December 22, 2014

[Opinion] The ShiftyJelly Saga and What I've Learned


By now you may have read the blog/rant “Amazon App Store: Rotten to the Core.” This blog rant was written by developers ShiftyJelly and takes on the pros and cons (well more cons really) of the Amazon App Store and its “Free App of the Day” program. This piece has been making its way around the intrawebs garnering all sorts of opinions and backlash. A lot of people are criticizing ShiftyJelly and their motives, asking “why?” Why are they ranting about policies that they were made clear of beforehand and that they ultimately agreed to? Before I go on, here is a link to the blog for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about.

Okay, now that you have had the chance to read over the article, let me give you my opinion on the subject (even if you don’t want it). First off, from a developer prespective, they knew what they were getting into. There were no surprises, everything was presented to them (sometimes in bold) before they went ahead and agreed to the terms. Reading the article has made me realize how crappy of a deal developers are getting when they decide to join Amazon’s app store but never-the-less it is a crappy deal these developers have agreed to. Do I agree with proponents of “they’re idiots for signing up?” Yes. Do I feel sorry for them? A little. Do I think their rant is rubbish? Absolutely not!

The ShiftyJelly rant opened up my eyes to a huge misconception among the Android community regarding Amazon’s free app of the day promo. It seems many people, including myself, believed Android developers were in fact getting paid from FAOTD downloads. There are a significant number of people who have downloaded FAOTD apps with no intention of ever using them, they simply did it to support developers. I can honestly tell you I have yet to purchase a single app from the Amazon App Store. Any app I have purchased has been through the Android Market for the simple fact that I do not want my apps to stop working should I ever decide to stop using the Amazon App Store. Any app I have from the Amazon App Store has come from the FAOTD promotion. I used to feel good about downloading the FAOTD, I was not only getting a free app but also helping support the developer. I now know this to be untrue thanks to the ShiftyJelly rant.

When trying to make sense of all of this I can only come to the conclusion that Amazon’s FAOTD promo is only beneficial to developers whose apps are ad-supported or include in-app purchases. Developers take heed when deciding whether or not to sign up with Amazon, and for us consumers, the realization that developers are receiving zip, zilch, zero for any app featured in Amazon’s FAOTD, will this change our minds about downloading these freebies? Probably not, but I, for one, am grateful for the ShiftyJelly Saga. It has cleared up some misconceptions, inspired debate, and forced us all to become a little more conscious about where we get our apps. So regardless of your intentions, ShiftyJelly, I thank you!



  • http://twitter.com/shiftyjelly Shifty Jelly

    You’re welcome ;)

    Our intention was never for people to feel sorry for us, and yes we knew damn well what we were getting into. Our WHOLE point was about clearing up the fallacy that Amazon pays developers for the FOATD. We also wanted to tell people that the whole downloads thing afterwards is bogus too, and as you’ve said above people only use the store to get free apps. We’ll be writing a follow up soon, but case in point, you can get into the top 20 paid apps in there store with 16 downloads. On the Market that would take 1600 or more, on iOS 16,000 ;)

  • http://iamandroid.co/profile/rocktoonz Rocktoonz

    It seems to me that if Google were to offer a FAOTD where the devs actually get paid for downloads that day, even if they only get paid a fraction what they would normally get, then Devs would have zero reason to give Amazon permission to use their apps in their FAOTD and more than likely the Amazon App Store would die a very swift death.  Devs would be happy, users would still be supporting the Devs even if they didn’t actually use the app, and Amazon would….well, realize too late that by contractually screwing people over you find yourself in a very lonely place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507041011 James McPartland

    HUH?? Makes no sense at all?? Free App of the Day…. and you thought they were getting paid?? WOW… I don’t get that at all. Isn’t it basically to get the App out there?? isn’t that why a Developer would agree to that??

    • http://twitter.com/jakechance Jake Chance

      As I understand it, Amazon publicly offers developers 20% of their normal price (even though the current price is free) to use their app as a FAOTD as opposed to the 70% cut they’d normally get by selling it. After you start talking about getting your app as the FAOTD that’s when they tell you you’ll be getting 0%. You still have to agree to it, but it’s a private deal that is contrary to the public one.

      • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

        Before this shiftyjelly thing I had never heard the notion that people actually thought that developers got a thing from being a part of FAOTD besides exposure.  It seems highly intuitive that Amazon would pay a developer money to give an app away for free.  Do you have a link to any Amazon statements stating or implying that developers get monetary compensation for FAOTD?

