account. But, just this month, Apple said that Epic could come back if it agreed to follow the guidelines. Epic promised to, but instead of following through, Apple now says it won’t even consider lifting the ban for potentially five years.

I say that Apple lied again because, last September, Epic reported that Apple was going to block its customers from using “Sign In with Apple.” Apple told The Verge and John Gruber that this was not, and never was, the case. But then it came out in court filings that Epic was telling the truth.

It’s surprising that Apple, which has historically been very careful about communications, would make statements like these that are so easily disproven. Perhaps it was emboldened after it became apparent that there were no consequences for its CEO lying to Congress last summer—other than its reputation among people who follow these things.

The other unfortunate thing about this story is that the Fortnite Mac app is also blocked, even though it isn’t in the App Store. You need a developer account to get a Developer ID certificate and notarize your app—otherwise macOS won’t launch the app and will suggest that it might be malware.

John Gruber (Hacker News):

But agreeing not to break Apple’s guidelines again seems in the spirit of what Apple had been asking for, regarding reinstating Fortnite.

M.G. Siegler:

I’ve long wondered if Sweeney and Epic weren’t playing a different kind of game than the one Apple is playing, and the moves today don’t dissuade me from that thinking. Yes, it’s entirely possible that Sweeney just wants this to be over with and wants Fortnite back in the App Store following the loss on most fronts with regard to their lawsuit. But actually, that doesn’t seem like the right read to me. Because if they wanted that, Sweeney obviously — obviously — would not have included a few very clear lines in his email […] to Apple’s Phil Schiller.

[…]

It’s basically saying to Apple: read the intent (and perhaps the room!) of what the judge was going for, don’t try to litigate the language down to the lowest common denominator.

[…]

“Wait a minute, that $2.5T company won’t let the game developer back in the App Store even after they lost the lawsuit, paid the fine, and agreed to their demands?!”

Previously:

23 Comments

Epic dropped their appeal? I missed that news — clearly everyone else saw it because that’s the only way they could conclude that Epic intended to abide by Apple's rules.

@Total They sent a letter to Phil Schiller promising to abide by the rules. There’s no inconsistency between challenging the rules and agreeing to follow them while they’re the law of the land.

Kevin Schumacher

@Michael Except this is Epic we're talking about. They had a signed contract the first go-round which they willfully violated. Now they want to be let back in on good old Timmy's word.

There's no inconsistency between "if [Epic] agree[s] to play by the same rules as everyone else" and "you can't come back until your appeals are exhausted," because as long as they're appealing, they are, by definition, not agreeing to the rules as they exist. Whether they would, in practice, obey the current ones while appealing is up for debate, but they've already shown once they're willing to violate them.

Also, Epic appealed the case two days after Apple said the "as we've said all along" thing, so that's even less inconsistent.

---

After looking into the Sign In with Apple (SIWA) issue, they didn't lie there. You linked a piece from Gruber quoting unnamed sources saying it was never the case. Gruber linked to The Verge's report that you also linked to for Apple's comment. Apple did not tell Gruber anything for that piece, and did not tell The Verge it was never the case. Here's the timeline:

August 28: Apple's lawyer sends a letter to Epic advising Epic's access to SIWA would be disabled in two weeks.

September 9: Epic publicly said Apple would stop Epic from using SIWA "as soon as" September 11. No reference to Apple saying anything publicly.

September 10: Apple's lawyer sends another letter to Epic saying that they would leave access in place. It doesn't really explain why, except a reference to Epic only implementing a solution to move their users off of SIWA as of September 9, despite the fact that Apple engineers had provided solutions for that to Epic six days earlier.

Also September 10: Apple is quoted by The Verge as saying they are not doing anything to stop Epic from using SIWA. It's not an actual quote, so only The Verge actually knows what they said. But it was in reference to what Epic said on September 9.

My guess here is that they meant "currently, we are not doing anything to stop them," which was true at that point, if not completely forthcoming that they had previously been planning to cut access. Changing their mind at the last minute does not mean they were lying when they then said they're not cutting off Epic's access.

