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Big Tech is taking away our freedom — how Apple is making companies their hostages and demanding ransom money

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This Is not news. It’s the kind of thing we know it’s been happening, but yeah, that’s life, we just bear with it and don’t think much about it.

I’ve known Facebook is evil for awhile, but honestly, I like to keep in touch with my friends through Instagram and Facebook so I just bear with it. That’s okay.

Now, recently, something happened that kind of hits me on a professional level: Apple is, literally, making HEY, a Basecamp product, their hostage.

If you don’t know what happened, HEY is a subscription-based email service. All payments are made through the web application. In short, Apple requires Basecamp to implement In-App Purchases — that little thing where you use touch/Face ID and it performs a purchase for you. They say every app that has payments (doesn’t matter where) needs to have IAP.

The caveat is they take a 30% cut on this. So they’re taking 30 bucks out of Basecamp’s $99/year price.

This hits me harder than Facebook invading my privacy because that could have been me. I’m a developer and I could have released a product and faced the same situation.

Basecamp (DHH and Jason) can make their voice heard, but how many companies (specially the small) have faced the same thing and just succumbed to Apple’s “rules” and just had a 30% pay cut?

Sure, you can argue that anyone can just not put their app on the App Store. That’s capitalism — if you don’t like something, you don’t use it. That’s not what is in question. The issue is not only the ridiculous fee they charge, but also not leaving any other options. You are required to let Apple process your payments. It’s not like it’s “hey, you can use this very convenient payment method where the user only scans their face and pay for your item, making your conversion rate higher”. It’s “if you do not let your users pay through the app and let us take 30% of all payments, your app is not going on the App Store.”

So, basically, you either agree to their terms or you have your app out of the App Store. There really isn’t any option really — I believe Basecamp has the resources to live without an app — though far from ideal — or to just pay the ransom, but most small companies have to take that pay cut which definitely severely impacts their profit.

We must keep in mind that most companies aren’t like Basecamp — stable, very profitable, with huge resources and that could, probably, live just fine paying the ransom. They’re unstable, small, usually not making any huge profits and if they were to complain Apple would just cut them off.

I’m not saying that Basecamp is wrong or anything — I actually am very thankful that they raised their voices to this issue. They could very well have just agreed to Apple terms and either raised the prices or just lived of a smaller profit. Instead, they decided to publicly fight Apple and show what they’re doing to the whole world.

I’m sure other companies faced the same issue and just didn’t have an audience as Basecamp do, and everything fell into the void.

Reflecting

First, I must say that I understand that, theoretically, Apple can charge whatever they want. We are the ones accepting their terms, not the other way around.

It doesn’t stop this from being completely ridiculous — sure, you can sell an iPhone for $2000 while other stores sell it for $1000, but people can just buy it someplace else.

Now, when you actually control the whole market and you don’t even offer an option, things change. As I said, if they simply offered the IAP service while charging 30%, that’s less troublesome — you can not have that option in your app and let people pay somewhere else. This is what Basecamp did. Just like Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and many other apps.

Now, when the company that literally controls the market, demands you pay them 30% if you want to make money of the app in any way, and obligates you to have IAP, things start to change. That’s not an okay behaviour. This is completely wrong.

Solution

I honestly don’t know how to solve this. I think the best way is what’s happening — people are making their complaints out loud and we can only hope Apple listens and revises their behaviour and terms. It’d be great if more companies like Basecamp decided to fight them instead of accepting it.

There is a ridiculously simple option though: let developers decide wether they want IAP or not. Charge your ludicrous 30% if they do, but at least give them an option.

If you have any thought on this, I’d love to hear them. Please post them on the comments section below or on the media I posted this article on.

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