Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Mac App Store vs. MacUpdate: FIGHT!

A recurring theme on the MacUpdate site is "if you're on the Mac App Store, I won't buy your software."

And most developers are okay with that, because the recurring theme among developers is : "fuck you, MacUpdate, you had your chance."

I'm sorry if that's offensive to MacUpdate's users, but that's reality. The fact is, a single day of promotion on Apple's now defunct 'downloads' page would yield 20x the sales as the same day on MacUpdate. And it looks like Mac App Store developers are experiencing the same thing. Additionally, most of the complaints that developers had about MacUpdate went (and continue to go) unanswered.

Angry Conjure Bunny is Not Amused

Some history...
MacUpdate (and VersionTracker before it) were started years ago. Actually, I gave both companies free ads when they were starting up on my site. (VersionTracker has since been absorbed by CNET's site and is largely ignored by Mac developers). Since Mac developers weren't able to get their software in stores ("who buys Mac software? No one"), we had to find more creative ways to get the word out to Mac users about our software. So by the time the PC world started to catch on, most Mac users were already used to buying Mac software online. Sites like MacUpdate helped make that a reality. Today, we have Apple's official Mac App Store, which combines services like MacUpdate and the tedious accounting side of things.

Since its inception, MacUpdate has been a tremendous help for a lot of developers, but it is very user-oriented. Developers who post there are often treated with great suspicion, and it's not uncommon to see a user really go off on an indie developer over a minor issue. Lately, MacUpdate has been ignoring developers' problems, and now its users are suffering for it.

As both a developer AND a user of both stores, I think I know why. So this is both an explanation of the problems they face, and an explanation of what both could do to help everyone. I still have high hopes for MacUpdate, but probably because I gravitate towards the underdog. That strategy doesn't usually work out for me, unfortunately.

Apple's Mac App Store Gooddish: 
Incredible exposure. Since they push this to every Mac user, developers are seeing the massive sales numbers they saw from leveraging the Downloads page on Apple's site (which was previously linked to from the Apple menu of every Mac). Also, Apple lets you report abusive criticisms comments, something MacUpdate seems to have done away with.

Apple's Mac App Store Baddish: 
Apple takes a 30% share of your profits, plus you don't get paid for almost (or over) a month. Plus, they don't let you distribute a 'demo' version, so the end user can't legitimately try an app before they buy it.

That's not exactly a bad thing though. It means the reviews for the app are from people who at least plunked money down for it. Shills for your competitors can't poison your well by leaving horrible reviews, as they often do on MacUpdate. Angry personal vendettas aren't taken out as easily if there's a price tag. Both have hit Conjure a number of times in the past, with non-paying customers angry that they couldn't find legitimate crack keys on the Internet, or they didn't like it when I refused to give them a free copy. I used to watch both MacUpdate and our YouTube channel for this, and I'd catch people doing this fairly often. They'd give Conjure a 1 star review and claim it destroyed everything on their computer. Or it would crash. Or it installed spyware. None of that was true. Also, on MacUpdate, my competitors would routinely post critical reviews, or link to their apps on my page. Not cool. Quite dickish, actually.

From talking to other developers, I don't have to worry about any of that with the Mac App Store. The price tag alone seems to dissuade users from doing this. And since the credit card you buy an app with is linked to your personal name, it's harder to fake an online persona. That's good for everyone. Unfortunately, they don't let you respond to criticism on the Mac App Store, without posting a review as well. It makes us look like we're just ignorant corporate pigs, hoping a gullible public will be suckered into buying our crap, while we ignore their cries for help. The reality is that most of us actually sit and watch reviews like they were the Royal Wedding (this is a contextual reference, and will make no sense a month from now).

MacUpdate gooddish: 
Anyone can sell there, via the Mac App Store or their own system. That's good for developers like me, who want to be paid *soon* for sales, not in 1-2 months. That's also good for end users, because I can offer demo versions. Also, I can respond to criticism there, though the layout for responses is somewhat odd. I hear they're working on that, though. Hey, at least I can respond.

MacUpdate baddish:
As I said, negative reviews really hurt sales. One angry asshole can sink a year's worth of work, by making stuff up. And the MacUpdate crew seems to particularly side with the *users* instead of the developers. In fact, they'll post updates to your apps without your consent, unless you notify them in advance not to do it. So if you updated the download link for the app late on Thursday night, in preparation for a launch on Friday morning, Friday morning you'll find your app announcement stuck deep down the list on yesterday's news. Also, they appear to have done away with the ability to report abuse, while Apple added that feature.

So here's my simple suggestions for both:
Apple: You would do well to let developers offer in-app unlocking, similar to how in-app purchases work on the iPhone app store. Then the ability to offer demo versions would be allowed.

Also, you need to create a way for the developer to provide responses to users, without having to post a review of their own (with stars). The current system makes us look like idiots. I know you don't want to host a 'forum' for every developer, but that's just part of what you're doing by letting people post they way they do now. Only that you're not letting the developers respond. It's a one-way forum. Not cool.

MacUpdate: You need to be more friendly towards developers. I'd say over 70% of the conversations I've had with your staff have been negative, or at least confrontational. That's not good. You need to put your foot down on obvious collusion, and let people report negative comments again. Additionally, you should let developers have a little more control over the announcements. You're not the only game in town anymore, so stop trying to boss developers around, and work with us.


Right now I'm weighing my options on the new version of Conjure. I might release a 4.3 version, based on the current codebase with a lot of the 4.5 features built in. In order to get into the App store, I need to shelf several of those features, since they violate the TOS agreement for Mac App Store sales. But with MacUpdate's less friendly atmosphere towards developers, plus the absolute difference in sales figures, they're pushing me towards a Mac App Store-only release.

I want to believe MacUpdate will step up to the challenge of the Mac App Store, and be a real competitor. Let me put this another way. See that 30 percent cut that the Mac App Store takes? I'd be paying that to you, if I could *justify* it. If your environment was more friendly to developers, and if you let us promote our software better.

MacUpdate, as it stands, even if your offering was absolutely free, it would still cost too much. Do you even know what you're doing? Have you ever even used a Macintosh computer before?

Oh, did that sound too harsh? That was an excerpt from a 'review' I received on your site, which sat there for two weeks, until I convinced the author to take it down. That was after several emails to your support staff. If you want to know why you're getting your ass kicked by the Mac App Store,  and why developers don't seem to care about you, maybe that kind of behavior has something to do with it.


Michael said...

Love the angry bunny!
Interesting perspective on MU vs VT; since the switch-over, I never look at VersionTracker any more.
Bring on Conjure Pro, or Conjure 4.3!

subcubus said...

Hi there! I have a problem with the current version of Conjure Bunny:

1) it crashes on my iMac & OSX Lion (fresh User & Installation)
2) Using the CB tool to make Pictures only generates black boxes
3) my Wacom tablet does not seem to be working right with it. Dragging objects is extremely slow

Would be cool these issues can be addressed in the next version :)