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Amazon App Store 'Rotten To the Core,' Says Dev 346

Posted by Soulskill
from the peer-pressure dept.
suraj.sun sends an excerpt from this post made by a developer who decided to try out Amazon's App Store, only to be disappointed with the experience: "Amazon's biggest feature by far, has been their Free App Of The Day promotion. Publicly their terms say that they pay developers 20% of the asking price of an app, even when they give it away free. To both consumers and naive developers alike, this seems like a big chance to make something rare in the Android world: real money. But here's the dirty secret Amazon don't want you to know, they don't pay developers a single cent. ... Amazon is being predatory here, and asking developers (who are often desperate for exposure) to give away their app, in order to promote Amazon. In the end we agreed that we had entered the world of Android development as an experiment, and it would seem silly not to add more data to the experiment we were conducting. The day of our promotion came: ... Amazon gave away 101,491 copies of our app! At this point, we had a few seconds of excitement as well; had we mis-read the email and really earned $54,800 in one day? We would have done if our public agreement was in place, but we can now confirm that thanks to Amazon's secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day. That's right, over 100,000 apps given away, $0 made."
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Amazon App Store 'Rotten To the Core,' Says Dev

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  • Facts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YodasEvilTwin (2014446) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:41PM (#36965966) Homepage
    The old version of Amazon's agreement stated that developers would receive 20% of the original price when an app was given away for free. Then they changed it, and they didn't make it clear to developers. For many of them it was a nasty surprise. Unfortunately I can't find the original, but the new version is here https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/mobile-apps/devportal/pdf/Appstore_Distribution_Agreement.pdf [ssl-images-amazon.com] with the added sentence "No Royalty is payable for Apps with a List Price of $0.00." in Section 2(a).
    • Re:Facts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:54PM (#36966128)

      The old version of Amazon's agreement stated that developers would receive 20% of the original price when an app was given away for free. Then they changed it, and they didn't make it clear to developers. For many of them it was a nasty surprise. Unfortunately I can't find the original, but the new version is here https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/mobile-apps/devportal/pdf/Appstore_Distribution_Agreement.pdf [ssl-images-amazon.com] with the added sentence "No Royalty is payable for Apps with a List Price of $0.00." in Section 2(a).

      It's amazing how many problems and complaints would be solved if every ToS, EULA, and online agreement required some kind of electronic signature to be valid. It should be something that would take more than a quick mouse-click to apply. Also if any amendments to existing agreements had to come with a statement to the effect of, "The amended agreement is identical to the previous one in every way, except the following:" which could be covered in a couple of paragraphs, rather than reading tens of pages of legalese to find what has changed.

      The entire notion of a contract or agreement is that both parties fully understand it and both parties voluntarily agree to it. The fact that most people neither read nor understand most agreements and EULAs and ToS's means that this system is failing and needs to be changed. Unless of course we are prepared to reject the idea of informed, voluntary consent to mutually satisfying agreements. Anyone who wants to reject that notion should understand that your alternative is the law of the jungle.

      • Mod parent up.

        Contract updates should have a human readable diff summary on the first page.

      • by sg_oneill (159032)

        Even then, a lot of EULAs rely on the end user trusting the company to Do-the-right-thing(tm) and so people just scroll and click. The problem is, in that 90 pages of turgid legalese and latin you just scrolled though , theres a clause that sells the company your soul, your children and your dog.

        Its sort of a exploit that relies on the fact that if your not a lawyer, trying to take in 90 pages of lawyertalk basically amounts to a stack-smash for the brain, the brain pre-emptively firewalls it and says "fing

      • by wygit (696674)

        Except most online agreements are not read even if agreed to. I just went to iTunes to grab a free song, and saw there was a new User Agreement. After clicking to get the "Printable version", copying and pasting into LibreOffice, it was 27 pages of 8 point type.

        I'm sure there was something in there agreeing to transfer ownership of my soul.

    • Well, to a degree I can understand why. I grab just about every free app of the day, but they are almost never something I would pay for (even Swiftkey). I know many people who are like that because while the app may be great, at a normal price of $5+ there's no way in hell I'm buying it - but give it away for free and sure, I'll take it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by geekoid (135745)

      They make it extremely clear to developers. They even sent an Email letting them no it would be zero if the dev decided to do it.

