Arc90 Posts Scathing Open Letter To Apple Over Readability App’s Rejection

Arc90 Posts Scathing Open Letter To Apple Over Readability App’s Rejection

We’ve already seen two of the major streaming music subscription services openly revolt in response to Apple’s newly prohibitive in-app purchase guidelines, demanding a 30% cut on all subscriptions, products and services offered through any iOS app. Now smaller devs are starting to pipe up too.

Arc90 — the developers of Readability, a cross-platform Javascript plug-in that enhances online content by simplifying it down to its barest and most readable elements — were developing an iOS subscription app leveraging Instapaper’s technology that would allow them to give 70% of their income to the content producers being read through their service. It was an innovative and practically revolutionary plan to reward authors for their work while enhancing the user’s reading experience by stripping out advertisements, and you can read more about Arc90’s plans for the app in our exclusive interview.

Unfortunately, it now seems that Readability will not be coming to iOS: according to Apple’s tightened restrictions, the Readability app was rejected by Apple for utilizing a subscription system that doesn’t use Apple’s In App Purchase API.

Apple, in other words, wants their 30% cut…. and Arc90 is hopping mad about it, having posted a scathing open letter about the matter on their official blog, in which they accuse Apple of greed and turning their backs on the developers who made iOS such a rich, dynamic and innovative platform to begin with.

The Arc90 blog is being hammered right now, so we’ve posted a copy of their letter after the jump.

Dear Apple:

It’s your friends from Readability. Remember us? You put our technology into your Safari browser last year. We’re writing this open letter because – well – we’re a little upset right now.

Last Friday, you notified us that our Readability iOS application was rejected. In explaining the rejection, you pointed us to 11.2 in the App Store Review Guidelines:

“11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.”

We’re obviously disappointed by this decision, and surprised by the broad language. By including “functionality, or services,” it’s clear that you intend to pursue any subscription-based apps, not merely those of services serving up content. Readability’s model is unique in that 70% of our service fees go directly to writers and publishers. If we implemented In App purchasing, your 30% cut drastically undermines a key premise of how Readability works.

Before we cool down and come to our senses, we might as well share how we’re feeling right now: we believe that your new policy smacks of greed. Subscription apps like ours represent a tiny sliver of app sales that represent a tiny sliver of your revenue. You’ve achieved much of your success in hardware sales by cultivating an incredibly impressive app ecosystem. Every iPad or iPhone TV ad puts the apps developed by companies like ours front and center. It was a healthy and mutually beneficial dynamic: apps like ours get exposure and you get to show the world how these apps make your hardware shine. That’s why we’re a bit baffled here.

To be clear, we believe you have every right to push forward such a policy. In our view, it’s your hardware and your channel and you can put forth any policy you like. But to impose this course on any web service or web application that delivers any value outside of iOS will only discourage smaller ventures like ours to invest in iOS apps for our services. As far as Readability is concerned, our response is fairly straight-forward: go the other way… towards the web.

Since we re-launched, we’ve already seen a significant amount of usage across a wide range of browsers, operating systems and devices via the Readability web interface – for both mobile and desktop. Looking ahead, we plan to redouble our efforts to deliver the best possible reading app using the latest best-of-breed web technology.

The new Readability is fueled by the free-form nature of the web. Just as content pumps through the web’s piping, apps like ours thrive as nodes on the web – unencumbered by levies or barriers imposed by others. As we said months ago: “for us, the web is the right bet.”

Still, we’re always looking to give readers the best possible reading experience and a native iOS client would help us do that. We hope you’ll change your mind. If you do, we’d be happy to resubmit the Readability iOS app.
Regards,

The Readability Team

P.S. We’d we be glad to deliver Readability for iOS – with in-app purchasing – if you’d carve out 70% from your 30% fee and share it with writers and publishers, just as we do.

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  • CharliK

    I love how they mention Reader, something they were probably paid very well for. In a deal that never promised to give them their way with everything else they do. And yet they think they are entitled to different rules, the same as Rhapsody, Sony etc

    As a developer I thank Apple for having one rule for all and sticking to it. I don’t want to be forced to play by the rules because I’m not some huge company with a big mouth.

  • Chris

    I’m a developer as well, but have a different view. Apple provides the App Store which gives developers a way to destribute their app, the service of processing app purchases, advertisement, as well as other services. The 30% they charge was to support, initially anyways, these services. Once an app has been purchased and a user opts to pay for service subscriptions for services not provided by Apple, nor handled by Apples servers, why should they get a cut of that? I agree with the statement that their polocy “smacks of greed.”

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John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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