Archive for December 2, 2021

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Apple Wants Fee for Alternate Billing Systems

Benjamin Mayo (motion):

Although the appeal of the Apple-Epic lawsuit is ongoing, Apple is currently subject to the judge’s decision and will have to allow app developers to show links to external payment platforms inside from December 9, unless the Ninth Circuit grants a stay.

In a related legal filing, Apple indicates that it is considering charging a commission on any such transactions that are initiated from within an app, even though they are not using In-App Purchase.


The filing is presented to the court in a last-ditch attempt to delay the December 9 implementation date. As such, Apple also stresses the “substantial engineering” that it says is necessary to allow linking to other payment systems. This includes policies and APIs to enable features like Parental Controls and purchase restoration to keep working, in a world where customers can buy things using platforms other than Apple IAP.

Are they building a way to track external purchases so they can get their fee?

Florian Mueller:

Apple merely needs to convince the appeals court of there being pretty good grounds on which the UCL injunction may be overturned. As I explained before, it would be an unprecedented kind of anti-anti-steering injunction under U.S. law. Apple has other arguments that the district court wasn’t receptive to but which are likely to bear weight with the appeals court, such as that Epic’s defeat under the Sherman Act is also dispositive of its UCL claims. Even if one doesn’t agree with Apple on this 100% (I, for one, am convinced that California UCL does give courts more wiggle room than federal antitrust law), the fact that Apple’s business model was (regrettably, if you ask me) cleared under federal antitrust law at least makes it a pretty good possibility that the UCL injunction won’t be affirmed.

There’s also the notable absence of a market definition from the UCL part of the district court’s judgment and question, and Apple continues to dispute Epic’s standing, pointing to a decision by the Second Circuit that found merchants who don’t accept Amex cards lack standing to challenge Amex’s anti-steering provision. Epic is not on the App Store anymore; some of its subsidiaries are, but Epic elected not to make them parties to the case, as Apple accurately notes (and which may be one of those decisions that Epic regrets in retrospect--they made some brave and smart decisions, but also some that weren’t great).


But Apple is now the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Two months ago I criticized Apple for utilizing ACT | The App Association, which is more accurately described as ACT | The Apple Association. ACT issues statements on App Store issues all the time, and I guess we’ll see amicus briefs from them in this case, too. While CAF did a poor job on that amicus brief (failing to disclose even that Epic is a member is an unforgivable mistake and diminishes its credibility), there can be no doubt that not only all of its members but also all of its financial backers are genuine app developers (like Epic and Spotify). That is more than ACT can say: ACT simply renamed itself “The App Association” at some point, but there is no indication that many of its current members actually make apps, as I’m not aware of ACT only accepting sign-ups from actual app makers (apparently there’s no vetting, and I know of a U.S. professor who held a position with the Clinton White House and at some point signed up for free just to verify the hypothesis of ACT not applying any criteria to who joins, or charging a cent) or that they kicked out members who don’t make apps when ACT repositioned itself as an app developer organization.


Update (2022-01-13): Joe Rossignol (tweet):

Apple still plans to charge a reduced fee on purchases made through alternative payment systems, according to plans the company submitted to the Korea Communications Commission. Apple did not indicate when the new policy will take effect or what its commission structure will be for alternative payments, the report said.

Kyle Howells:

Oh yes, “platform fees”.

Just like how Mozilla takes a cut of every transaction taken inside Firefox.

And Microsoft of every payment made on Windows.

And AT&T of every payment made over 5G on an iPhone.

Or Ford of every drive through payment in one of their cars.

Update (2022-01-24): Manton Reece:

Apple wants iOS, the App Store, and their App Review team to be inseparable as a single platform. That’s not a technical reality. If they keep pushing this approach, they’ll only run up against more regulation and more distrust from the developer community.

