Heartbreaking: David Heinemeier Hansson Makes a Great Point mjtsai.com

David Heinemeier Hansson:

But unfortunately there is no rule of law with the app stores, except that of the jungle, and Apple is the 800 lbs gorilla, ruling as it sees fit. So now HEY is back on trial in their kangaroo court. This time with our new calendar feature, HEY Calendar, which we dared make a separate app in service of users.

After spending 19 days to review our submission, causing us to miss a long-planned January 2nd launch date, Apple rejected our stand-alone free companion app “because it doesn’t do anything”. That is because users are required to login with an existing account to use the functionality.

This feels familiar because the exact same thing happened just before WWDC 2020 with the Hey email client: Apple rejected it because it showed only a login screen and did not permit users to register within the app. This is common among many types of applications available in the App Store but, apparently, this was not allowed for the specific category into which Hey fit.

After some bad press, Apple added a new rule for the App Store to permit free client applications of paid web services, “(eg. VOIP, Cloud Storage, Email Services, Web Hosting)”.

Michael Tsai:

The plain reading of this is that the items in parentheses are examples, not an exhaustive list.

That is the only logical explanation. After all, what rule would permit a free frontend for a paid email service, but not for a calendar? Alas, the Hey Calendar client was rejected by Apple for — the company says — the same reason as the email client, even though there is now a specific exemption in the App Store guidelines for email clients like the one for Hey.

Anyway, Hansson says a new build of Hey Calendar has been submitted purely to address the issue of it not doing anything unless someone logs in, and the thing the app will do is show anniversaries of notable days in Apple’s history.

Stephen Hackett, creator of the Apple History Calendar:

For each of my three Kickstarters, I’ve included digital versions of the highlighted dates for people to import into their calendar apps.

Coincidences happen, right? It is not like Hackett owns these dates and, according to Hackett, it appears Hey’s data is entirely unique and not a duplicate of the Apple History Calendar. But this is Hansson who reverted to type to make it clear that, yes, this was a spiritual ripoff:

This is essentially a digital version of the 2024 Apple History Calendar that raised over $40,000 on Kickstarter. Apple has a rich history that lots of people want to relive, and we’re giving them that inside the beautiful HEY Calendar app. For free!

What a dick.

The primary story remains Apple’s unpredictable policing of the App Store, capriciously rejecting apps from even well-known developers. But the secondary narrative here is of bullies: Apple, yes, but also Hansson. It should have been easy for both Apple and Hansson to make this situation look good in the face of yet another dumb App Review move, but neither chose that route.