      So, lets stop this 'they didn't make it clear' bullshit.

      And your link is meaningless without the old copy and a data of when the change allegedly happened.

    • with the added sentence "No Royalty is payable for Apps with a List Price of $0.00." in Section 2(a).

      Looking at the document (IANAL), that seems to refer to a permanently free app. If I understand it correctly, List Price is another term for MSRP (suggested retail price), and is not changed by Amazon when they choose to retail for $0.00.

      On the other hand, it does say this: "A Royalty is due only for sales for which we have received final payment from or on behalf of an end user."

      Which suggests that if they aren't paid, you aren't paid.

      • by SETIGuy (33768) *

        If I understand it correctly, List Price is another term for MSRP (suggested retail price), and is not changed by Amazon when they choose to retail for $0.00.

        Except, as TFA makes clear enough, the publisher agreed to reduce the MSRP to $0.00 for a day in order to participate in the free app of the day promotion. Unfortunately, Amazon's software for app publishers is not as clear. In essence Amazon told them they would get $0.00. They asked if that was correct, and Amazon told them "Yes, you will get nothing". AFAICT, on they day their app was FAD, Amazon's app publishing site told them they would get $54,800. Rather than believe what they were told, they c

    • by macs4all (973270)

      The old version of Amazon's agreement stated that developers would receive 20% of the original price when an app was given away for free. Then they changed it, and they didn't make it clear to developers. For many of them it was a nasty surprise. Unfortunately I can't find the original, but the new version is here https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/mobile-apps/devportal/pdf/Appstore_Distribution_Agreement.pdf [ssl-images-amazon.com] with the added sentence "No Royalty is payable for Apps with a List Price of $0.00." in Section 2(a).

      List price is not SALE price.

    • by assantisz (881107)
      No, I do not think they changed that part. As you quoted they talk about a LIST PRICE of $0.00. The $0 Amazon charges for the app of the day is a promotional price. IMHO, the more relevant piece that justifies $0 payment is the next sentence: "A Royalty is due only for sales for which we have received final payment from or on behalf of an end user." Since the end user is not charged anything there are no royalties to be paid. This language has been in the agreement since the beginning, I think.
  • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:47PM (#36966060)

    Amazon told them in advance that they would get 0% of revenue (which would be $0, anyway). Amazon repeated this when they asked for confirmation. They recieved $0.

    The only problem is an apparent error in the reporting which stated $54,800 in revenue on $0 of sales. But that is the only contradiction here.

    Is this a good deal for developers? I don't know. Is Amazon screwing developers out of promised revenue with "secret back-door deals"? I see no evidence here.

  • Biased Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:50PM (#36966086)

    The summary implies that the developers didn't know that they would get no money. The article makes it clear that they not only were told they would get nothing, but they confirmed in subsequent emails with Amazon that they would get nothing. Knowing this, they still decided to go ahead with the deal.

    The Amazon emails have a good point:

    The Free App of the Day promotion is the most valuable and visible spot in the store. It hosted the launch of the likes of Angry Birds Rio, Plants v. Zombies and more. Amazon will not receive any sales rev share from the Free App of the Day; and in fact, with as the Free of the Day for one day, you will receive a subsequent Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days. All these highly valuable placements are at no cost to you. We want to promote your app and in exchange of the placements, at the 0% rev share for one day only.

    Being "Free app of the day" is a huge advert for your app - and adverts have a cost. Being app of the day is optional - not mandatory - the developers in question could have said no. And the cost is not 101,491 copies of your app - that's RIAA accounting. The majority of downloaders will try your app once and then never use it again. Some may continue to use it, and when they do, if you're smart you'll figure out a way to monetise their usage (e.g. charge for version 2, offer premium feature updates etc.).

    thanks to Amazon's secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day.

    Amazon also made $0 that day (from your app). You agreed to the deal. It gave your app enormous exposure. You didn't lose 101,491 sales, because the vast majority of those people would never have bought your app anyway.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      thanks to Amazon's secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day.

      Amazon also made $0 that day (from your app). You agreed to the deal. It gave your app enormous exposure. You didn't lose 101,491 sales, because the vast majority of those people would never have bought your app anyway.

