August 5, 2018

Winter is ComingWinter is Coming

Apple Axes App Store Affiliate Program

Affiliate Program App Store Updates

Thank you for participating in the affiliate program for apps. With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program. Starting on October 1st, 2018, commissions for iOS and Mac apps and in-app content will be removed from the program. All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) remain in the affiliate program.

The affiliate program is not a revenue stream for me. That was the main reason for instituting the Patreon link. I am shy about asking for support and find that the Patreon effort is not going well either. I figure that if the content is compelling and useful enough, people will support it. If it is not? My writing needs to improve.

I don't know the economic realities behind the decision by Apple. Those are irrelevant to me. I understand that this decision is going to make it difficult for some sites which are dependent on the affiliate program income to continue and that is not a desirable outcome.

What is the process?

Apple provides the store. Developers of all sizes provide the software. Apple features some of the products. Third party sites feature reviews and write-ups on the products along with an affiliate link. Customers get their information from a mix of Apple features, site write-ups and word of mouth to buy the software. Apple makes money of each sale. The developers get a cut. The sites with affiliate links that customers use to buy the product get a share.

No one but Apple controls what they feature. As a developer you can't manage that. If Apple features you, you have a good week. If they don't you can't do anything about it. The only thing you can do as a developer is buy advertising for your product, sponsor sites, and get the web sites to cover your product. Buying advertising is available to only a small segment of developers: the large ones. Small developers are always struggling to get their products noticed.

Consequence of This Decision

When you take away the affiliate income for sites, what happens?

  1. The sites which depended on this income stream either fold or find a different income stream.
  2. The availability of information on software carried by the App Stores decreases. Or in other words, it becomes more and more difficult for consumers to hear about new products. And for the developer, there are now smaller number of outlets which cover their products.

Apple believes that with their improved App Stores, app discoverability is going to negate the effects of this decision.

I think that is horse manure.

They have made the process difficult as it is. Getting rid of the App Store from the iTunes app on macOS has already made it difficult for me to find new apps on the iOS App Store. I hate going to the App Store on my iOS devices. But hey, this is a single data point and I might be a weirdo. I know the macOS App Store intimately and discoverability is a joke there.

The problem is that there are various kinds of software products:

  1. Mass market software. Word Processors, Spreadsheets, Markdown based text editors, window managers are all good examples of mass market software. Apple does an adequate job of highlighting these. They have features on them and they group them together and they get some exposure. Not all of them. Only some of them. I will explain this in a later section.
  2. Niche market software. There are products which get developed for small market niches. Statistics software like Wizard, code snippet collectors like SnippetsLab and presentation software like Slidium - Markdown Presentations, are all examples of software directed towards small market niches. They get little or no love from Apple.
  3. Games. I am not a gamer so I am going to not comment on that marketplace.

Apple, focused on revenue, is always going to highlight mass market software. That is what makes the most money or potentially has the ability to make the most money. They will highlight the market leaders in each category. So Ulysses will always get highlighted while an able competitor like MWeb will get no love. The products which challenge the market leaders are going to find the field stacked against them in the Apple eco-system, to add to the problems they already have.

This is an anti-consumer move as much as an anti-developer move. Of course it has the added feature of being an anti-third-party-sites move.

Winter is Coming

Decisions don't happen in a vacuum. They are not perceived in a vacuum either. They are all context based. Let's look at the context. Apple is now the first trillion dollar company. In that context, lets highlight a few data points:

  1. The Mac Pro is an unqualified disaster that hasn't been replaced.
  2. The TouchBar? Have you met anyone who is in love with that addition?
  3. The MacBook Pro keyboard which gets confused with a wee bit of dust?
  4. Mojave? Dark mode is the highlight of that innovation. Really?

What has the company been doing?

  1. Incremental updates of iPhone and iPad.
  2. New iMac Pros which are great but priced atrociously.
  3. HomePod and AirPods. I am in love with the HomePod. Don't have the AirPods.
  4. Beats headphones.
  5. Apple Watch.

In both hardware and software, Apple's performance is underwhelming. They are coasting in the macOS space. They are improving the iOS devices.

The signs are not good. The reason why Apple exists is because when they were underperforming against Microsoft and Intel, consumers of their Macintoshes rallied around the platform for no damn reason other than loyalty and kept the company afloat. That loyalty derived from being a small group and the Apple myths. The myths and the size of the group reinforced each other to allow for the rebirth of Apple. It is difficult to maintain that when you are the largest company in the world. To get that kind of loyalty at this stage you have to show me a vision. Some character which is not shared by the marketplace. Apple's success is due to the fact that they are executing better than the marketplace. That is not difficult to do when your competitor is Samsung with their copy machines.

The signs are not good. This is a company which lacks vision. It lacks character. It lacks focus.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Where is Apple taking the macOS devices? What is the next iteration? The iMac design is 6 years old. The Mac mini design is 8 years old. Mac Pro is 4 years old.
  2. Where is Apple taking the iPhone?
  3. Where is Apple taking the iPad?
  4. Why is Apple making television shows?

The company is making inroads into the services business. That is new. So iCloud is going to be usable? There will be reliable sync? Oh no, you mean that Apple is going to become a cable company. We all love those. I am going to turn off my sarcasm mode now.

Apple's track record is great for Wall Street and their shareholders but it is not that impressive for customers. In fact, the ethos of the company, which was superior products at a higher than usual price, is not a statement which holds true anymore. Look at the iMacs and you will realize that they are not executing well on that score.

What is the vision? On privacy, they are better than Google or Facebook. That is the only positive I can come up with.

Where is the character? It is difficult to have a well-defined character when you are the market leader (by revenue and size). Specially when your character over the years has been defined as the "other." You can't sell me the notion that I am special because I use your product. You have to be special. How are they doing on that score?

Focus? They are making TV shows.

This affiliate program decision hurts the community of Apple, its developers, the media outlets which support the community, and its customers.

As you can tell, I am depressed about Apple.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Other reactions to the Affiliate Program decision:

Apple’s Termination of App Store Affiliate Payments Is Unnecessary, Mean-Spirited, and Harmful - TidBITS

Apple Overestimates Its App Store Search

Apple changes iTunes affiliate program –

Apple Removing iOS and Mac Apps from Affiliate Program – 512 Pixels

Apple Announces Apps and In-App Purchases Will Be Removed from its Affiliate Program October 1st – MacStories

Apple removes apps from their Affiliate Program – ldstephens

Apple removes apps and in-app purchases from its iTunes affiliate program

Joe's argument boils down to:

Maybe that’s cold, but business ain’t ever warm and fuzzy.

I guess it is high time that Apple customers realized that the days of the two guys in a garage making Macintoshes are long gone. Apple is just another business today. Like Walmart.

App Store Apple

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