        Now there may well be some exceptions to this, for example I’m sure that Rovio got paid to launch Angry Birds Rio as a free app in conjunction with the launch of the Amazon Appstore, of course very few developers can get that kind of deal.

        • http://twitter.com/jakechance Jake Chance

          That information is in the developer agreement according to Shifty Jelly (awesome logo). I cannot see this information myself as I’m not a developer. According to Amazon’s FAQ, that’s the only way to get it.

          Where can I get a copy of Amazon’s Appstore Distribution Agreement?

          Log in to the Amazon Appstore Developer Portal, click on Help, and then
          click on Developer Documents. You will be able to review the current
          version of the Appstore Distribution Agreement.

          • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

            According to the rant/blog shiftyjelly they were talking about a 20% revenue share, now I would think think that 20% of $0 is still $0 and if they asked (as they said they did) for 20% of the original price on something being given away they were just being (extremely) hopeful.

            It’s not like people who have free (all the time free) apps can/do expect to get paid by Amazon for every download.

  • http://twitter.com/jakechance Jake Chance

    I wonder about those huge name players with Amazon exclusive launches. What sort of deal did PopCap get on releasing Plants vs Zombies, Peggle, and Chuzzle exclusively on Amazon AND as the FAOTD? PopCap isn’t a company that really needs the exposure so I cannot imaging they simply gave all three away for nothing. It’d be great to hear from them on it but I won’t hold my breath.

  • http://twitter.com/jakechance Jake Chance

    I wonder about those huge name players with Amazon exclusive launches. What sort of deal did PopCap get on releasing Plants vs Zombies, Peggle, and Chuzzle exclusively on Amazon AND as the FAOTD? PopCap isn’t a company that really needs the exposure so I cannot imaging they simply gave all three away for nothing. It’d be great to hear from them on it but I won’t hold my breath.

  • Lauren Wszolek

    “There are a significant number of people who have downloaded FAOTD apps with no intention of ever using them, they simply did it to support developers.” – This is akin to clicking on banner ads just to generate revenue for the sites they are posted on. This is a violation of TOS in these sorts of systems and also attempting to cheat the ad companies.

    I also do not understand why it is so shocking that 20% of $0 is $0. Even after brief perusal of the Amazon app store, I was never under any impression that the free app of the day was anything but free advertisement (or only the cost of supporting the servers). This entire discussion seems quite silly to me.

    • http://rectangularsoftware.com Dan

      The Amazon Developer Agreement clearly states that the developer will get 20% of the list price (not the sale price), so it’s not 20% of $0, it’s 20% of whatever price the developer set.  The problem is that Amazon is then bypassing this part of the original agreement by requiring developers to agree to different terms in order to be considered for Free App of the Day.

  • http://twitter.com/VinMessina Vincent Messina

    To be honest, I’m not sure where the misconception of developers getting paid for FAOTD started but when the Android App Store was in its infancy many statements circulated such as this one from TechCrunch: 

    The biggest departure from the mobile app stores we’ve grown accustomed to involves pricing. Unlike Apple’s App Store and Android Market, where developers can set their price to whatever they’d like, Amazon retains full control over how it wants to price your application. The setup is a bit confusing: upon submitting your application, you can set a ‘List Price’, which is the price you’d normally sell it at. Amazon will use a variety of market factors to determine what price it wants to use, and you get a 70% cut of the proceeds of each sale (which is the industry standard). In the event that Amazon steeply discounts your application, or offers it for free, you’re guaranteed to get 20% of the List Price. 

    http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/05/amazon-android-app-store-2/

    You can see at the end of the statement they say “In the event that Amazon steeply discounts your application, or offers it for free, you’re guaranteed to get 20% of the List Price.”This was something that many people understood to be true and is why many of us thought devs were getting paid, even for the FAOTD (which is a discounted price).

    Note: Don’t blame TechCrunch individually, there were numerous sources reporting the same information. .

    • http://rectangularsoftware.com Dan

      Amazon’s Developer Agreement (still) states that developers will get at least 20% of the list price even if the app is given away for free. It seems that they are then asking developers to waive this entitlement in order to be considered as Free App of the Day.

      It’s understandable that developers thought they would get 20% as that is what they agreed to.  I suspect that many wouldn’t have bothered to sign up if they had realised that Amazon would then pull a bait and switch and require agreement to a different set of conditions in order for the app to actually be given away free.