      To be fair, Amazon profited by using this "free app of the day" to attract people to the Amazon Appstore. I had always thought that the developer was profiting financially from Amazon when they offered an app as the free app of the day. Apparently, they do not compensate the developer except that they feature them on the main page and then give them priority placement for a week afterwards. However, they seem to be able to set the price to whatever they want for that week afterwards. The author says that th

    • The majority of downloaders will try your app once and then never use it again

      Most the of the "Free App of the Day" applications I download never even get installed because, as far as I can tell, there is no way to see what permissions the app will need before "buying" it. I have a ton of stuff in "my apps" that I downloaded and refused to install when I saw the permission they wanted. Still haven't figured out how to remove something from that section either.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        I'm not sure what device it is, but at the very least, you connect it to your computer, open it up in file manager, then delete the package.

        It's pretty trivial to even the most dim witted individual who holds an advanced degree in computer science.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Yes, it was not fraud, nor does TFA imply that it was. They just wanted people to know what the actual deal is/was and to point out a few reasons why it may not be such a good deal for developers.

      They also provided their experience that the "exposure" was more expensive than one might realize and that it may not help in the slightest, especially if Amazon decides that you get to be the $0.99 app right after.

      Amazon also made $0 that day (from your app). You agreed to the deal. It gave your app enormous exposure. You didn't lose 101,491 sales, because the vast majority of those people would never have bought your app anyway.

      Right, but they did have to upgrade their server hardware to deal with those 101,491 users they would

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Right, but they did have to upgrade their server hardware to deal with those 101,491 users they wouldn't have had otherwise and they couldn't pay for it out of income from the app

        I was really curious about this statement because it just didn't sound right. Why would a company choose to allow their item to be the "FAOTD" if they couldn't reasonable handle the demand? But, I did the unthinkable and RTFA and sure enough, they did mention server capacity as well as additional customer support for their app to the tune of "300 emails" that gave them "a headache".

        But, you know what, I have to agree with the GP on this one, TFS makes it out to be that Amazon is the bad guy here but TBH i

    • They said it didn't help, and app sales went back to the 2 or 3 sales per day that they had before the promotion. They also wondered if every potential customer, who wanted their app, had already downloaded it for free.
      • Their target market is only 100 thousand people in a marketplace of over 100 million people? Sounds like a bad business decision if thats the case.
        • by vux984 (928602)

          Their target market is only 100 thousand people in a marketplace of over 100 million people? Sounds like a bad business decision if thats the case.

          How many millions of people buy cars?
          Good god that's a lot!

          How many millions of people buy Porsches?
          What? Only thousands? Uhoh...

          What? They are only targeting the small niche market that wants and can afford luxury sports cars and luxury sports SUVs. Sounds like a bad business decision if that's the case.

          They should make cars that are more like Kia.

          Right?

        • by Altrag (195300)

          Or a niche app. Not every application in the world is intended to be used by 6billion people for.. who knows what we all have in common. Never mind that any non-niche app probably already has 1000 clones to split the market with anyway.

    • Being "Free app of the day" is a huge advert for your app - and adverts have a cost. Being app of the day is optional - not mandatory - the developers in question could have said no. And the cost is not 101,491 copies of your app - that's RIAA accounting. The majority of downloaders will try your app once and then never use it again. Some may continue to use it, and when they do, if you're smart you'll figure out a way to monetise their usage (e.g. charge for version 2, offer premium feature updates etc.).

      Name some other things of value that are advertised this way. Now exclude things people have to keep paying for like food and such.

      hmmm...

      The advertising cost does't seem fair to me. It should be restricted to first X visitors or time restricted demo, feature limited demo, or tied to the release of a sequel that makes it worthless.

      You're giving the full value of your product per person away to advertise to arbitrarily large number of people who will _never_ convert into buying customers, and will use up y

  • The distributors (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Amazon, google, apple, microsoft and all the other big players control the market for apps. This is a very bad position for individual developers because it means that to get a foothold in the market, they need to be a part of one of them.

    Is the moral of the story to read the contract, No. The moral is to stop feeding these companies and stop them from being able to command the market.

    I really hope tech people realise this soon else we can safely say that we asked for this state of affairs to come about.

    Pl

    • by Henriok (6762)

      It is us as individuals that do all the innovating, not them, they just pick up our innovations and run away with them. They are leaches!

