In my Twitter feed yesterday, a number of attendees at the Çingleton conference in Montréal were live-tweeting Rich Siegel’s presentation about why he was pulling BBEdit from the Mac App Store. Jason Snell has written a bit more about this, explaining Rich’s rationale:
“Siegel crafted his presentation as a list of reasons that weren’t the reason Bare Bones was abandoning the Mac App Store. It wasn’t Apple’s 30 percent cut, he said, because while that’s a lot of money, developers get a lot of service from Apple in return. It wasn’t the complete severing of his relationship with his customers, even though it’s frustrating that only Apple really knows who is buying the software and it doesn’t share that data. Nor were it the marketing challenges, the difficulty conforming to Apple’s submissions guidelines (including sandboxing and forcing some features in to add-on downloads), or the numerous problems involving the development tool chain—including the one time that a BBEdit update silently crashed the App Store’s submission tool.”
There was no single reason for this decision, but Rich eventually decided that “the added stress and frustration and everything else just wasn’t counterbalanced by the benefit of being in the premier storefront for Mac apps.”
I’ve heard similar stories from lots of other developers. The entire process – from submission to approval – is fraught with difficulties, with seemingly arbitrary rules that are applied at random. Add to that the difficulties of dealing with security features such as sandboxing (which means that many apps can’t offer all the same features in their Mac App Store versions as their direct-sales versions), and a recent debacle around changes to code signing, and developers are just fed up. This is especially problematic for small developers, who only have one or two people to do all the work, and end up wasting far too much time on problems that shouldn’t exist.
In the end, it’s a trade-off, and one that’s not beneficial to Mac users. If the good software – and BBEedit is one such app – can’t be sold through the Mac App Store, then what’s left gives less choice to users. Of course, you’ll still be able to buy the app directly, but the added exposure was a big help for Bare Bones, as it is for other developers.