This morning started out alright, I was still pondering on what I had wrote yesterday and I still stand by it. Any voices on complexity are not dimmed, the issue is larger than I wrote about it, but to take the full scope makes the matter too complex, I was all about oversimplification, as that tends to show things, but it also polarises any view (including mine). This is what was in my mind when the news on Proton-mail and Andy Yen hit me. You see the moment any firm goes into some preaching stage of ‘App Fairness’ mode, the hairs in my neck tend to rise to the occasion. Now, those who read my blog regularly will have seen that I have no issue slapping the big boys silly whenever I can. So like the proverbial pitbull, I have had a mouthful of pants with Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft logo’s and a chunk of their asses. No matter how big they are, I do not pull my punches (much more fun the way), so let’s have a look at Andy Yen, actually, let’s do something else first, it helps you to understand the station where I am at.
In 2008 Apple launched the App store, initially with around 500 apps. Apple saw in the early days the third party developers would bring home the bacon, but in those years it was not easy being a developer. Those developing for windows had well over a decade of experience and in those days the Software Development Kit would cost a developer $1500, with the additional programming packages and consultancy lessons. So ANY developer would be out of pocket between $3,000 and $5,000 and they would not have anything to show for it. The cost would drastically increase when the program was ready, but the was for another time. So in those days Apple got clever about it and gave us “To publish apps on App Store, developers must pay a $99 yearly fee for access to Apple’s Developer Program”, now consider the first setting of $99 versus $3,000, a new stage that allowed the dreamers and the wickedly clever to publish without a setting of some bulk investment and there was another part, “The income app stores take is 30%. Apple started setting that as a standard – they weren’t the first, but the iOS app ecosystem has been used as a model by many other players in the mobile app space”, now consider the you are a small developer, selling your software will need servers, protection software, shopping kart software, income checkers and go on from that. Apple delivered a system that does it all, so the developer will only need to upload their readied product. Thousands of dollars saved and the small developers get an almost free ride and they pay later through every sale.
This is beyond fair, because the one million programs that came in the first decade would evolve, these people had a second option. They would sell their program for $0.99-$5 and Apple merely takes 30% of the sale, 70% remains with the makers and that contribution setting was already in play with software houses from the 90’s, yet those programs were often $299-$999. A mobile with the option of programs costing less than $5 are more easily sold and these makers suddenly made thousands of dollars, most of them massively happy. In that same light under Microsoft these developers would never exist. The cost of being up and running would strip all revenue away. As such Apple (and Google too) would create a wave of people creating the thousands of dollars to fuel the system would basically be paid for by the more successful players in this field.
So when I see the headline ‘Why we joined the Coalition for App Fairness’, I merely see a greed driven non-truth that is (as I personally see it) fuelled by greed.
So now the you have some of the background, we see the real deal, people like Epic Games and Proton-mail, they had an idea and they used that system to get ahead, which is nice for them, yet now, now that they made it, they want to avoid fees, they want the 30% that they initially signed up for as well. It is basically the same with Epic Games, once they made the numbers, their success went to their heads and they are now fishing (or is that phishing) for the 30% they signed up for? They want to avoid the apple fee and for one player it makes sense, yet this system was designed so that the small players would get a chance to become big, a stage that many faced. So when I see these ‘displays of fairness’ I merely see greed driven players merely wanting more.
The setting is however larger. The quote “First, to be clear, our mission at Proton is to foster an open, free, private, and secure internet. We exist today because a large community of people agree with these goals and support our work. Helping to found CAF does not in any way signal a deviation from these core values. Proton will always remain fiercely protective of our independence in order to put user interests first” gets to be ripped to shreds when we see “to foster an open, free, private, and secure internet”, yes they do have a free option, but it is limited, which might be fair enough, their goal is to be ready for the 4.00 € and 24.00 € a month users, whilst their free accounts are limited, the paying ones are driving this and so far they got 10 million people in their accounts, I am not aware how many constitutes free accounts.
Another point was “Our purpose for joining CAF is not about advancing the goals of Spotify and Epic, but about making sure that you, our community, have a voice in this important debate”, is the so? I find it debatable, for the simple reason that we are also handed “ProtonMail is run by Proton Technologies AG, a company based in the Canton of Geneva, and its servers are located at two locations in Switzerland, outside of US and EU jurisdiction”, whilst this sounds nice, outside of jurisdictions comes at a price and one could argue the organised crime finds the approach appealing, as do some people the want to avoid data accountability, but for the most, I am on the fence of how reliable data safety outside of jurisdictions tend to be (I am not making any statement on the security they run). So the app store has them as a free app, which implies that they are free, but they offer ‘Offers In-App Purchases’, and their own Twitter account gives us “We actually don’t understand the significance of paid account here? ProtonMail doesn’t offer in app purchases on Android, so purchases need to be made through our Swiss website”, and there is the kicker, they want it via their own website to avoid the 30%, exactly how Epic Games set it up, once they have the foundation of users, they want to avoid Apple (and/or Google) fees.
I need to admit that Andy Yen is in a slightly different setting (as is Epic Games). You see, he started with the backing through kick-starters and ended up with a beginning capital of $500K, 5 times of what they needed to get started, a lot do not have that option, which I admit is not the stage that Andy Yen cares about (yet he claims the opposite), we get it, but when we see ‘a better internet that puts people first’, we need to realise the this was exactly what Apple did (Google too), by setting the contribution cycle almost EVERY developer had their chance at stardom, and whilst we see ‘free app’, how many people would have taken it up when the app had to be bought at $9.99, or $19.99? You forget that if we avoid the contribution cycle, we see the the funds need to be found somewhere, do they not? You really cannot get it both ways and for the most the contribution cycle is the most fair, because it is only taken from actual sales, so the newbies get to be there for free or for nothing (or both), and the big players basically pay for the little people.
Consider that and the fact that there is a price for being able to chose from 1.75 million app on a store. If that setting did not exist these store would end up having well over a million apps less. And this year, in the covid year, there is suddenly the need to avoid paying because the investors need to be appeased. As I personally see it greed is the final equaliser against choice, because these players want to be the only provider and the current stage allows new developers deploy their system, optionally a real innovative one, but they get a to because the costs of starting are not there, not like it was anyway.