September 30: Gruber says that he looked into the original September 9 claim by Epic on September 9 and, at the time, multiple sources at Apple told him there was no September 11 deadline for it to stop working. Maybe his sources lied to him, or probably more accurately, they didn't know what the hell they were talking about. But we can't start saying the company lied based on the fact unnamed sources talking to a blog were either lying or wrong, especially when the company didn't even say anything publicly in the first place and those sources were absolutely not authorized to tell Gruber anything. I think the sources just didn't have clearance to know what was actually going on, given there was a letter dated August 28 from an Apple lawyer that stated clearly SIWA was going to be disabled in two weeks.

>It’s surprising that Apple, which has historically been very careful about communications,

That stopped Tim Cook changed their PR direction and Katie Cotton "retired".

@Kevin Schumacher

We have concrete evidence Apple were cutting Epic off.

We have media quoting a direct response Apple they were not cutting SIWA.

You can either suggest the media lied or Apple lied. But cutting off is real.

Kevin Schumacher

@ksec Review my post again. I laid out a clear timeline in which nobody would have to be lying, but in retrospect it's being viewed that way because Apple did not provide a detailed, to-the-minute rundown of everything that happened in between August 28 and September 10, 2020. They never do. They never will. They made a statement on September 10 that was truthful as of September 10.

Analogy: some leaker says a new iPad is going to have wings and a pig snout. The new iPad comes out without them, and Apple says "iPad does not have wings and a pig snout." Later, it's discovered that during development, this was toyed with but it did not come to fruition. Was Apple lying when they said their iPad did not have wings and a pig snout because they didn't also disclose that at one point they were intending for it to have those things?

If Apple released a statement that they were not, did not, and were never intending to cut Epic's access to SIWA, that would be a lie (because of the third part of that statement). They didn't do that.

Also, for what it's worth, we don't have a quote. We have a generalized statement about what Apple relayed to The Verge, so in reality maybe something got lost in the translation there that would have clarified this whole situation. We don't know. What we do know is that Apple's singular public statement about the matter was true as of the time they said it.

"But, just this month, Apple said that Epic could come back if it agreed to follow the guidelines. Epic promised to"

Did they, though? The way it sounds to me is that they’re only promising to follow their (broader) interpretation of the ruling. Note their emphasis on "buttons". I think Epic wants to do their own IAP, while Apple only wants to allow linking. So both statements talk about different guidelines.

Epic only cleverly crafted their statement to sound to the public like they’re exactly agreeing to what Apple asked. But actually their position remains unchanged and are trying to find victory in the ambiguities of the injunction.

I don’t know who is legally right about this, but it’s certain neither Apple nor Epic are conceding anything.

"Except this is Epic we're talking about"

This is a nonsensical argument, since Apple already said that they would let Epic back into the store. If they're never going to let Epic back because Epic violated the rules in the past, they should just say so. Either way, they're lying.

"you can't come back until your appeals are exhausted"

That's literally the "I won't show my taxes until all audits are over" argument. It's a stupid excuse that has nothing to do with the actual question, and is only offered because it serves as a convenient point in time that is far away in the future that it might as well be "never."

This whole thing is just utterly insane. Epic claims Apple is a monopoly. Apple punishes Epic for that claim by exercising their monopolistic power. You're kind of proving Epic's point there, Apple.

How can anyone look at that and be like "yeah, Apple's behavior totally checks out, nothing to be concerned about here."

Unless you get paid by Apple to do so, you should stop defending them. What they're doing is actively harmful towards their developers and their customers.

Epic is disagreeing with the App Store’s rules — in court — by appealing the ruling. So I don’t think there’s much inconsistency here.

Sweeney is playing quite loose with facts and the meaning of words.

I can believe the argument that Apple were provoked by the email where Epic laid out their plans for linking out from the app

"Epic will resubmit Fortnite to the App Store if you adhere to the plain language of the court order and allow apps to include buttons and external links that direct customers to other purchasing mechanisms without onerous terms or impediments to a good user experience."

Bullies don't like it when people talk back.

“ @Total They sent a letter to Phil Schiller promising to abide by the rules. There’s no inconsistency between challenging the rules and agreeing to follow them while they’re the law of the land.”