Twitter’s New Photo-Removing, Anti-Doxxing Privacy Policy

Twitter (via Dave Mark, Hacker News):

As part of our ongoing efforts to build tools with privacy and security at the core, we’re updating our existing private information policy and expanding its scope to include “private media.” Under our existing policy, publishing other people’s private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter. This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivizing others to do so.


When we are notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorized representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, we will remove it. This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.

Update (2021-12-03): Nick Heer:

Chad Loder is maintaining a thread of legitimate public interest stories that are being curtailed because of this policy. Accounts are being locked from months-old retweets of photos being taken by journalists in public. Twitter’s whole thing is its firehose of information, its misapplication of this policy is kneecapping the use cases that make the platform so valuable.

Update (2021-12-13): Twitter:

Images/videos that show people participating in public events (like large scale protests, sporting events, etc.) would generally not violate this policy.

To be clear, we require a first-person report of the photo/video in question (or from an authorized representative). After we receive a report, that particular media will be reviewed before any enforcement action is taken.

Inside Apple’s Chat Support

Zoe Schiffer:

While Apple’s corporate offices take a proactive, deliberate approach to product development, Apple’s customer support function operates in a reactive mania, using a vast array of processes and metrics to keep employees on task. If workers go to the bathroom or are away from their computers for more than five minutes, they’ll sometimes get a note from their manager asking why they aren’t working. They’re monitored based on their customer satisfaction score, as well as after call work time, which dictates how much time after a call or chat they spend writing up notes, and average handle time (AHT), which indicates how long it takes them to solve a customer issue. A good AHT is around 15 minutes for phone calls and about two minutes for chats.

“It starts to get into a game of fixing the numbers more than helping the customers. They look at the numbers and assume that is helping the customer,” a former employee says.

Employees who really want to help customers say they often have to sacrifice their personal metrics. “If I have an elderly person on the phone, am I going to be a little slower with them to the detriment of my personal metrics?” a current employee asks. “Yes, I can’t treat every person the same because they’re not all the same.”

On chats, the ability to resolve issues can be even more difficult, as employees are expected to speak to three people simultaneously during busy parts of the year. “It’s impossible to do a good job multitasking with that many scenarios,” a current employee explains. “Especially because we have to respond in two minutes — from an Apple ID issue to an iCloud issue to an iOS [or] Mac install.” […] “We equated it to being able to do your job with one hand tied behind your back.”


Luau Programming Language

Roblox (via Hacker News):

Luau (lowercase u, /ˈlu.aʊ/) is a fast, small, safe, gradually typed embeddable scripting language derived from Lua.

It is designed to be backwards compatible with Lua 5.1, as well as incorporating some features from future Lua releases, but also expands the feature set (most notably with type annotations). Luau is largely implemented from scratch, with the language runtime being a very heavily modified version of Lua 5.1 runtime, with completely rewritten interpreter and other performance innovations. The runtime mostly preserves Lua 5.1 API, so existing bindings should be more or less compatible with a few caveats.

Luau is used by Roblox game developers to write game code, as well as by Roblox engineers to implement large parts of the user-facing application code as well as portions of the editor (Roblox Studio) as plugins. Roblox chose to open-source Luau to foster collaboration within the Roblox community as well as to allow other companies and communities to benefit from the ongoing language and runtime innovation.


William Cook, RIP

Hamish Sanderson:

Dr William Cook, who along with Warren Harris designed and developed AppleScript for Apple back in the early 90s, has sadly passed away at age 57.

Shriram Krishnamurthi:

Much of 1990s OOP was defined by his seminal papers. When he returned after a decade in industry (AppleScript!) I invited him to @BrownCSDept (where he got his PhD from Peter Wegner) and we became friends. Tragic.

See also:


Update (2021-12-13): Christina Warren:

I’m nobody -- but I can’t express how much AppleScript meant to me as a kid when I was starting to figure out what programming was and how to do things. To this day, I still love to automate all the things. RIP Dr. Cook.

See also: