The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

What App Stores Have Cost All Of US

There’s a very old Canadian joke. A farmer is angry at the weather, so he raises his fist to the sky, and yells, “Goddamn you, CP Rail!”

Back in the age of rail if you were a farmer the only way to get your product to market unless you lived very close to a city, was by rail. There were few railroad companies, probably only one near you, and whatever they charged, you had to pay.

Rail company freight prices were based on maximizing profit for them, and that price drove a lot of farmers out of businesses, and left many others working for poverty wages.

App stores are, effectively, the only way many software developers can get their products to market. Most of them charge 30%.

A lot of consumers think this doesn’t matter, “who cares how they split the price?”

But that 30% is a cost, a high cost, for a service which costs companies like Apple and Steam almost nothing. (Apple also insists on a cut of all in-App purchases.)

Thirty percent is actually about a 42% price increase (30/70). It is HUGE. It is absolutely a cost; apps are not viable at all price points: you can’t just charge whatever, because most of them aren’t “must haves.” Running app stores costs almost nothing compared to the profits (not for the monopoly or near-monopoly providers, like Google, Apple and Steam).

Anyone who is the least familiar with business knows that increasing your production costs so much absolutely means that many products will never see the light of  day; they aren’t profitable. Entire companies will not come into existence because when the initial costing is done, the 30% makes their offerings unprofitable. Other companies will go out of business because their product(s) don’t make a profit or enough of a profit with that 30% in place, where they would at 15% or 10% or 5%.

Even businesses which do exist, and prosper, would prosper more if the charge was less, AND Apple and Steam and Google would all still be fine, and able to provide just as good services. (All these businesses are infamous for their profits, and their app stores are nearly pure profit.)

So what app stores at 30% has cost us is a lot of businesses: many which never existed and we can’t miss, others that went out of business. Thirty-percent app stores have also cost existing businesses a lot of profits they could have reinvested in new employees, or given to shareholders (or, admittedly, wasted on their executives.) They have also cost us a lot of apps, both from companies that never existed and from existing companies, because the 30% made them unprofitable right at conception.

App store fees are taxes; all major app stores that I can think of off-hand are near monopolies or part of oligopolies. We don’t know what Apple’s profits from the app store are, but one expert guessed around 80% (Apple said “no” but never gave the necessary data to refute.)

No one makes that sort of profit except in brief periods or when they have a huge, and unfair, market advantage. There is no way in any reasonable market theory to justify such profits over a period of more than a couple years. These are pure market position/monopoly/oligopoly profits.

So, yes, my friends, unless you are attached to the spigot (not necessarily the App spigot, but the general oligopoly spigot), the App store has cost you something: a world with a lot more jobs, companies and apps. You don’t even know what you lost, because what App store companies have done is mostly akin to strangling newborns: you never got to see what they killed, just by existing and taking extortionate profits.

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The Advantage of Permission & The Fall Of Oligarchies


Open Thread


  1. Hugh

    Monopolies are all about delivering the crappiest product at the highest price. Most Big Tech companies passed through a phase where they tried to pass themselves off as the “good guys” in the tech world. Apple certainly did. But as soon as they could establish a strong market share, all that went away. In part this is understandable. What starts out as innovative becomes commonplace. Apple early on carved out an Apple-only market share where its devices only operated in an Apple environment. It sold this and the significantly higher prices it charged on Apple being better and “special.” But the thing is most people need their computers and phones to do only a relatively small number of actions: access the Web, word processing, a little calculating/spreadsheets, act as a camera, hold a few photos and video, be a phone. That’s about it. The rest is hype. Operating systems have become dumber because they are supposed to be interoperable with your weakest device. spreadsheets and word processors are only marginally better, or different from what they were 20 years ago. There are billions more photos and videos out there, but probably even fewer photographers. So everything gets recorded, just not very well.

