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Readability developers criticise Apple App Store policy

Arc90 app rejected from iOS market under new subscription policy

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The developers of the popular web-based service Readability have hit back at Apple in a blog post after their application was rejected by the firm’s iOS App Store.

According to a blog post by Readability creator Richard Ziade, Apple rejected the app under section 11.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines, a controversial addition to Apple’s policy that demands developers include a system to buy content from inside the app.

Readability, designed by app consultants Arc90, was initially launched as a web tool to simplify web pages, and present long sections of text in a more usable and easily customised view.

Apple was an early supporter of the service, with the company’s technology built into the Safari 5 web browser, along with popular iPad applications such as Flipboard. The Javascript version of Readability is still available to iPhone and iPad users, as well as other mobile operating systems.

Readability charges users a subscription fee, set at a minimum of $5 per month, to use the service on any article, as well as save articles for later reading. According to Ziade, 70 percent of this fee goes to publishers who have registered, while the company keeps 30 percent.

This subscription model seems to have been at the root of why the company’s application was rejected by the Apple App Store. Recent changes to the App Store guidelines forbid companies from offering “content, functionality or services” that cannot be purchased using the In App Purchasing scheme, from which Apple collects 30 percent of each transaction.

“We believe that your new policy smacks of greed,” writes Ziade in the blog post. 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.”

“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 centre. 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.”

Ziade claims that he would gladly resubmit the Readability app, were Apple to agree to a similar split in revenue, with 70 percent of their cut going to publishers.

Not all commentators have been supportive of Arc90’s stance on the App Store.

“These guys claiming to be surprised and disappointed by Apple’s insistence on a 30 percent cut of subscriptions when their own business model is to take a 30 percent cut of subscriptions strikes me as rich,” wrote Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber. “How can they claim that Readability isn’t “serving up content”? That’s exactly what Readability does.”


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