You may have heard that an App Store developer called TapBots recently did something inexcusably disgusting and utterly outrageous: after 30 months of free support and a free upgrade to Version 2, they dared to charge for Version 3.
Yes, I know. I know! What a cheek, eh? I mean seriously: developers shouldn’t be in the business of selling apps if they’re only in it to make money. They should be on the App Store purely for our benefit and for their own love of making apps and giving them away for free, not because they’re trying to run a business.
If selling the apps you poured the last few months of your life into is your plan, better find another way to make a living. Nobody pays for hard work these days AND NEITHER SHOULD THEY. Deal with it, idiots.
If you found yourself nodding along in agreement with me there, here comes the twist: I disagree with all of that. I have no problem with a developer whose business model is to put a fair price on their work and ask me to pay for it if I like it. Obviously some users of the app disagree with that policy, even though it may be one of their most-used apps. That’s fine – Tapbots doesn’t need them because plenty of their customers are only too happy to put the same value on the work as Tapbots do. In fact, many of us would pay more.
Turns out that some dicks over at a developer called TapTapTap completely disagree. While disagreement is all good and well, in this case it’s surprising because they’re not in competition with Tapbots. Regardless, a simple disagreement is not enough for the dicks at TapTapTap. No, they decided it would be really cool to slag off Tapbots (well, okay, they don’t name them, but it doesn’t take Benedict Cumberbatch in a warm coat to work out who they’re referring to given previous jabs over Twitter) not only in a blog post, but in the update notes for their own app. Reeeaaal professional.
The dicks at TapTapTap
The dicks at TapTapTap make an app called Camera+. It’s not bad, a decent alternative to the stock camera app on the iPhone although most of what it does is baked into the iPhone anyway now, but for a long time their app had better features and it’s become a stalwart of the Photography section.
So their business model is this: they sell the app to a mass market for $2, update it forever for free, and offer IAPs in the form of filter packs. Yes, sodding filter packs. Well hey, a developer’s gotta eat, right? Well, no, not according to the dicks at TapTapTap, but I’ll get to that.
Tapbots on the other hand employ a marginally different business model: they sell their app to a niche market for $3 (currently on sale) and don’t sell IAPs. Bugfix-type updates are free, the huge update to Version 2.0 was free, but after 30 months of entirely free support (and no IAPs!) they charged $3 for Version 3.0.
Both these models are completely fair enough. I have no problem with either as both demonstrate a sustainable business model. And to be clear, ‘sustainability’ means making sure the revenue your business brings in will keep you in business. That’s pretty much the first rule of running a business, folks.
I’ve always suspected the guys at TapTapTap might not be the sort of people I’d go for a drink with, based on the update notes for their app. They’re definitely a bit more amusing than the average update notes, but they’re also a bit “hey we’re KRAZY”, with a K. A bit attention seeking. And I find attention seekers kinda dickish. So I’ve always had my suspicions.
This week John Casanta at TapTapTap was happy to confirm my suspicions by posting an app update followed by a blog post which pushed way past “Krazy with a K”, way past “I’m an attention whore!”. It basically says: “Developers that charge for updates are pathetic and hate their customers. Go us! And fuck Tapbots!”
I’m paraphrasing, of course. Here’s what it actually says, make your own mind up:
I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum as a developer… I recall the early days where I’d earn less than $1,000 per month and essentially lived in a shack to make ends meet. And at the other end, I’ve made far more money than anybody needs to live. The bottom line is that absolutely none of this has any bearing on our customers.
If we, or any other developers aren’t able to make ends meet through selling our apps, the solution is neither to blame nor to screw over your customers. It’s more along the lines of: get better at what you do… or find some other work that better suits you.
Being able to get out of bed at noontime and work out of your home in your fluffy bunny slippers is a privilege, not a right. And you need to earn that privilege. A lot of developers seem to have lost that perspective these days and sound far more entitled than the people who support them by buying their apps that they accuse of being entitled.
If you’re a developer, it’d be nice if you actually thought all of this through in an objective way before just firing off the typical defensive, knee-jerk reaction.
Like I said: dicks.
This isn’t about developers with a lousy business plan not being able to make ends meet and screwing over their customers. This is about developers using a considerably underpriced version of the business plan serious developers making serious software tools have used since, like, forever: bugfixes are free; significant new releases have a fee. And if Apple actually offered upgrade discount pricing on the App Store perhaps we wouldn’t have the problem that’s emerged: that App Store customers unrealistically expect all app updates for free.
