In-App Opt Out

John Gruber, on Spotify’s recent “Time to Play Fair” campaign against Apple:

What Apple should do is allow apps that opt out of IAP to explain that users need to subscribe or make purchases using a web browser, and allow them to link to their website from within the app (even if they’d be required to open that link in Safari, as opposed to an in-app web view).

Everything else in Spotify’s list of complaints seems like noise to me, and distracts from the central issues — which happen to be the issues where Spotify should be on the strongest legal footing.

I agree that most of Spotify’s complaints feel petty and childish — many of their complaints are about limitations with third-party APIs for newly released devices. But I disagree that Apple should allow developers to opt out of the in-app purchase system.

While I do think Apple should reconsider the 30% cut and reduce it to something a bit more reasonable, I think it would be bad for customers overall if developers could point users to external places for digital purchases. One of the great benefits of the in-app purchase system is that it’s secure and trustworthy.

Over the past few years, I’ve had to have my debit card replaced three or four times, likely because of some security vulnerability in a payment system. I don’t have to worry about that with Apple, though. I trust that they’re doing everything they can to keep my payment information safe and secure. It’s hard to say that about others.

Perhaps I’m a bit too paranoid about the security of my payment information, but if a service allows me to pay through an in-app purchase, that’s what I use. This is how I pay for Hulu, the WWE Network, and even YouTube Premium — despite the fact that YouTube’s pricing is higher through the in-app purchase than it is if purchased elsewhere.

Here’s the thing about allowing developers to opt out: it’s a slippery slope. If Apple allowed developers to push users to a website for purchasing digital goods, they would. There are plenty of payment systems out there and building a website that integrates with them is easier than ever. But I don’t want to give my credit card credentials to every single developer that builds an app I’m interested in. Doing so will only increase the chances of my debit or credit card becoming compromised and then I have to go through the hassle of getting it replaced, which is a major pain.

To be fair, if developers used Apple Pay on their websites, these security concerns would be mitigated. But it’s not just the security aspect that has me on board with in-app purchases, simplicity is another major factor. The ability to quickly purchase a subscription through the app using my fingerprint, restore a subscriptions on another device, and manage all of my subscriptions in one a single location are niceties that would go out the window if Apple allowed developers to opt out.

That last point is a pretty crucial one for me. If I want to cut a subscription or two in a world where developers could opt out, I’d have to login to each service’s website and hunt around for the option to cancel my subscription. This seems like an awful experience compared to tapping on my profile picture in the App Store and selecting “Manage Subscriptions”.

Maybe I’m in the minority because I don’t use Netflix — I’m sure many iOS users already have plenty of subscriptions that they manage outside of the in-app purchase system and they get by just fine. But we need to consider whether allowing developers to opt out of in-app purchases is in any way an improvement for users. I don’t think it is. Don’t get me wrong, I truly want developers to have a sustainable career so they can continue building great apps. But isn’t providing the best experience for your users the best way to do that?

In-app purchases are always going to be superior to the alternatives and there are plenty of ways to fix the problems surrounding it without having to throw it out entirely by allowing developers to opt out.

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macOS Menu Bar Apps

As I mentioned in my recent MacBook Air review, I’ve spent a lot more time on macOS over the past handful of months. I still use my iPad Air 2 as my primary machine for personal use, but I do just about all of my work as a Happiness Engineer on macOS.

Since I’ve already shared my thoughts about the new hardware, I wanted to speak a bit about the software I’ve been using. I won’t be covering everything today, instead focusing on the Menu Bar apps that I have installed — whether they’re a crucial part of my workflow or something I’m currently testing.

Aside from the standard Wi-Fi, Sound, Battery, Time, Siri, Spotlight, Time Machine, and Bluetooth icons, I have the following applications in my Menu Bar:

  • Alfred: I’m basically incapable of functioning on a Mac without this app installed. I think Merlin Mann is to blame for that. All of his coverage of Quicksilver after I first purchased a MacBook in 2006 has ingrained into my brain that ctrl+space is my go-to keyboard shortcut when I want to do, basically, anything on my Mac. I use it for launching applications, opening files, and searching the web. I have nearly two dozen custom web searches setup that allow me to quickly access Automattic’s internal tools and documentation while I work. It allows me to be productive and efficient in a way that no other application has.
  • Droplr: I share a lot of screenshots and GIFs during my time working with WordPress.com users and Droplr is the best app I’ve found for sharing these files. I usually use macOS’ built-in keyboard shortcuts for taking the screenshots, then I can drop them on to Droplr’s icon in the Menu Bar to share them. The app uploads the file, opens it in my web browser, and automatically adds a URL I can share to my clipboard. If I need to markup or annotate a file, I can do so with its built-in tools and the app even has the ability to record a GIF of a specific portion of my screen, which I can use for illustrating more complicated, multi-step tasks.
  • TextExpander: While, I’ve only just scratched the surface of the efficiency and productivity gains that this application allows for, this is another essential application for me. Since I do a lot of typing throughout the day, I use TextExpander to automatically expand small bits of text into larger snippets that I find myself typing frequently. I only have about three snippets that I use regularly, but I plan to grow that list over time as each one becomes fully integrated into my workflows — there’s no sense in adding a bunch of snippets only to realize that you don’t remember or use most of them.
  • Hocus Focus: This application automatically hides other app windows after they’ve been inactive for a period of time. It helps keep my screen clear of clutter and allows me to focus on the task at hand. I’ve only used the app for a few weeks, but I like it quite a bit so far. I have non-active apps set to hide after two minutes and only disable the feature when I’m on video chats with other members of my team.
  • Bartender: A simple little application that let’s me hide the majority of my Menu Bar apps behind an ellipses icon. This is especially useful when I’m working on my Air’s 13-inch display, since it keeps my menu bar icons from overtaking my screen. I have it setup to hide everything except the applications and system status indicators that I use most — Droplr, Wi-Fi, Sound, and Time.
  • Moom: This is an app that I’m still testing at the moment. It allows you to reorganize, resize, and reposition your application windows with the ability to save these as presets that can trigger with a keyboard shortcut or when you connect or disconnect an external display. Since I often switch throughout the day between my external LG UltraFine 5K display and the MacBook Air’s built-in display, I suspect this will become an essential app for me once I have the time to configure it for all my apps.
  • Backblaze: I started using Backblaze as one of my backup solutions a few months ago. I still use Time Machine with an external drive, but since I use my MacBook Air portably a lot, I don’t have it connected most of the time. Backblaze helps to fill in those gaps for me by continuously backing up my machine, as long as I have an internet connection.
  • 1Password: This is my favorite password manager by far and I use it on all of my devices. It’s thoughtfully designed, incredibly powerful, easy to use, and let’s me share passwords with my wife through our family account. If you aren’t using a password manager, I highly recommend giving this one a try.
  • Turbo Boost Switcher Pro: This little utility app allows me to enable and/or disable Turbo Boost on my MacBook Air, primarily as a way to increase battery life. This is another application that I haven’t spent much time actually testing, but I expect it will be invaluable when I’m traveling.

I have to say, I’ve had a lot of fun finding and testing applications for the Mac over the last handful of months. Although I never exactly “abandoned” the platform entirely, I certainly haven’t paid as much attention to the new software and tools that have been released over the last couple of years. So if there are better options to fill the roles of the apps listed above or you have a recommendation for an app I might be interested, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter. I’m always on the look out for the latest and greatest software.

MacBook Air


—January 6, 2019

After the API Changes


—August 30, 2018

Questions in Your Timeline


—August 1, 2018

Uninformed Purchases


—July 24, 2018

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