    The take home here is that Apple is a bad actor here, if not the only one. It sent its factories and jobs to China. It pushed H1-B visas for cheap programmers here. It started its app store, a platform to overcharge its customers and its suppliers. Its iPhones are locked. Its computers and hardware can only be “repaired” by Apple. And it has designed them specifically so that they can only be accessed by its special tools. It is ludicrous the lengths it has gone to to screw over its customers. Plain and simple, it does not view its customers as customers. It sees them, and treats them as marks, and as I said, in Big Tech they are far from the only ones.

  2. someofparts

    With rulers like this we don’t need to be invaded and occupied by a foreign power to be pushed into societal collapse. Our own misleaders are only too happy to do the job themselves.

  3. Temporarily Sane

    “App stores are, effectively, the only way many software developers can get their products to market.”

    Do you mean software developers generally or mobile app developers? Someone who wants to develop for-profit apps for iOS or Android has to go through the Apple or Google app stores but there are still some non-mobile developers around who distribute their work as either freeware or shareware via GitHub or their own websites. There are also a plethora of unofficial apps and tweaks available that can be sideloaded onto jailbroken iOS and routed Android devices. I even know of a few iOS jailbreak devs who were hired by big name cyber security companies.

    Apple has been trying to force developers into its Mac App Store (the MacOS version of its iOS App Store) for years but serious devs tend to avoid it – or offer both an app store version and a ‘power user’ version of their software that customers can buy from them directly.

    Very few independent mobile app developers, even good ones, can make a living solely from selling an app or two on the Apple or Google app stores. But in 2013 Apple gave devs the ability to charge their customers monthly and weekly “rent” if they wanted to use the app as intended. This ruined the app store, which was never that great to begin with but a bit of searching could occasionally turn up some real gems.

    Post-IAP liberalization the iOS app store was flooded with thousands of garbage apps from borderline scammers (and some actual scammers) while quality apps from honest devs became very difficult to find. A popular scam was/is selling an app for a onetime payment and then a few months or a year later switching to the perpetual IAP model so paying customers have to pay again…forever. Apple, of course, has no problem with this. Greed is good after all.

    So while I agree with you about big tech’s atrocious business practices, I think Apple and a majority of iOS app store developers are made for each other. They are both motivated by greed and “passive income streams” i.e. collecting perpetual rent while they sleep.

    I despise the “adclick” model that drives the internet and have no problem paying developers for quality ad-free software. I even have a few yearly subscriptions for apps that I use regularly. But I have zero sympathy for the many, many mobile app developers that design their products primarily to serve as money extracting instruments. Yes they are getting screwed by Apple but they in turn are screwing their customers, too.

    Apple herding MacOS users into the Mac App Store has really hurt developers who refuse to compromise their integrity by dumbing down their software applications to meet Apple’s app store standards (and who balk at handing Apple a big chunk of their earnings.) They lost most of their income potential as customers were lured into the app store.

    Thankfully there are still a few independent MacOS developers around who’ve managed to survive outside of the crApp Store “ecosystem” but for the most part it’s neoliberalism and crapification all the way down.

  4. Temporarily Sane


    Very few failed societies were brought down by invaders or rival powers. The collapsed because they became dysfunctional at the core and the rot spread outwards from there.

    Of course that doesn’t prevent beleaguered elites from blaming other nations or groups for their society’s woes. Witness the current sport of blaming “the CCP” for everything from Covid to the west’s tanking economies. And a lot of people eat that shit up with a spoon.

  5. Astrid

    Temporarily Sane,

    I have to disagree. Usually societies fall because an external stress hits at a weak point (or weak points, or with sufficient frequency and severity) and that brings it all down. Even the most resilient and adaptable societies will still “fall” if the stress is too great. Late Rome was surprisingly resilient for a very long time, but decades/centuries of disease and barbarians and climate change eventually overwhelmed it. Every society has internal contradictions that assure it will eventually fall in some way, but the external pressures are very real.

