David Heinemeier Hansson

March 17, 2021

Google affirms the duopoly grip by following Apple's 15%-on-the-first-million scheme

I can imagine Machiavelli advising Apple on attempting to appease App Store scrutiny by throwing some inconsequential concessions into the ring: What if y'all just lowered the totally obscene 30% cut of revenues to a merely utterly obscene 15%, but then only for the first million in revenue? It would cost you bupkis, but the plebs might buy it!

And he might have continued: Ye might empire could get to spin a tale of how it really cares about small developers, how you're being responsive to feedback, and, again, best of all, it damn near wouldn't cost you a dime! It's a beautiful political play, meant to split an opposition at the lowest possible cost. Classic Machiavelli!

I don't think he would have been so keen on Google following along, though. I bet he would have argued that it undercuts the entire premise of two meaningfully different choices in the market, that they'd be seen as the sheepish follower, and that it doesn't have any of the political punch to be second to a free buffet.

But here goes Google none the less: Yay, we're also doing 15% for the first million, but with slightly different small print conditions, so clearly, there's no problem with defacto collusion, dominance, or lack of choice in app stores!

Even Apple has to be kinda annoyed here, but I suppose that's the prisoner's dilemma. Google wasn't going to let Apple get away with appearing – and appearance was indeed all this was! – more benevolent, so they'd rather make both of them look like bandits than sit there with the lone bad hand.

Anyway, this is good news for the antitrust momentum. Not because these crumbs do anything to counter the core argument, because they most certainly do not, but because it shows the sweating on the other side.

Zero chance either Apple or Google would have announced these show-pony programs out of the goodness of their heart without the pressure. So that validates the strength of the pressure.

All we need now... is diamond hands.

niccolò machiavelli.png

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.