This morning the Wall Street Journal revealed that Apple is cracking down on developers who don’t use the social network’s in-app payment solutions, effectively illustrating the never-ending tension between platform owners and the developers who build on top of those platforms.
Ironically, this is the exact same issue that Facebook is currently facing with developers after setting a deadline of July 1st for making the shift over to Credits. While Facebook Credits will provide plenty of value to developers, many are concerned about the 30 percent cut, something that has been implemented by Apple since the launch of its app platform.
Despite the tension created between platforms and developers, I don’t think we’ll be seeing developers organizing their own Facebook-powered revolutions anytime soon. The idea of a unified voice for developers is an interesting one though and something that isn’t completely new. Back in 2008 Lee Lorenzen, best known for calling Facebook a $100 billion company soon after the platform launched, tried to unite developers through and organization called TheUADA.
The idea was an interesting one but it completely fell apart for a number of reasons. Since then, nobody has dared touch the concept of a developer alliance. Instead, influential companies have been having closed door discussions with Facebook (and presumably Apple) in order to create their own arrangements. While large developers have pull, small developers typically have little influence over the future of the platforms.
The actions of both platforms may not have been bad intentioned. As Kim-Mai Cutler writes, “Enforcing payment rules may be less about squeezing additional revenue out of individual publishers than setting a,precedent before larger potential rivals like Paypal, Amazon or Facebook move in with their own arsenal of payment options inside apps.”
Facebook wants complete control over all transactions because even if they take place through third-party payment providers, Facebook wants a cut. What’s interesting about all this is the continuing shift of the platform ecosystem from one where consumers pay for the platform (e.g. Windows or Mac OSX) to one where the platform owners are just looking to get a cut of all transactions that take place through apps built on top of them (Facebook, iOS, etc).