Apple clearly does not agree with you.

Wasn’t the first quote cut off? According to some it should read:

As we've said all along, we would welcome Epic's return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else. Epic has admitted to breach of contract and as of now, there's no legitimate basis for the reinstatement of their developer account.

https://www.protocol.com/apple-blocks-epic-from-bringing-fortnite-back-to-the-app-store

I would not know why Apple would be required to do business with someone or some company that demonstrably have shown bad faith. A letter you say promising they will abide by the rules? HAHAHAHAHAHA... Get out of here. It is adamantly clear that Epic and Sweeny are NOT to be trusted. And Apple should have faith in some letter they wrote? Come on guys get real.

@Kevin

Except this is Epic we're talking about. They had a signed contract the first go-round which they willfully violated. Now they want to be let back in on good old Timmy's word.

Yes, I could understand not letting Epic back because they willfully violated the contract. My point here is that Apple professed not to see it that way—probably because it would look bad for the App Store—and so they made this big show of saying that all Epic had to do was agree to the rules.

When I first wrote about this, commenters said, “Epic hasn’t promised” and “There’s this thing called email.” Now, after we see that there was a letter from the CEO, the goal posts are moved again.

as long as they're appealing, they are, by definition, not agreeing to the rules as they exist

There’s a difference between agreeing that the rules are fair and agreeing to follow the rules. Apple asked for the latter, and that’s what Epic promised to do. Also, Tim Cook told Congress that Apple does not retaliate in response to criticism of the rules, and it also created an official way for developers who have agreed to follow the guideliens to challenge them.

Whether they would, in practice, obey the current ones while appealing is up for debate, but they've already shown once they're willing to violate them.

Apple already knew that Epic wasn’t trustworthy. If they weren’t going to accept its word, then their offer wasn’t made in good faith. And, if that’s the issue, then the appeal is irrelevant because even after the appeal Epic could agree to follow the rules but then violate them again.

After looking into the Sign In with Apple (SIWA) issue, they didn't lie there.

They clearly changed their mind at the last minute (or else were making Epic sweat for fun) and then tried to mislead people into thinking that was the plan all along. The Verge picked up on this at the time, writing “So there’s some kind of discrepancy in who is telling the truth, as Epic is maintaining that Apple was previously enforcing the shutoff[…].” At the time, some people were saying that Epic was making the whole thing up, that there never was a SIWA cutoff. Apple’s statement was written to play into that. You can see that because people, including Gruber, interpreted it as confirming that Epic was lying.

If your argument is that you can imagine a timeline of events in which the statement is actively misleading and lying by omission rather being outright false, I’ll grant that. But I don’t think that’s the standard that our society uses elsewhere in public discourse.

Maybe his sources lied to him, or probably more accurately, they didn't know what the hell they were talking about. But we can't start saying the company lied based on the fact unnamed sources talking to a blog were either lying or wrong, especially when the company didn't even say anything publicly in the first place and those sources were absolutely not authorized to tell Gruber anything.

We don't know that. Gruber and other publications get “official” statements from Apple PR all the time that they are not allowed to attribute to a named source. That’s just how Apple operates. Gruber himself says, “Apple publicly stated that it was not doing anything to stop SIWA from working for Epic.” So he’s calling Epic a liar based on Apple’s public statement and confirmed by his “multiple sources.” I do think it would be good for him to follow up and tell us whether the sources were people who didn’t actually know what they were talking about or whether he was a victim of Apple PR.

@Peter

The way it sounds to me is that they’re only promising to follow their (broader) interpretation of the ruling.

The ruling is not written into the guidelines yet, and it’s not been tested yet precisely what the judge meant. But they agreed to follow the guidelines, which is a document written by Apple.

Epic only cleverly crafted their statement to sound to the public like they’re exactly agreeing to what Apple asked. But actually their position remains unchanged and are trying to find victory in the ambiguities of the injunction.

Epic's original position was that they should be able to implement their own in-app purchase. The statement seems to say that they will accept “external links.”

