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Apple Rejects 'Readability' iOS App, 'Software as a Service' Offerings Jeopardized


As noted by TechCrunch, popular software service Readability published an open letter to Apple today addressing its concerns over Apple's rejection of the service's new iOS application developed in collaboration with Instapaper creator Marco Arment. Readability offers a subscription service priced at $5 per month which offers the users to view clutter- and ad-free versions of online content for easy reading, and Apple's rejection of the Readability iOS application was based on the application's lack of support for in-app purchasing, which Apple is now requiring all subscription-based apps to offer so that Apple can take a 30% cut of revenue.

We're obviously disappointed by this decision, and surprised by the broad language. By including "functionality, or services," it's clear that you intend to pursue any subscription-based apps, not merely those of services serving up content. Readability's model is unique in that 70% of our service fees go directly to writers and publishers. If we implemented In App purchasing, your 30% cut drastically undermines a key premise of how Readability works.

Readability's argument lies in the fact that the service does not in fact offer content subscriptions, but instead utilizes subscriptions to support writers and publishers whose work is already freely-available on the Internet. Apple's policies are of course broad enough to include such functionalities within its in-app subscription requirements, but Readability argues that the move threatens small independent developers trying to make a go of something akin to "software as a service" (SaaS) as differentiated from the true content providers that have received most of the publicity with regards to Apple's subscription policies.

Apple of course has cast its subscription policy net as widely as possible, and many developers will find reasons why their offerings shouldn't be subject to the requirements. But Readbility's situation is somewhat unique if only for the fact that Apple worked closely with Readability to include the service's functionality as a feature of Safari 5, released last June. As a result of the collaboration, Readability's functionality appears as a built-in "Reader" functionality in Safari that strips away extraneous content of web pages to focus on the page's primary article content.

Update: As has been noted by several readers, Apple and Readability didn't actually work together on Safari 5's "Reader" functionality. Apple utilized open source aspects of Readability's work to create the Safari functionality.