Apple Wants To Sell Fewer Products; Kills Off Website That Made Finding iPads And iPhones Easier

from the your-periodic-friendly-reminder-that-Apple-will-tell-YOU-what-you-like dept

Apple is still one of the most desirable brands in the world, no doubt largely due to the company's fierce protection of that brand. In addition to periodic bouts of trademark bullying, it has also displayed an alarming antipathy towards developers who stray over the boundaries of what it considers to be acceptable.

Its tight control over the content of apps offered on its platform is notorious. Some see this as nothing more than excessively good quality control. Others see it as something far more arbitrary -- apps removed simply because someone at Apple didn't like them.

This attitude extends far beyond the boundaries of the iTunes app store, as one developer found out.

A website that helped users locate Apple stores with iPhones and iPads available for sale has shut down its service after being hit with a notice alleging that it violated Apple.com's terms of service.

Apple-Tracker.com and iphone-check.herokuapp.com examined publicly available inventory information from Apple.com and tried to make it easier for people to navigate. The service gained some attention, with articles in the Los Angeles Times and other news sites.

The site now shows a message from developer Mordy Tikotzky saying, "I've decided to turn off the site. I'm not doing this because I want to, but rather because I received a DMCA takedown notice from Apple. I'm not really interested in picking a fight with apple so..... I guess it time to just say good bye." On Twitter, Tikotzky wrote, "It might be legal but I don't have the resources to fight with Apple."
First, just for clarification, what Tikotzky received was not a DMCA notice. It's simply a "takedown notice" issued by Apple's legal team asking him to take down his site.

But why would Apple take his site down? Its sole purpose was to help potential customers find the exact phone or tablet they were looking for by aggregating item availability from all the stores in a certain zip code. Yes, Apple's own site contains a search function but it doesn't do what Tikotzky's site did. Apple will allow you to search for one item (16Gb iPad Air) and list stores where it's available. Tikotzky's apple-tracker did this better. It provided a table of all available models and lit up with an easy-to-see green if it was available at a certain store.


To achieve this using Apple's site, a person would have to run multiple searches and keep track of which one had what models. Titkotzky's automated this -- which is likely what Apple determined to be a violation of its TOS. Here's the relevant part of the TOS as quoted in the takedown letter.
Your Use of the Site. You may not use any “deep-link”, “page-scrape”, “robot”, “spider” or other automatic device, program, algorithm or methodology, or any similar or equivalent manual process, to access, acquire, copy or monitor any portion of the Site or any Content, or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of the Site or any Content, to obtain or attempt to obtain any materials, documents or information through any means not purposely made available through the Site. Apple reserves the right to bar any such activity.
Apple doesn't want you to do much with its site. And this very restrictive wording is what turns handy tools into "violations" and "circumventing the navigational structure" into an unacceptable situation, according to Apple. (Not only that, but if so inclined, someone could probably push for charges under the CFAA, which views this sort of "circumvention" as a crime.)

All this does is maintain the status quo. Do not screw with Apple's stuff. If it wanted a handy aggregation tool, it presumably would have built it itself and covered it in tastefully rounded corners and pleasing color gradients. Tikotzky's tracker may have increased sales, but it ultimately doesn't matter, not when there's turf to protect.

People are constantly searching for ways to improve the services they use, but they're running head on into companies like Apple and Craigslist who take the stance that the customer will get what's provided by the company, instead of what they actually want. It's unfortunate, but for some, protecting the brand is more important than serving those purchasing their products.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Rikuo (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 1:54pm

    "People are constantly searching for ways to improve the services they use, but they're running head on into companies like Apple and Craigslist who take the stance that the customer will get what's provided by the company, instead of what they actually want. It's unfortunate, but for some, protecting the brand is more important than serving those purchasing their products. "

    Reminds me of this.
    http://torrentfreak.com/movie-studios-prepare-police-report-against-netflix-proxy-isp-131105/

    Al l the Icelandic people are doing is circumventing completely idiotic geo-restrictions. But no. Thou Shalt Obey And Follow Our Idiocy is the rule of the day. Control is the name of the game, instead of increased profits.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 4:44pm

      Re:

      They couldn't care less about profits, if money really was their concern they'd have been leading the way in new services to compete with the likes of Netflix and iTunes(for movies and music respectively), it's always been about control, and destroying any other service that provides an alternative to theirs.

      Because when you control the only sources of something, whether publishing, purchasing, or what have you, you get to make the rules, both to customers, and creators, and that is what they really want, assuming that profits will inevitably follow(something that has, unfortunately for them, proven to be increasingly untrue).

       

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 7th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

    But after 15 years of Mike mis-informing about DMCA and copyright and unilateral web-site "terms" (his own say he can sell your information on, but like all, it's based on nothing but the assertion), instead of showing the positives of copyright and how those should protect individuals against bullying corporations, most people just assume corporations have such powers (and can be trusted, Mike is big on that), so we have a near complete effective corporatization where people won't fight even this outright illegality.

    Techdirt's motto: The confusion has become so complete that it's beyond correction.

    09:56:25[k-137-7]

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2013 @ 2:03pm

      Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

      I just figured out who you must work for. Reynolds Group Holdings, right? If the hat fits... so to speak.

       

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      identicon
      out of bloo, Nov 7th, 2013 @ 2:06pm

      Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

      Troll Translation:
      After 15 I am having such fun making a fool of myself for attention.

