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Jason on why Apple's appstore deal is not a good thing anymore and why it needs to change. Now.

dug dug Follow Jun 20, 2020 · 3 mins read
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Good relationships tend to be between consenting adults, or at least people.

Bad relationships tend to be asymmetric, that is, one party has more power, money, leverage, intel, experience than the other.

Almost all asymmetric relationship where one party takes from the other could be seen as a form of abuse. One possible exception is the relationship between a parent and child, but even that relationship, with its setting boundaries, naughty steps and rules is actually not asymmetric when viewed over time. I certainly hope my children will be supportive of me as I drift into old age:-)

But back to today. Jason Fried (who you may remember from Basecamp, 37Signals or maybe even Enormicon fame) has rubbed up against Phil Schiller and Tim Cook as he tries to launch his game-changing email platform.

His concept is simple enough

  1. If the product is free, you are the product. So we’re not going to do a free product. His new service is paid-for
  2. Running a paid-for service has consequences. If I’m a paying customer I have the power to stop paying if the customer experience doesn’t meet my needs
  3. If the customer has paid the service creator for the service, she should able to download that service’s tools (like a desktop app or mobile phone app) without further penalties or constraints

When Apple created the iPhone and the IoS ecosystem they changed the world. Potentially, it seemed, for good. As a result, it made sense they should benefit for that ecosystem.

But a lot has changed since Apple delivered the first iPhone on June 29, 2007.

Things change, forces change, needs change and it seems odd that the deals we commit to with businesses shouldn’t have to change. Here’s hoping Jason and David can slay Goliath and open up the next chapter of our relationship with tech giants.

Most people don’t know what happens to your customer relationship when you’re forced to accept In App Payments or offer subscriptions in Apple’s App Store.

  1. When someone signs up for your product in the App Store, they aren’t technically your customer anymore - they are essentially Apple’s customer. They pay Apple, and Apple then pays you. So that customer you’ve spent years of time, treasure, and reputation earning, is handed over to Apple. And you have to pay Apple 30% for the privilege of doing so!
  2. You can no longer help the customer who’s buying your product with the following requests: Refunds, credit card changes, discounts, trial extensions, hardship exceptions, comps, partial payments, non-profit discounts, educational discounts, downtime credits, tax exceptions, etc. You can’t control any of this when you charge your customers through Apple’s platform. So now you’re forced to sell a product - with your name and reputation on it - to your customers, yet you are helpless and unable to help them if they need a hand with any of the above.

As anyone who runs a subscription company knows, billing issues - whether problems, or kind considerations - are delicate situations where the utmost care and attention is required. At Basecamp, it’s our #1 category of customer service requests every single month - and often by a long shot. And it’s not because our payment system is complicated - it’s very straightforward - it’s because life is complicated.

Thanks for all the work you’ve done over the years Jason:-)

Read the full text of Jason’s letter to Apple over at

Written by dug Follow
Hiya, life goes like this. Step 1: Get out of bed. Step 2: Make things better:-)