Marco Arment, developer of the Instapaper app, has been one of the most insightful bloggers on the challenges and opportunities of Apple’s iOS platform. Now he’s facing scrutiny about his own platform-running policies.
The cause is a controversy around Apple-focused news website 9 to 5 Mac, which has a testy relationship with Arment. After the most recent flare-up – an article that included a reference to Instapaper as ‘Instascraper’, but also mentioned the app in relation to the rumoured leak of 12m UDIDs from iOS devices.
Arment expressed his anger on Twitter at the time, but he also added 9 to 5 Mac to Instapaper’s ‘opt-out’ list – usually used for publishers who choose not to have their articles made accessible by Instapaper. A worrying move, since 9 to 5 Mac had not opted out.
Arment has now apologised, saying that “in retrospect, that was an overreaction. 9to5Mac’s statements, as much as they angered and scared me, did not constitute an opt-out. Furthermore, it was inappropriate to add a publisher to the opt-out list that did not explicitly request it.”
And so life goes on. But it’s a reminder that from large apps-platform providers like Apple to popular apps like Instapaper, there is always potential for conflict with publishers/websites when articles are not to the platform or app owner’s liking.
As far as we’re aware, Apple has yet to kick a magazine or newspaper app out of its App Store due to an article that criticised the company. Arment’s blog post shows he’s aware that this isn’t a good idea for Instapaper either.
The Atlantic Wire has an interesting take on the row though, suggesting that the ‘Instascraper’ word – referring to the way Instapaper pulls in text from online articles but removes the original source’s design and ads – hints at a bigger issue around these kinds of apps.
“With this 9to5Mac ban, perhaps we’re seeing the first tiff in a longer battle over the legality and morality of read it later apps,” suggested that piece, published before Arment’s apology. “We’re seeing the tyranny of Instapaper, which has gotten confident enough in its popularity to push out websites who happen to disagree with its position on copyright.”