      Yes! The app market was enormous before Apple's App Store. Those were the days, where armies of independent developers cold earn an honest living by making hordes of crazy innovative apps for cell phones. Oh wait.. Those were not the days. There was no market to speak of before Apple's iPhone, and there were hardly no independent developers at all, since everyone who made any real money did commissioned work for carriers or cell phone makers.

    • by schnell (163007)

      How about we start distributing our hard work ourselves?

      It's called a website and developers have been doing this for many years now, and they keep 100% of their sale price (minus transaction fees). Nobody can stop you from doing that, and nobody is forcing you to distribute PC or Android applications through an app store. And if you don't like the ecosystems that force you to use an app store (e.g. iOS or Windows Phone), don't develop for those platforms.

      The reason developers have been flocking to those evil, awful, soul-sucking app stores is because it turns o

  • They present one deal publicly, then renegotiate every Free App of the Day deal depending on whether or not they feel that the it is to Amazon's advantage. The Angry Birds get paid, the small local guy does not. This is predatory, though not illegal, and shows that they fundamentally misunderstand the ecosystem they need to foster in order for them to do well. If they were the only game in town, this might work for them, but they are not.

    I have only anecdotal evidence, but it seems to me that the Amazon St

    • by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > The Angry Birds get paid, the small local guy does not.

      Of course. Amazon needs Angry Birds to draw people to the Amazon store. But they also need an app a day to keep em coming back and paying for A list titles to give away is expensive. So they also promote smaller apps that need the exposure Amazon can give them more than Amazon needs that particular app. It makes perfect economic sense once you examine who is gaining more from the transaction and notice that end is making more money up front. B

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The Angry Birds get paid, the small local guy does not.

      Citation needed.

      And the developers I have bought apps from through Amazon would probably disagree with you and your worthless anecdotal evidence.

  • The "exposure" scam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oGMo (379) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @07:05PM (#36966236)

    I see people posting about "free exposure" and that sort of thing. But this is only getting exposure for Amazon, who presumably wants to build a user- and application-base for their own upcoming Google-free Android devices.

    See, advertising is about drawing attention and profiting when people purchase your product. Regular advertisements do this. Even sales do this. But giving your stuff away doesn't make you money. Any exposure you got was immediately lost to those exposed who either wanted your product or didn't even want it for nothing. Anyone who didn't see it wasn't exposed, and therefore doesn't matter, or worse, will pass on your app even on sale to just wait for the next "free" one. Why pay anything?

    However having free stuff does net Amazon a lot of exposure and incentive for new customers. This will sell their devices and platform through exposure.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      But giving your stuff away doesn't make you money. Any exposure you got was immediately lost to those exposed who either wanted your product or didn't even want it for nothing.

      I don't know about software, but I've downloaded hundreds of free ebooks from Amazon and Smashwords and when they turned out to be good I've then bought other books by the same author for real money. In those cases that's money they would never have made if their book hadn't been free.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Being a free app of the day gets tens or hundreds of thousands of people to download and review your app. Unless it really sucks, the reviewers tend to be quite generous. Amazon guarantees a front page listing for your app for two weeks after that, and even after that point it will show up whenever someone sorts by downloads or ratings. If you and I both make a todo list app, and mine is the free app of the day at some point, then a year from now whenever someone searches the app store for "todo list" th

      • by AncientPC (951874)

        One drawback is Amazon allows you to download and install the app even if your phone is not compatible. This is because Amazon wants you to get a free copy of the app if you upgrade your phone or Android OS in the future.

        However there is no warning of this to end users, so what ends up happening is random bugs or FC's which lead to poor reviews by uneducated users.

    • by salesgeek (263995)

      But giving your stuff away doesn't make you money.

      It can, but only if you plan for it. First, you have to have a second sale plan is. Second, you have to build a mechanism to make the second sale happen. For example, you could release a new version with more features people want and charge for the upgrade. You could use a bult in messaging feature to tell your customers about the upgrade or even another app in the future. Software makers have a deep history of finding ways to give it away for free, and the

  • Like countless other foreigners, my Amazon appstore account has a fake name, fake US address, and fake US credit-card number.
    Using it to get a paid app might be crossing a line, even if it worked.

