Spotify laments that Apple is tilting the playing field to Spotify’s disadvantage by imposing a 30% tax on all of its in-app purchases and thereby squeezing Spotify’s margins in what is an extremely competitive music streaming market. Apple’s proprietary music streaming service “Apple Music” is not subject to the same 30% tax that third-party apps pay, putting Spotify in a very unfavorable position versus its biggest competitor. Spotify also complains that Apple deliberately delayed its app updates and blocked out Spotify from Apple Watch and Apple Homepod. Spotify has even taken the battle to the internet, and has created a snazzy website
that enumerates Apple’s abuses specifically targeted at Spotify. Apple has retaliated by justifying its 30% revenue share as rightful return for the access it provides to millions of IOS users.
Clearly there are echoes of the PC wars (and the browser wars) from an earlier era, again something that Apple was involved in.
What does this have to do with the Blockchain and decentralization? Looking beyond the cringeworthy mud-slinging between Apple and Spotify, one conclusion to take home is that centralized platforms are always self-serving and profit-seeking and force app developers to play the game by their rules, which at times might be straight up unfair and frustrating, and app developers who cannot match or fight Apple’s financial muscle should just put up with it as they lack an alternative.
Ethereum has quickly become popular with developers as it offers a level-playing field, censorship resistance, decentralized governance and pre-determined rules that cannot be changed unexpectedly to benefit the ‘owner’ of the platform.
On the flipside though, it seems like decentralized alternatives have a tough time in the initial stages, especially with the lack of standardization on the UX/UI front. Linux (Unix) was fundamentally perceived to be more robust, leading to enterprise adoption of these platforms. In the apple v android comparison, where android is technically the relatively more open-source platform, Apple has a slight edge in UX/UI arguably and is perceived to be the more secure system. In many cases, folks just want a good user experience, and are not really hung up on the underlying mechanism of the system, whether it is decentralized or not.
Net net, our takeaway is that while decentralization is in general a good thing, it is a highly nuanced, subjective call, on a case-by-case basis, on how decentralization can help a specific industry. Because the centralized ‘rent-seeker’ entity charges a rent for providing the service, the entity is able to invest in a better product, and invest in attracting users to the platforms, which then leads to a virtuous cycle, making the platform better. Wikipedia was probably laughed at in its early days, but eventually went on to make other encyclopedias completely redundant. If the core value proposition is significantly better, the UX/UI disadvantages do not matter, that much seems to be clear, judging from the cases of both Wikipedia and Linux. For crypto and Dapp adoption, the corollary to this might be something to keep in mind. If the value proposition is not overwhelming better than the current centralized alternative, the UX/UI has to be on-par, at the very least.