While there are some upsides to closed application stores like the App Store, they’re not a universally good thing. The story of Bryan Lunduke is an example of what happens when you depend on a company, but a company does not depend on you.
I’m not going to delve too deep into Lunduke’s actual problems, since that’s not the point I want to make. The short version: much of Lunduke’s income to support himself and his family comes from the Mac App Store. Due to a technical glitch at Apple, his Mac Developer account was terminated, and his applications removed from the Mac App Store. The communication from Apple was abysmal, two weeks sales lost, and still no solution in sight.
For once, I’m not here to chastise Apple for this one. Technical glitches happen, and I’m sure it can’t be easy to manage the hundreds of thousands of applications and their respective developers in the iOS and Mac App Store. Communication probably could be better, but they did set him up with a temporary account to alleviate some of the problems (even though that account is expiring today with no word on a possible solution).
As harsh as this sounds, this is simply a very logical and not at all unexpected outcome of a relationship like the one between an individual developer and Apple. The problem is that this relationship lacks any form of balance: the developer is completely dependent on Apple, but Apple is anything but dependent on the developer. You’re barely a blip on Apple’s radar, so you’re not a priority.
Frankly, if you depend on the App Store, and yet have not taken precautions for the kind of situation Lunduke is in now, there’s no one to blame but yourself. It’s pretty elementary that as an individual developer (as opposed to, say, something like Facebook or Netflix), Apple doesn’t care about you. They will not rush to your aid if something goes wrong, and you can’t expect them to, either. As such, you should be prepared for this, much in the same way that I’m prepared for when my income goes bust.
Contrary to what many people think, the application store model is not all roses and sunshine for developers – at least, not anymore. There are literally hundreds of thousands of applications in the App Store alone, and the odds of you standing out and gaining any serious form of foothold between established applications, better funded alternatives, boatloads of copycats, and the sheer volume of other applications is naive, at best, and stupid, at worst.
With this many applications in the App Store, you can’t argue with a straight face that it’s easier to get noticed in an application store than it is on the web (the old way we used to discover applications). In fact, both the Play Shop (eugh) and the App Store frontends are absolutely horrible at discovering applications. I discover most of my Android and iPad (sold mine today, iPad “3” here I come!) applications on the web (recommendations, forum posts, OSNews comments, etc.) and use Google search to actually find them.
I wonder how, exactly, this is different from the old way.
Lunduke is in a serious pickle, and I hope his situation gets resolved quickly. However, let this be a clear lesson: as a small developer, it’s simply not a good idea to depend on an application store – whatever kind – for your income. Don’t be blinded by the few success stories you see on the web – most will fail.