    However, the length to which the global westernized elites intentionally make their system more fragile and incapable, do everything they can to ignore the warnings and suppress solutions, most forcefully reminds me of the reign of Czar Nicholas II. Even when occasionally forced to do the right thing, they walk back any of the positive changes ASAP. Wronger than a broken clock, they go out of their way to make things worse at every turn, to squeeze out a couple more dollars of economic rent.

    I have a conspiracy minded friend who thinks this is all part of a global reset to cull useless eaters and turn the rest into serfs. Knowing a few higher echelon servants of the billionaires/MIC/Deep State apparatus, I really doubt it. These people are truly clueless. They were selected and trained for their mindless adherence to a particular narrative. They are technically quite capable (though not nearly as smart as they think they are), often well intentioned in their way, but their brain doesn’t work outside of their self imposed Overton Window. And once lives under their control become statistics and policy, it’s just dicing and chopping numbers to help them climb to the next rung of the greasy ladder.

  6. someofparts

    “They are technically quite capable (though not nearly as smart as they think they are), often well intentioned in their way, but their brain doesn’t work outside of their self imposed Overton Window.”

    Oh yes, I know people like this. I have tried, and failed, to work and socialize with them and learned to regret even having made the attempt.

  7. Hugh

    Totally OT but Joe Manchin has finally come up with a number $1.5 trillion. He and Sinema have broken the deal. Progressives should kill both bills and tie this around Manchin’s and Sinema’s necks. These two are very much like Mitch McConnell. They would rather die than spend money on ordinary Americans. Destroying Biden’s and the Democratic party’s agenda and losing control of Congress next year are just a bonus.

  8. Z

    It’s deplorably humorous at how incredulous the media is about Senate fixer Sly Chuckie Schumer’s (D-Wall Street) duplicity.

    There’s a document dated July 28th that Politico got their hands on somehow in which Manchin tells the lying scumbag Schumer that he will only agree to a $1.5T price tag on the BBB Act, not the $3.5T that was agreed upon within the party, and that he wasn’t willing to get into a debate on the bill until October 1st. But Schumer never said a word about it while his pal Gottheimer pushed to have the infrastructure bill voted on prior to that. Oh, but Chuckie scribbled on Manchin’s ultimatum, which Sly Chuckie signed, that he would try to talk Manchin out of it.

    I’d love to know where that document came from. Why would Schumer’s camp hand it over … if it was from them … unless he was afraid that Manchin might show his copy to prove Manchin’s point that he’s been against the $3.5T BBB for months? Why would Manchin have a copy that had Schumer’s scribbles about trying to talk Manchin out of it? So, it appears it almost certainly came from Schumer and I’d be willing to bet that scribbling that he was going to try to talk Manchin out of it was only was placed on the document very recently.

    That’s the way Sly Chuckie works: always very amiable in the public’s face while he f*cks us behind our back by arranging the Senate so nothing pro-working class and poor can ever get passed without our rulers shoving their interests to the front and staying way ahead of us. Remember it was him who worked with Mnuchin in creating the gotta-have-it-or-the-U.S.-will-die Wall Street COVID bailout bill that basically hooked up the Fed’s spigot straight into Larry Fink’s and Stanley Fisher’s financial funhouse BlackRock.

    Schumer was probably working in tandem with Gottheimer to pass the infrastructure bill that Wall Street wants while drowning the BBB that Wall Street doesn’t want and he is trying to conceal his duplicity by getting out in front of Manchin in revealing the signed agreement between them.


  9. Z

    And of course Pelosi is in on it too, and very likely Biden as well who just wants the credit for “trying” to do something nice for the people but doesn’t want to actually do anything that might piss off the donor class so that Hunter can continue to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for breathing for Burisma and blowing paint bubbles on paper when he’s stateside.


  10. bruce wilder

    Internal factors or external factors to explain the fall of civilizations?

