Pictured here is the public explosion of intense contention between Amidio and Rhism. Shit goes straight to 11 with the bombastic proclamation that Amidio will have to remove their OMGuitar and Futele apps from iTunes due to some complaint filed with Apple by Rhism. Amidio continues by laying out a declaration of war!
The subsequent war spanned many continents, 11 hours, and the Twitter feeds of thousands of innocent bystanders. I've assembled all of the relevant tweets; trying to group replies even when they are out of chronological order. Larger version here.
To give further context to this conflict, I contacted both of the developers via email.
Rhism's Adil Sherwani responded with a helpful synopsis of the dispute and a timeline of events.
"For starters, a summary of how app store keywords work:
- Every app gets to specify 100 characters of (hidden from end users) keywords that determine which search terms the app shows up for
- Apps are not allowed to use other app names in keywords (scroll down a bit or search for "other app names" on that linked page)
- Developers can only change their keywords when they update their app, Apple reviews and approves these
- However, Apple occasionally overlooks the "app name as keyword" misuse, and they have a standard web form for developers to report this misuse
Now the timeline:
my friend and guitarism graphic artist Ryan Hemeon emailed me that there were other apps he was seeing in the App Store on searching for guitarism. When I got home I tried it out and saw two additional apps - let's call the first one "XYZ Guitar" (to preserve anonymity) as well as OMGuitar on the search results. I emailed both developers asking them to remove guitarism from their keywords. Note also that this is the same day that OMGuitar v2.01 was released so I suspect this is when OMGuitar's keyword misuse started happening (though I don't search for my own app every day so it could have been happening since 2.0)
I heard back from the developer for XYZ, saying that they'll fix it in the next few days. Sure enough, a week later it was fixed. Done. Great. I sent him my thanks, wished him great success for his app, and moved on with my life. No hard feelings - this is a super-tough business and I don't blame people for trying whatever they can to make ends meet (but I do blame them when they refuse to comply with standard policy when requested)
Amidio replied saying that he's not using guitarism as a keyword and that OMGuitar doesn't show up for him when searching for guitarism. He then went on to say a bunch of other things that are better left forgotten (but I'm happy to respond to each of them if he brings them up). I replied asking him to re-check as it was definitely showing up for me (in the US) and Ryan (in Canada), but maybe it's a server delay issue, and maybe one of his developers did it without his knowing. He never replied to this email (and I've checked my junk mail too)
Futulele updated to v2.31 and now Futulele was also showing up under "guitarism" search results. Note the hubris - this is the very next day after he denied doing this. I emailed him again, asking him to re-check his keywords as Futulele is now also infringing. He never replied
By now I'd seen a clear 25% drop in my revenues (and I generally make next to nothing on this app, so this 25% is very important to me) so I emailed him again, asking him to reply and address these issues otherwise I'd have to report it to Apple as I didn't intend to just ignore the issue. Again, he never replied to this email
I posted a brief message on the AB forum guitarism thread asking folks outside the US/Canada to confirm if they were seeing other apps when searching for guitarism. Just wanted to give Amidio one last benefit of the doubt that this was a random occurrence in North America. I got confirmations from a bunch of folks that it was happening in the UK and Greece too
When I finally got done releasing the Triple Play app update yesterday, I decided to get back to this and take some action. I sent an email to Apple using their standard process to report keywords infringement. They sent an email to Amidio (CCing me) saying that I've reported an infringement, and the following key statement: "We look forward to receiving written assurance that your applications do not infringe Rhism LLC's rights, or that the parties are taking steps to promptly resolve the matter. Please keep us apprised of your progress." Pretty decent and polite, and I hoped that'd be enough for him to just do the right thing and put an end to this
I wake up to Twitter drama galore. I've lost most of my day on a pointless public spectacle that none of our customers care to see, when I should be working on features that customers have told me they want
So in short he's done something blatantly and objectively wrong, denied it until he couldn't deny it any more, and it's significantly impacting my ability to make a living on the one app I am working on full time (San Francisco is super-expensive, as you well know). Additionally, I'm planning a pretty large marketing push for guitarism later this year. If he doesn't fix his keywords he will, for free, benefit from 25% of that increased traffic, at my expense. This is fundamentally not right, not cool, and I will not stand for it."- Adil Sherwani, Rhism
I have not received a reply from Amidio, despite an inquiry I made through their contact form over 12 hours ago. They did make an attempt to contact me through Twitter, but did not follow through by the time of this post. See update below.
