Do you know the story of the fisherman who pulls a goldfish out of the sea? It offers him a wish if he will throw it back. The fisherman asks for a loaf of bread. He goes back to his wife who berates him and sends him back over and over, each time asking for and receiving more and more and more from the fish. The sea is each time more stormy, the fish more crabby, and the wife more greedy, until her final wish to be made ruler over the sun and the moon is too much even for the fish. This time when the fisherman returns home, he finds that the palaces and wealth earlier given by the fish are gone, and they have returned to their initial, miserable existence. I thought of this story today as I bombarded my poor Twitter followers with my outrage over Apple's statement yesterday, and I finally decided it would be better in a coherent post than in highly-edited mini-bites.
First, Apple's statement says two important things.
1: If you have an app, and you sell anything for it anywhere, you MUST offer those same things at the same price in-app. (In-app is Apple-speak for using their API and giving them 30%.)
Here's the direct Apple quote: "However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app."
So, if you sell ebooks on your website and giveaway or sell an app that reads those ebooks, you MUST offer in-app purchases of those ebooks.
There are some that are saying that as long as you don't link from the app, then you're OK. That's not what this says. It says if you sell content elsewhere, you must sell it in-app through Apple.
The one thing that it doesn't say is how this policy affects those of us who generate content but do not sell or give away apps. Me, for example. I assume Apple is not requiring itself to sell my book in-app, despite the fact that it can be purchased and loaded into its iBooks app.
To take that scenario further, what about if someone besides Amazon developed a Kindle-book-reading app? They, presumably, would not have to offer Kindle books in-app. That doesn't facilitate the buying experience for readers, but it keeps Apple out of Amazon's pocket.
2: You may not offer links from your app to your website.
The direct Apple quote: "In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app."
Now, maybe you could interpret this to mean that links to parts of your web site that aren't direct sales are OK, but honestly, I wouldn't want to be relying on Apple's largesse on this point.
Me? I think Apple has gone too far. They are acting as if they, and they alone created this big happy universe populated with hundreds of millions of credit cards just waiting to be charged and that app developers are just interloping goldminers trying to cash in.
But iOS is nothing without the apps. What would you have? Mail? the phone that didn't work until Verizon finally offered coverage? Safari? The clock? Oh yeah, the gyroscope, ooh!
Apple owes more to its developers than a capricious change of policy whenever it feels like it. Not to mention to its users who didn't expect that a large number of apps on which they relied, for which they actually bought the device, would suddenly stop working... or cost 30% more.
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