       

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      Nigel (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 2:09pm

      Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

      Go stand in the corner and let the grown ups speak until you learn to read please. You should realize by now that you have failed to ever make a valid point.

      Nigel

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2013 @ 2:12pm

        Re: Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

        To be technically correct, he HAS made valid points. It's extremely rare, but it has occasionally happened.

         

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          Anonymous Howard (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 1:36am

          Re: Re: Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

          He often make good points, but usually screw up his post with the usual lunatic ranting about mike/google/teh rich etc.

          Drawbacks of his MPD.

           

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            That One Guy (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 5:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

            I'd lean more towards a digital version of Tourette's Syndrome myself, it's like he(and several other posters to the site) literally cannot make it through a post without insulting someone, which is a pity, as it completely destroys any credibility they might have had, no matter how intelligent or insightful their comment otherwise would have been considered.

             

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    •  
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      Rikuo (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 2:20pm

      Re: This is restraint of trade, and "TOS" are not legally enforceable.

      ...Guys, read this and take a step back. Then take a deep breath.
      OOTB has just admitted that here IP law is being abused. Yeah I know. This is supposed to be a physical impossibility, like letting a heavy ball drop and somehow expecting it to float into the sky.



      I'm scared too.

       

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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 2:01pm

    I misread the title and thought Apple killed off its own sales website. I assumed that Apple was so hip and exclusive that it refuses to sell its own products.

     

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    Wally (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 3:32pm

    Apple's website makes availability clear anyway...though Apple's actions are completely wrong..

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 4:54pm

    Why you should keep company lawyers on a short leash

    When will companies realize that when someone puts something like this together, something that builds on and improves the core service, the correct response is not 'hit them with a lawsuit or legal order to stop', it's 'offer them a job to work for you, either freelance or regularly, and/or offer them money for their improvement so you can improve your service with it'.

    Do the first, and you're likely to generate plenty of bad-will, both from the person receiving the lawsuit/threat, and anyone they tell about it, and waste a perfect opportunity to help your business out via their improvement(s).

    Do the second, and you'll generate lots of good-will, as the person is likely to tell people how awesome your company is, you get to improve your service, leading to increased profits, and people are now motivated to try and find new ways to improve your service, both to help out a company they like, and in the hopes that they will also get a nice cash reward for coming up with improvements.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 6:50pm

    And in 2 weeks, there will be a highly polished Apple website that offers a remarkably similar service. They will patent the process that they came up with all on their own.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 5:28am

      Re:

      While I wouldn't put it past them, from what one of the AC's above posted, it might be a little trickier this time around, given the creator has apparently open sourced the code, and published it online.

      I guess he didn't particularly care for their reaction, go figure.

       

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    Mister S, Nov 7th, 2013 @ 10:32pm

    Part of the problem is that people have been abusing the Apple service and scouting availability to hawk the goods as an eBay/Craigslist price hike during their limited availability and through the holiday season.

    Not very nice.

    If you produced a product that garnered negative press, was being abused and hurting your target market and user perception against your intensions, ...would you take action?

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Nov 7th, 2013 @ 11:52pm

    You know this is an intriguing idea for a new site I've been thinking of putting together as an exercise in why the USA's CFAA cannot work outside of the USA.

    Maybe once Apple realise sending either a DMCA notice (won't hold up to scrutiny) or a "Takedown" (again is impermissible under basic contract law with their alleged TOS/EULA) is basically pissing up a rope for websites NOT in the USA then they might realise giving the customer ease of access and an easier way to shop is MARKETING/SALES 101!!!!!!

    Though then when you think about it doing this in a country like Australia (where I reside) or in Europe would achieve the desired annoyance factor for Apple's legal twits, the site itself would not be really used much since bugger all people in the rest of the world that are not on the North America continent don't actually buy Apple products anymore.

    I wonder why

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2013 @ 4:11am

    Apple is making Billions. With a B.

    Just a wild guess, but maybe they know what they are doing?

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 5:25am

      Re:

      Having good business/design sense does not automatically translate to having good common sense, and attacking your fans/customers over something that is designed to help them give you money is anything but sensible.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 9:29am

      Re:

      They know exactly what they're doing. Which is a big part of the problem with Apple.

       

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      G Thompson (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 9:49pm

      Re:

      And if they were more intelligent and less narcissistic in their approach to customers who want to purchase their products worldwide they would be making Trillions... with a T.

      You see Apple's market worldwide has now shrunk dramatically because they cannot keep up with the unwalled customer-centric approach that is being used by all Android providers. So soon those Billions with a B will equate to Millions with an M and then equate to maybe chapter 11 with a ROFL

       

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    Vincent Clement (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 5:26am

    Interesting thing is that the TOS says nothing about taking down a site. It says that Apple may "bar any such activity". So really, it's up to Apple to block him, not the other way around.

     

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    Jasmine Charter, Nov 8th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    I know I've already lost...

    I know I've lost the argument, but I'm going to pull out the Nazi argument anyway.

    Apple has been getting more and more Nazi in their dealings. Or, if you prefer, Steve Jobs was an egotistical megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. And the company is doomed on that path because he surrounded himself with coolaid drinkers and built his success on the backs of underpaid, overworked chinese labor.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 9:32am

      Re: I know I've already lost...

      Apple has been this way since the start of the Mac era. Their famous "1984" commercial was, in reality, projection: Apple envies Big Brother and emulates him as much as they possibly can.

      I don't think they're getting any worse -- they're holding steady.

       

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