Friday, November 14, 2008

Naive Math

The Monkey's Ball, one of the popular cracked IPA distribution sites, was shutdown today by a DMCA notice from O'Melveny & Myers LLP on Apple's behalf.

The person who owned the domain was kind enough to post his page analytics for the few months that his site was in operation:

Notice that this person had 250,353 unique visitors to his site. From here we can do some rudimentary, albeit naive, mathematics.

Now, to make the math dead simple, let's assume 250,000 visitors to the website were bona fide teenage virgin pirates. I'll discount the difference of 353 because at least 1 of them was me, 1 was Apple, 1 was their lawyers, and because App Store developers are quite aware of the piracy of their applications. Moreover some people may have accidentally stumbled upon the site when searching for pictures of monkey balls.

Let's assume, again, for simplicity, that the price bracket is $0.99.

If every hairy palmed pirate downloads 1 application then we have a lower-bound loss of:
1 (download) * 250,000 (hairy palms) * $0.99 = $247,500

Now the maximum number of applications that an iPhone can hold is 144. This gives us a theoretical upper-bound loss of:
144 (download) * 250,000 (hairy palms) * $0.99 = $35,640,000

Realistically, only the pirate with the hairiest of palms would have this many applications on their phone. So for the sake of argument let's assume the average pirate downloads 10 applications then we have:
10 (download) * 250,000 (hairy palms) * $0.99 = $2,475,000

In even the minimum case this is a significant amount of cheddar. If 25 developers evenly shared the revenue from $247,500 that would be $9900 for each developer before Apple's cut of your pie.

Whether or not $0.99 applications like WooHoo or the Chuck Norris Joke Generator deserve any of this is left for another post.



rusty said...

I've been reading your blog for a while, with interest, because I'm an iPhone developer.

I think you have made 2 fairly big assumptions though.

The first is that if there was no way to pirate something like Super Monkey Ball, then every single one of those 'virgin pirates' would have bought the game. I think that's a fairly ridiculous assumption, because it doesn't hold true for PC games, movies or music, so why should it on the iPhone.

The second is that as a developer you can and should do anything about piracy. I think no matter how much checking a developer or Apple does, piracy is a reality, just ask the PC & Console games business. As a developer, I'm not going to spend time chasing pirates, they're idiots not worthy of my time, I'd much rather spend it building and rewarding my customers.

Thanks for your informative site, like I say I've been following it with interest, but I'm not going to waste my time chasing down mythical revenue that doesn't actually exist.

iPhoneCrackDetector said...

Dear rusty,

I find it amusing that you point out the assumptions in a posting with the word 'naive' as the very first word of its title.

I find it disappointing that you're an iPhone developer that just gives up and is willing to lay down in front of a Mack Truck. You're a quitter. A doormat. Don't let these greasy haired teenagers with low self-esteem walk all over you. YOU, SIR, ARE SMARTER THAN THAT. My step-mom always told me that quitters never win. She was a carton-a-day smoker, and guess what -- she never quit.

You've been brain-washed into accepting the reality of piracy. This is propaganda generated the bootlegging machine on a pirate ship. BREAK FREE OF YOUR MIND SHACKLES. This socialist/robin hood propaganda is counter-capitalism. It's anti-American. It's not patriotic.

In all seriousness: suppose you're the guys at Tapulous. You take a great concept like Twitter and extended it with location-aware tweets, neat pictures, and a rotating globe. You call it Twinkle and release it for free on the App Store.

Now you, as the guys at Tapulous, think how the hell do we make money off the time we put into this? Our venture capital is running out, Apple got bored of us, so how do we monetize our API, our source code, our developers, or any of our assets?

Well, you figure it out and call it Project X, some sort of location-aware, social networking application and release it for $0.99 on the App Store.

Five hours later, it's been wrung through Crackulous and is available FREE for download.

Now you have people using YOUR program, YOUR server space, YOUR bandwidth, YOUR shit. YOUR paying customers help finance this. Do you think they'd appreciate subsidizing the use of your program so someone else can use it for free? Now THAT is ridiculous.

Maybe, you think, you'll put your head into the sand and it'll go away. Maybe you don't need to pay the bills this month. Maybe your developers don't need a pay cheque this week.

Give me a break.

rusty said...

Firstly I'm not American, which might be the source of our differences, who knows?

I haven't 'quit' at all. I'm just not wasting time trying to make my app 'hack proof' because that just gives the kiddes another thing to aim at, and they have the time and resources to crack it anyhow. Instead I participate actively in user forums, and groups where my customers and even some pirates talk about all things iPhone. I ask them for feedback, I spend time listening to their ideas, and guess what, a few of these pirates have bought my software as a result, because suddenly there is a human face on it all. It's easy to stick it to the man and steal from Microsoft or EA, but most people won't steal from someone they know is a just a small-time shop.

You also have to consider the hurdles someone has to go through to get a cracked app. They need to jailbreak their phone, install ssh, download the cracked app and then copy it to just the right spot, and give it the right permission. How many people do you really think bother to do all that to pirate a $1.99 guess would be not many. In my opinion the bar is set high enough already.

I'm not laying down in front of a truck and saying I give in to piracy, piracy is wrong, I'm saying I disagree that there are even enough people doing it that I should waste my time on it.

Lastly I have a question for you: have you ever pirated a movie, song, picture or software? My guess is at some stage in your life you have, so it's a bit of a stretch to stand on a soap-box and yell about how un-American it is, don't you think?

iPhoneCrackDetector said...

Dear rusty,

This is my soap box. I rule here. And like any great dictator, please do as I say and not as I do.

And for the record: I have never ever pirated an application, downloaded music, or used P2P to watch movies or TV.

I am without digital sin and I have cast the first stone.

Anonymous said...

Are you associated with, the guy against cracked apps??

iPhoneCrackDetector said...

Dear anonymous,

No, I am not associated with Haklab. While this Mr. Haklab has admirable goals, his means to reach his ends run contrary to my own.

For instance, he takes a pro-active stance against repositories used by file sharers.

Like Ghandi, I use a passive aggressive approach to piracy. I've provided a small example of code to detect compromise so you, as an intrepid and enterprising App Store developer, can gauge the effect of piracy on your application sales.

No offense to Mr. Haklab, but he also has brutal spelling and grammar and he lacks a certain finesse when it comes to the English language.

Anonymous said...

Love it, keep up the good work.

iambald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Em said...

(Talk about late)

lol @ the mind shackling comment. Usually it's the people fighting against piracy that's spreading the "brainwashing propaganda."

Anyways, have you ever been to youtube? To preview a song perhaps, to find new music, to watch a short clip (a great fight scene, for example) of something you never intended on buying?

How bout going to myspace to listen to a certain bands music?

Not saying that you're a pirate by doing so, but the concept is similar - Copyrighted content being distributed through a medium.

Now, if you can still answer "Innocent of all charges" then I've failed in trying to deliver to you a perspective. But, if you are guilty, well... Who isn't? C:

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