    I think “explanations” tend to favor good storytelling. We like the drama, so we tend to look to noisy political conflicts and choices for the stuff of explanation.

    But, I think real “internal contradictions” do factor in, but as subterranean forces below the drama. And, the “internal contradictions” often do set up vulnerability to external, exogenous factors. What people talk about during events — the drama of politics again — is likely to reflect human ignorance, and often the wilful, arrogant ignorance of hubris born of hidden “internal contradictions”.

    The French Revolution is classic: internal contradictions weakening the capacity of the state to govern to the point of state bankruptcy. The superficial story is the people rebelling against an oppressive and arbitrary absolute monarchy, but a deeper analysis brings to the fore the vacillating of that monarchy and its inability to sustain commitment to reforms, and a liberal movement in love with empty abstraction but also unable to grasp even fairly obvious solutions. The external stressors of harvest failure could have been handled except for liberal ideology.

    The Fall of Rome in the West is put down to bad governance and barbarians at the gate, but the economic basis was eroding at the bottom: trade was falling; large areas were being depopulated by famine and epidemics as agricultural productivity and surplus declined.

  11. Z

    Why would Sly Chuckie even scribble that he was going to try “to dissaude Manchin later” on the signed agreement he and Manchin had in which Manchin said he wouldn’t begin discussing the BBB bill until October 1st and that he was only in for $1.5T instead of the $3.5T that the democrats collectively agreed upon? Was Schumer afraid he’d forget? Did he have it pinned on his office’s corkboard to remind himself?

    No, that scribbled “reminder” was likely a very sloppy, rushed, and desperate attempt that he made last night to try to get out ahead of Manchin’s revealing their signed agreement and to attempt to conceal that he was scheming with the “moderate” dems in the House … you know the ones that are hyper-willing to incinerate life from this planet to please their donors and themselves, the middle-of-the-road-burn-us-off-the-planet centrists … who are pushing to pass the infrastructure bill by the end of the week. Then once that passes Sly Chuckie (D-Wall Street) can obstruct the BBB bill behind the scenes while he pounds his fists on the table for it in front of the public.


  12. Hugh

    It is always difficult to know where Pelosi and Schumer stand on anything because they don’t seem to stand for anything. The real question is are the so-called Congressional progressives going to stand or fold. So far Manchin and Sinema have been let off scot-free. Why is no one asking why Manchin is playing brinksmanship with legislation that is popular in West Virginia and would help lots of West Virginians? As for Sinema, why is no one asking her to justify what she is doing? It seems like she is committing political suicide. She’s betrayed most of the progressives and liberal Democrats in Arizona. And why would Republicans vote for a Republican-acting Democrat when they can vote for the real thing?

  13. Plague Species

    Erdogan is shutting down Social Media in Turkey. Good for him. We need to do the same here in America. Shut down Social Media. Put Silicon Valley to work digging in the dirt for gold in the Congo gold mines as their penance. I want to see Zuckerburg physically labor the rest of his days. Same for Bezos and Gates and Musk and the Trumps and Thiel and Dorsey. No more Social Media. No more Silicon Valley. No more internet. No more mainstream media. No more advertising. No more useless sh*t. No more Apps. It’s time to get back to nature because it sure is getting back to us.

  14. Hugh

    Apple was also the company that made its older iphones run more slowly in order to push their owners into buying newer phones. And on the repair front it refused access to parts and tools to non-Apple repairers and it voided the warranty on anyone trying to repair one of its devices anywhere except through Apple.

  15. Hugh

    I should add that none of this just happens by chance or accident. It takes engineers, software designers, and marketers, and management to sign off on everything. There have to be meetings about how to crapify their products and how to hide/justify their crapification. This is top-down, Tim Cook reviewed and approved stuff. We really should extend RICO to cover it.

  16. Hugh

    And now Biden is doing the typical Democratic cave. His new number is $1.9-$2.3 trillion. Progressives need to kill this thing with fire.

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