David Heinemeier Hansson

January 9, 2024

Apple approves the HEY Calendar

I’ll admit it was a bit cheeky to make our new HEY Calendar app “do something” by including Apple’s own history as a preview for people who don’t have an account. And I didn’t give the gambit better than 30% odds of succeeding, but lo and behold, it did! Apple has approved our app, and it’s now available in the App Store!

What a relief! We’ve spent a whole year getting the HEY Calendar ready. Millions of dollars in investment. And, as sad as it sounds, it all hinges on Apple. About 85% of paying customers for HEY use Macs and iPhones, so if Apple denied us the ability to distribute our app, we’d be dead.

That was the same existential dilemma we faced back in 2020 as well. Tons of businesses, including ours, simply aren't viable if Apple cuts off the air supply that is access to the pocket computers most popular with people who pay for software. With stakes this high, it’s no surprise that scarcely anyone dares to fight them. Most, wisely, just lower their head, stay quiet, and grit their teeth.

But that was never our way. This is one of the benefits of being a fully independent company. Jason and I can choose to stand on principle, even if it comes at great risk to the business. There’s no board, no MBAs, no venture capitalists in the background running the cost-benefit analysis. Just two looney tunes on banjo and bass who love making great software.

It shouldn’t need to be this daring, though. Which is why I’m happy to hear that the US Department of Justice is in its final preparation for its big monopoly case against Apple. And that we’re just months away from seeing relief in Europe by virtue of the Digital Markets Act, which mandates both Apple and Google to ensure access to their platforms for alternative app stores, side loading, and all the other basic computer distribution forms that users enjoy on Mac and Windows.

But while those wheels of justice are turning slowly, ours are spinning at full speed. We’re in the final stretch of rolling out the HEY Calendar to all HEY customers this week. We just let in thousands of additional, eager folks to the system. It’s so fun to hear their feedback and the love for what our team has built. Rethinking calendars has been just as rewarding as rethinking email.

And look, we were never seriously going to give Gmail or iCloud a run for their marketshare. We have many tens of thousands of customers, but they have hundreds of millions. All we’re asking is to be allowed to sell the niche product that is a paid email and calendar system to people who really care. The majority of folks on earth don’t fall into that category, and will just use whatever comes with their iPhone or deal with the ads and privacy issues on Gmail.

But in 2024, HEY has never been better. It even works with people’s existing Gmail accounts now. It’s got all the innovative features we launched with PLUS all the table-stake features we filled in over the past few years. And now we’ve tackled the biggest blocker for adoption: An integrated calendar. So happy everyone with an iPhone can now enjoy it too.

Oh, and thanks to everyone who cheered us along the way. There’ll always be a legion of Apple fans to defend every abusive tactic the company employs, but there absolutely is also a huge tribe of developers who recognize monopoly bullshit when they see it. The loud, impressive support from this group really helped us push through this second round of nonsense.

Now let’s get on with 2024. Once we’ve finished the full release of the HEY Calendar this week, we’ll be focused on routing around all this app store nonsense with our new ONCE series of products that we’ve bet exclusively on PWA technology with. Can’t wait to share!


About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.