@V The part that you added is not relevant. Everyone knows that Epic breached the contract last year. The basis for reinstatement is that Apple recently said Epic had to agree to follow the rules now, which they did.

@Ruurd If that’s Apple’s position, it should not have publicly made the offer. I’m not doing business with Epic. I’m a customer and business partner of Apple. I would like to be able to believe that they act in good faith.

To be fair the second quote you had (from Sweeney) was a snippet of a very triggering email. To quote Gruber, Sweeney is high as a kite

@Teng There’s nothing in the e-mail that contradicts the part I quoted, and it shouldn't have been triggering for Apple. Most of it is Epic saying that it will do what Apple and the court asked it to do if Apple follows through with what the court told it to do. The part where Gruber says he’s high as a kite is just a restatement of their basic disagreement. Even if Apple sincerely believes that it’s only restricting platform access for selfless security and privacy reasons (and there’s some evidence that’s not the case) they already know that not everyone on the outside believes that.

"Epic is disagreeing with the App Store’s rules — in court — by appealing the ruling."

That's like putting law-abiding people in jail because they voted for the laws to change. If you think that's fine, you're arguing for some seriously dystopian shit to put developers through.

Claiming that appealing the ruling is equivalent to Epic showing that they won't follow the rules is so disingenuous that I can't believe anyone currently making that argument wouldn't make the exact opposite argument, were the roles reversed.

I'm at a loss to explain why so many people like Apple's monopoly, so much so that they defend them for free. I would expect customers to prefer a marketplace whose rules benefit Apple less, and customers more (more freedom of choice of software, lower prices, etc). Apple has pulled quite the trick... It's almost as if Apple ownership were a cult, not a pragmatic choice.

Why do so many people like Apple’s monopoly? Fair question, but I’d start by pointing out that the majority of the world’s phone wielding public actually do not use the store, which draws into question your premise. That said, my personal opinion is that Apple does take too large of a cut, it’s excessive. And in principle, two stores is too few, yes. Beyond that, as a consumer, I like it because it reduces the friction of purchasing and obtaining the digital doodads and whizzpops I desire. Do I routinely want to install or read something? Yes. Do I want to spend 3-4 minutes registering and confirming my email account, remove the sleeping child from my chest so as to leave the room and go find my wallet/credit card and feebly try to decipher the worn-out CCV code, all the meanwhile on hold with my bank’s fraud department trying to cancel said credit card because the last time something caught my interest and I purchased it, the vendor leaked my accounts number six months into a subscription I couldn’t figure out how to cancel? Am I an idiot who can’t figure things out? Maybe, and maybe I am lazy. But imho, not excessively. Would i prefer to just tap the thing I want and point my phone at my retina and to obtain it? Yes, yes I would. And so would many other people. That is what we like about the monopoly.

@wry_as_a_kite Why only the concern when purchasing apps? Do you not shop at other online stores? We already have credit card auto-fill and Apple Pay for quick non–App Store purchases via Face ID.

Apple doesn't look good here (and neither does Gruber for defending them).

This would be real simple great PR for Apple:

1. Let Epic back in
2. Just flipping allow third party payment systems.

All their PR and government problems go away.

But they are stubborn and prefer to hurt consumers rather than help them.

@Matt I don’t think it’s really a PR problem because I think they really sincerely believe they’re helping customers (but they’re wrong).

@wry_as_a_kite
That's an astute observation, I suppose most people in the world do not use the monopolistic Apple app store since something like 73-74% of the world doesn't use iOS.

I even understand your additional points about enjoying less friction when buying items. I'm actually the opposite, a little friction means less frivolous purchases and I don't mind ruminating over an extended period of time before purchasing something. I barely use my Amazon account these days and generally have Prime for maybe 1 month, maybe 2 months a year, and only when the company comps me a free or discounted membership. Same with my Google Play account, I mostly use it for app updates and only purchase the occasional app. I average maybe 5 apps a year and rarely purchase additional content. Same was true when I still had iOS devices with the Apple content stores.

I'm with @Matt B and Michael Tsai, why isn't Apple taking the easy wins here? Let Epic back in, figure out the alternate payment thing and move on.

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