An Open Letter to Steve Jobs
Update (April 22, 2010): This article at Venturebeat suggests that iPhone application measurement vendors are hearing good news from Apple regarding their ability to measure in-app data. The article, however, is devoid of any kind of details whatsoever and so the Tweets saying “Apple NOT banning analytics from OS 4.0″ appear to be somewhat optimistic in my opinion. I’d love to hear from Google, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics, Unica, etc. and see if they are having the same “you have nothing to worry about” conversations with Apple. Obviously is Venturebeat is correct this is great news, but if I were developing an iPhone application I’d want a little more than rumor to contradict the language in Section 3.3.9.
Wait and see I guess …
Dear Mr. Jobs,
As a very loyal Apple customer and user of your products I want to thank you for all that you’ve done for computing in general. Your attention to detail and your vision have resulted in many of the most useful and usable products I own, too many to list honestly. While I was able to hold off for three days before purchasing the original iPhone (now on my third since I upgrade with every release) I pre-ordered my iPad and absolutely love it.
Thanks for that.
Unfortunately as a long-time member of the digital measurement industry I am in the uncomfortable position of having to ask you to reconsider what will undoubtedly be viewed by many Apple customers, developers, and end-users as an egregious mistake. I am talking about Section 3.3.9 in your updated iPhone Developer Agreement in which you apparently ban all third-party in-app measurement. While I respect Apple’s right to privacy, for those not familiar with Section 3.3.9 I would encourage you to read the following articles:
- Apple Places New Limits on App Developers
- New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Third-Party Analytics and Services
The summary statement is that your updated Developer Agreement, if my read is accurate, strips all of your Development partners of their ability to measure application usage with an eye towards improving the overall quality of their product. Just as a reminder these Developer partners include Best Buy, Expedia, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Netflix, and some 150,000+ other companies working to deliver great experiences on your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices.
While I certainly understand the over-arching desire to have quality control in all things Apple, which the mobile family of applications essentially become by proxy, banning the ability to measure application use is likely to be met with some resistance among your larger Development partners. Many of these companies are known to me as a consultant and have active programs in place to use solutions like Adobe’s Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics, Unica, Google Analytics, and Yahoo Web Analytics to determine which application functionality is working and which needs to be addressed in future updates.
Given that Apple is a long-time Adobe/Omniture customer I rather suspect that this third-party tracking is embedded in many of your own applications. Perhaps that’s not the case, but given the general utility of these applications I would be pretty surprised if your own developers aren’t in violation of the new Developer Agreement somewhere in the pre-installed application stack.
If not, well, shame on your developers for not embedding application tracking in complex applications like Pages and Keynote on the iPad. While I certainly do love the freedom I have to write on the iPad, I suspect if you were using Adobe/Omniture to track Pages you’d see me continually tapping the page in landscape mode trying to get a menu to come up so I can make a bulleted list …
But I digress.
Since many of your best Development partners are companies well-known for their general prowess for digital analytics — companies like Best Buy, Expedia, Cisco, Netflix, Disney, ABC, ESPN, and many, many more — you may want to give a little more thought to Section 3.3.9. If this section remains you are essentially blocking all of these companies (and all mobile developers in your App Store) from gaining valuable insight into how their applications can be more useful, more delightful, and frankly, more like Apple.
Hopefully this was just a huge oversight on someone else’s part within Apple, especially since as far as anyone knows you don’t have technology available to replace the data that would be lost if (or when) Developers comply with this requirement. It may seem a touch geeky but business owners are increasingly relying on this data to justify the expense and commitment it takes to participate in the App Store (and the mobile revolution in general.)
Being such a fan of your work I’d like to offer a solution, just in case your open to the idea.
Apple has an opportunity to do something that, well, nobody else really has or does in terms of digital measurement. Because of how the App Store works, Apple could create a set of terms and conditions for application tracking that would simultaneously provide guidance to your Developer community and create an unprecedented level of transparency for technology end-users everywhere (or at least those using Apple products.)
Imagine a tier of requirements and resulting notifications to the end-user based on the type of data the application wanted to pass. Just like geo-location requires explicit one-time opt-in today, tracking of individually identifiable (e.g., device-level or personal) data could require the same type of opt-in. For more basic tracking (e.g., completely anonymous interaction data) you could simply allow that without opt-in to foster the growth and development of the application development community.
The most important thing is you would have an opportunity to craft a set of mobile tracking requirements that could be extended and applied across the entire mobile universe. In the same way Apple has changed our relationship with “pocket computing” forever, your company could essentially resolve a problem that in some ways is an accident waiting to happen, and do so in a way that creates opportunities rather than creating tension with the very group that is making your products so successful today.
If this is in any way interesting to you I’d love to discuss it more. My contact information is on my web site.
Measurement is not as sexy as the iPad or iPhone, but at the end of the day it is just about as important. With every new technology comes the need to understand it’s use and justify related expenses. Your Development partners are intensely drawn to the iPhone opportunity to be sure, and it’s great that you’re making people like Loren Brichter and others rich thanks to their efforts.
But not everyone will be as savvy as Apple or as fortunate as Atebits; most companies work to use the limited data they do have to understand user behavior in an effort to make incremental improvements to their applications. Section 3.3.9 seems to prevent this data from getting into your partner’s hands, preventing the very thing I suspect you’re working to promote: the highest quality applications possible delivered via amazing devices.
Hopefully I and others are simply reading Section 3.3.9 the wrong way. I would be honored if you or someone from Apple would provide guidance on this point and I’m happy to help communicate that guidance in whatever way I am able.
Eric T. Peterson
CEO, Founder, and Senior Partner
Web Analytics Demystified, Inc.