  • Its a little disapointing they only printed stats for a few days before of sales and stopped at that they should have posted the after stats so we could see if the exposure they got was worth it as amazon tried to say it would be.

    • According to the article, it went back to the usual two or three per day.

      • Then why not show that in the stats? It makes me suspect that the sales were up somewhat - not much, but enough that it would distract from the point they were trying to make.
  • They got on the plane, they knew what they were getting into.

    I say, let 'em crash." -- Airplane

    Get over it. You knew who you were getting into bed with. You signed up. Nobody put a gun to your head.

  • There are over 100,000 people using Amazon's app store!? That *is* shocking!

  • when someone wants to give away your app and pay you nothing, say no.

    Don't whine about it. I mean, you knew you where going to give it away, so don' complain about the added hardware costs.

    Clearly they're upset to learn that there app is just useful enough to be worth 0 dollars to most people, but worth the time to down load.

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:15PM (#36966818) Homepage

    OK, you got a glass of unsweetened lemon juice. Here is how you put some sugar and water in to make it taste better:

    Time to come out with a pay-only upgrade. You have 100,000 users. If you charge just $1, you have a chunk coming your way, depending on how many upgrade.

    Done in one.

    Oh, and this is why apps should always have a way for the developer to message the user with a link. This way if you get sick of the market that distributes your app, you can tell you users to "Get super awesome app 2 here (links to app store that isn't the one you are mad at)."

    Finally, you can use the same in app message feature to tell your users about your other apps.

    Or you can go sulk about your 100,000 user new customer base. It's up to you.

  • Back in April the International Game Developers Association released an advisory to members detailing how onerous the terms and conditions of this app store are. http://igdaboard.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/important-advisory-about-amazon%E2%80%99s-appstore-distribution-terms-2/ [wordpress.com] .

  • I think the main point of the developer is to clear up a misconception about Amazon's app store (which I also had until I saw this story). Many people assumed that Amazon would still pay the devs 20% of list even if it the free app of the day. Now that I know the nitty-gritty how it actually works I understand why it's actually 0%. If Amazon reduced the price w/o the dev's agreement, he would get 20%. In this case, though, the dev was asked if he wanted to see his app as free app of the day, i.e. you had to
  • by pkinetics (549289) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:09PM (#36967248)
    I found it amusing, mostly because it reminds me of me years ago, when I was a naive developer. Now I'm more worldly, not necessarily wiser, very much more cynical and not trusting.

    Even further down the author actually admits "As we said in our post, we deserved what we got, because we did indeed agree to it". Simply put, if they had asked the right question, and not beat around the bush, they would have gotten it explained.

    They make this comment, which I found kind of snot nosed brat kind of comment, back to Amazon at the initial onset:

    We’d be happy to reconsider if you decided to pay us the 20% that we agreed to in our original developer agreement, but this new one seems to favour only you, at the expense of us?

    Amazon's response is:

    ... and in fact, with as the Free of the Day for one day, you will receive a subsequent Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days. All these highly valuable placements are at no cost to you. We want to promote your app and in exchange of the placements, at the 0% rev share for one day only.

    Amazon never said they would get 20%. Matter of fact, Amazon emphasis that there is no expense to the developers to get potentially highly profitable placement. Their actual technical complaints, slightly valid, accounts for about 7 bullet points, and 20 sentences. Their first technical point is rather naive. Assuming that Amazon would immediately post something is... well stupid. Just cause Google does it, does not mean Amazon is Google.

    The developer's use of the words "expense" implied a different meaning to people in marketing and sales. The developer's point was that they would not make money and have costs of supporting the free sales. The marketing / sales / accounting people, think of expense as the cost of doing business. Grasshopper chose his words poorly.

    The reality is they do not have enough business savvy. They hopefully will gain this over time.

    Its always amusing to me cause in college, CS and Business Admin students mock each other. And yet when it comes to the real world, they both need knowledge from the others area of expertise.

  • I can't believe ANY developer would submit apps to the AppStore under those conditions. I'm not talking about the "secret" ones, I'm talking about:

    "Amazon gets to set the price of your app to whatever they want, without any input from you, or even the chance to reject their price"

    That would be a complete deal-killer for almost every developer I know. How would anyone come up with a business plan if they don't know how much their product is going to be sold for?

    Is the MarketPlace that awful, that developers

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