All of this is pretty crazy. I'm actually amazed to learn that Apple prohibits using other app names as keywords because, as someone who spends a lot of time searching iTunes, I can say a hell of a lot of apps are doing it. On the one hand: rules are rules, and everyone should play by them. However, rules can and will be abused as Adil learned. Shortly after sent his response he sent a second email:
"And just when I thought this was winding down, 2 mins ago I got an email from Apple stating that Amidio is claiming I'm infringing on his copyright. The complaint: "The iPad version of this app blatantly copies and advertises the novel interface concept (overall handling, string position, method of chord input, chord label positions, device orientation) that we have first used in our app Futulele". I don't know whether to laugh out loud or hire a lawyer. There are so many apps that have chord buttons on the top-left of the iPad, never mind that I hadn't even seen or used Futulele until after releasing guitarism iPad support. This is getting seriously ridiculous, and ridiculously serious."
There is a bit of amusing irony in all of this though! Rhism's popular new IAP seems to share the same name as the TriplePlay, by guitar hardware manufacturer Fishman. Coincidence, or is Rhism using Fishman's keyword?
Update: After this article went live Amidio's Ilya Plavunov contacted me on Twitter saying he had sent a reply, and said that they were having mail server issues. He resent this reply from his personal Gmail account.
"The whole case lies deeper than the Twitter could indicate. The truth is that we're on the AppStore since the 2008, the very beginning, and all the recent AppStore changes over the past year lead to the decrease in sales of our apps, which is strange at least since the quantity of shipped iOS units rises. Now, as a small developer who is unable to afford massive advertisement budgets (in fact no advertising at all), we have to resort to all sorts of tricks in order to maintain at least some sales. AppStore as a market has become incredibly messed up and just wrong in some cases. For example, search for "Ukulele", you will come up with 10+ screens of garbage apps, with Futulele buried deep inside that pile. And there is no evident way to make it to the top, where the evidently lower-quality apps reside.
As you know, we have recently refined all our major apps (Seline, Mint.io, Futulele, OMGuitar), with the latter two being new apps introduced as free updates. Did that yield any positive sales results? Maybe just a little, but still absolutely not enough to run a decent quality software-making company. Not to mention the absolute lack of any positive reviews about the updates (just great, do we now have to beg for reviews inside the app?)
So I gave up tinkering with the keywords because that has nothing to do with the music app making and chose a 3rd party service to manage the keywords for us. And it turns out they did put the keyword "guitarism" for some languages in Futulele and OMGuitar updates. Frankly I didn't know that until I got the letter from Rhism. And at first I thought it was a scam. The keyword magicians then told me they thought "guitarism" was a dictionary word - so did I. Ok, no problem, I will change the words but as per the AppStore guidelines, you have to update the app in order to change them. And the updates have to bring new functionality, since I don't want the users to download 100+ mb of each app just to reveal nothing is changed.
Thus, the short answer is - the keyword incident indeed took place, I am very sorry for the inconvenience, it will be fixed after we submit the meaningful updates to OMGuitar and Futulele (possibly even today). The updates will contain new great instrument sounds which I've been recording and polishing intensively in the past few days.
Another thing is how the developer of Rhism behaved. After I told him that everything will be fixed soon and offered cooperation (like exchanging links and giving him access to our Amidio Remote SDK), after a few days he complained to Apple. Moreover, in a very strange way, he accused us of stealing 25% of his sales (it's a mystery to me how he calculated that). All that given that the iPad version of Guitarism happily uses a slightly modified interface concept of Futulele (which we didn't care about as long as he didn't impose any trouble). Not taking into account all the glorious sentences ("best sound, best interface" etc.) that he put into the description of his app (which I personally think is not a top-notch quality app at all).
I am not the one who likes to judge or debate, I just want to follow our chosen path at least in Summer and make Drumfire, Cycloop, Noise.io 2 - the truly professional workhorses that we are now focused on. We are making these apps on no budget, while our existing apps basically bring nearly-zero revenue due to absolutely vague reasons (everything was OK before Steve Jobs passed away) So when someone (who "borrowed" your interface ideas) tries to bully about stealing his sales afterwards, that just doesn't feel right :)"- Ilya Plavunov, Amidio
Update 2: More drama unfolds as Rhism responds in a Public Letter to Amidio about their allegations of copyright infringement, including a well researched claim of prior art.
While probably unrelated to all of this, similar app Live Guitar is on sale. What the hell, let's throw that in here so regular reader Fessaboy doesn't feel left out!
And while I'm at it, I might as well promote my latest track which is tangentially related, being a HardPsy battle hymm.