I’ve got to address some of the points in the blog post:
- “If…developers aren’t able to make ends meet through selling [their] apps, the solution is neither to blame nor to screw over your customers.” – where to start? Firstly, where’s this “blame” coming from? Methinks this is just a little strawman that TapTapTap pulled out of their arselocker to make their flimsy point sound waaay better, as I don’t see any developers ‘blaming’ anyone except Apple for unhelpful pricing tiers.
- Secondly, call me crazy, but I don’t think releasing an optional new version of your app at a reasonable price that reflects the work that went into it and the work that will continue to be put into it is screwing over your customers. I’m pretty sure Tweetbot 2 still works, because I’m still using it (I actually don’t like the design of Tweetbot 3, ironically).
- Thirdly, because there’s just so much wrong in that one sentence, it’s pretty obvious that Tapbots are perfectly capable of making ends meet through selling their apps, because that’s what they continue to do: sell their app.
- “Get better at what you do” – what does the quality of their coding have to do with anything? They’re already remarkable at what they do, which is why thousands of iPhone users bought their app in the first place.
- “Find some other work that suits you” – presumably work that doesn’t involve being paid a fair and sustainable wage, because as we all know: charging fairly for your work = failing.
- “Being able to get out of bed at noontime and work out of your home in your fluffy bunny slippers is a privilege, not a right.” – Jeez, what is it with TapTapTap and strawman arguments? Remember, we’re talking about the right to charge a fee for your work. Where you do that work is completely irrelevant. If anything, working from home in awesome fluffy bunny slippers is a more responsible and cost-effective move than working from an office, isn’t it? Try telling that to the dicks at TapTapTap, who perhaps wouldn’t need IAPs or to even charge for their app at all if they worked from home.
- “A lot of developers seem to have lost that perspective these days and sound far more entitled than the people who support them by buying their apps that they accuse of being entitled.” – there’s nothing ‘entitled’ about saying “We’ve spent months working on a major update, we’re really proud of it, and it’s just $3.” Entitlement is this: “Waaaah! $3 for something I’ll use every single day for months if not years?! SO UNFAIR! I’m going to buy a different app instead.”. That’s entitlement.
The last word
What TapTapTap achieved with this post and app update was to reinforce the entirely misguided and unrealistic expectations of App Store users that developers should sell their work at rock bottom prices and then spend the rest of their lives working on the app for free, and hope for a sales spike.
Worse, they combined their airing of this rather silly position with a pretty nasty dig at non-competing fellow developers, using it as an opportunity to curry favour amongst the greedier and more selfish of their users who might find that sort of shit-stirring funny.
On TapTapTap’s About page is a list of their ‘important principles’. It includes the line:
- High quality software doesn’t have to cost you a lot.
Come on, folks. $3 is not a lot of money. No, don’t give me “it’s a lot of money on the App Store” because for an app you’ll use hourly, daily, for months if not years, $3 is not a lot of money.
Similarly, a total of $6 over thirty months to support ongoing work on said app is also not a lot of money, and anyone who argues that it is while waving their $600+ iPhone around is as much of a dick as the guy that writes TapTapTap’s blog.
Perhaps TapTapTap should teach us by example and make a Twitter app without IAPs that’s anywhere near as good as Tweetbot, then demonstrate how the resulting revenue from that one app alone is enough to keep their company afloat forever. While they’re at it, I’d love to see them make their Camera+ IAPs free because as we all know, selling your work is such an insulting rip-off of your customers. Then they might have an angle on App Store business models that’s worth posting.
However, it probably won’t be worth actually reading if the maturity and professionalism in evidence on their blog is anything to go by. I’m happy to join the throng of folk on Twitter deleting Camera+ in disgust.
Just before anyone points this out themselves with passive-aggressive glee: I’m fully aware that TapTapTap couldn’t give a toss who uninstalls Camera+. After all, they’ve already got our money, and their business model evidently works for them, just as Tapbots’ model is working for them. I also don’t expect them to give a toss about my opinion on their policies and business model. This post isn’t about making a stand against them or trying to bring them down a peg. It’s just about airing my opinion on my blog, for others to either agree or disagree.
Also, I’m sorry to anyone at TapTapTap whose opinions are not represented by the blog post in question. I’m sure you’re not all dicks, and I support your right to be paid for your work.