Now Apollo Faces the Cliff

When Twitter unceremoniously pulled the plug on third-party clients earlier this year, commercial Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific were left in a perilous position. I wrote:

Twitter’s kneecapping of third-party clients didn’t just mean that their future revenue was gone — it meant revenue they’d already collected from App Store subscriptions would need to go back to customers in the form of prorated refunds for the remaining months on each and every user’s annual subscriptions. Consider the gut punch of losing your job — you stop earning income. It’s brutal. Now imagine that the way it worked when you get fired or laid off is that you’re also suddenly on the hook to pay back the last, say, 6 months of your income. That’s where Tapbots and The Iconfactory are.

I can’t recall a situation like this, with an ecosystem of third-party clients collecting subscriptions and then having the first-party service yank the carpet out from under them — and their customers — with zero warning or sunset period.

Alas, this situation has become a recurring theme. Now it’s Apollo, the exquisitely well-made Reddit client by Christian Selig. The situation is nearly identical: Apollo stopped working earlier this week, and Selig is on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds to annual subscribers.

Just as with Tweetbot and Twitterrific, if you’re a subscriber to Apollo, here’s what you can do to support Selig:

  1. Reinstall Apollo if you’ve already deleted it; otherwise, make sure you’re running the latest version.
  2. Tap the “I Don’t Need a Refund” button.
  3. Feel good and go buy yourself a treat, knowing you helped a talented developer (and nice person).

Here’s Selig, in his goodbye post on the Apollo subreddit:

It feels disingenuous on the surface to say “I want to thank all of you”, but in this case it’s demonstrably true. I’ve worked on this app for over 9 years, and I’ve never felt burned out, I get such a crazy amount of energy and enjoyment out of building something so publicly alongside such an awesome community, and you seriously have no idea how easy product development is when your north star is just “listen to what people are saying”. [...]

I’m really heartbroken with how this whole process unfolded, I truly drank the Kool Aid talking to Reddit at the beginning that this was something they were going into in good faith with the interest of developers, moderators, and the community as a whole, but as many people pointed out to me, it’s clear now that ultimately wasn’t their intent. If they wanted something that could work for everyone, they would have simply made an effort to listen, instead of being dishonest, callous, and punitive in pricing. I’m sorry to all the folks who, like me, lost Apollo abruptly as a result of this. I had so much more I wanted to do with this app!

But, legitimately, I really feel a sense of that “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” right now. I grew up so much developing Apollo, I met and learned from so many incredible people, made lifelong friends, got to go to multiple WWDCs and was even featured in a few, and I got to work on a product and platform I absolutely loved for 9 years. That’s an incredible run, and it’s hard to feel anything but thankful for that.

In addition to the “I Don’t Need a Refund” button, the final release of Apollo has a bunch of bonus content, including a few dozen wallpapers and some treats for Selig’s other app, Pixel Pals. I find Selig’s good spirits in the face of this debacle to be inspiring. (See also: Selig’s recent appearance on The Talk Show.)