Dark Sky Developers Help

By Adam Grossman on May 28, 2014.

Marco Arment wrote yesterday about the futility of filing bug reports with Apple. We experienced this in a big way a few days ago:

Sometime late at night last Thursday, Dark Sky broke. Searching for a location suddenly stopped working. I awoke to a deluge of user emails alerting us to this fact, and we quickly identified the culprit: Apple’s forward geocoding service was returning a 500 error code, an opaque error meaning that something had gone seriously wrong on the server’s end. In other words, Apple’s server was broken. You could still get a weather forecast for your current location, but location searches — which many users rely on — were out of commission.

And the problem wasn’t confined to Dark Sky. Other developers were seeing it too, judging by the tweets and forum posts. We shot off an email to Apple Technical Support — one of the two free emails Apple allows developers to send (after which they cost $99 for a 2-pack).

And then we waited… and waited… and responded to the flood of user emails with growing desperation over the fact that we could literally do nothing but sit around and stew. Five hours later, still with no response, I called up the Developer Telephone Support line to check on the status. Now, Apple has amazing phone support: no menu of options, no waiting on hold. You call and are immediately connected to a real live human being who seems to genuinely care about your problem. But their spectacular responsiveness is matched only by their complete inability to actually solve your problem. I’ve called them once before and had the same experience: they’re truly, terribly sorry (and I believe them!), but they just don’t have the authority to do anything about it. Not only couldn’t they get a technical support person on the line, they couldn’t even contact them. They couldn’t even check on the status of our ticket!

At this point, I sent off a second email to Technical Support, and again no response.

Then, sometime late Sunday night — three days after it started — the problem went away as mysteriously as it began.

How does that happen? How does such an important service — the geolocation of addresses — just stop working for three days? And as of the writing of this post, five days after the fact, we have yet to get a response to our support inquiries. Nothing! Having server problems isn’t a big deal; it happens. But ignoring developers and not looking into it for three days is inexcusable.

People often wonder why we decided to launch Forecast.io and our Developer API, both of which should, on paper, cannibalize sales of Dark Sky. Well the answer is simple: With an iOS app being our only product, we were completely dependent on Apple.

And it’s become painfully clear over the past few years that, when it comes to small developers, Apple just doesn’t give a damn. (Unless, of course, you’re making them millions of dollars from crummy in-app purchases).


UPDATE: Apple has finally responded to my support ticket: “Thanks for contacting Developer Technical Support. The issue you’ve reported appears to be a temporary issue that should now be resolved. Please try again and let us know if you continue to see issues.” Helpful. (I guess something being broken for three days does technically count as “temporary”)