All the GDPR emails flooding my inbox lately reminded me of a rant I’ve had mouldering in my drafts file for nearly 2 years.
I don’t want to create a fucking account. I don’t want to subscribe to your sync service. I don’t want to choose a user name and password. I just want to start getting something done using your app.
I already have two main sync services. One is an upstart newcomer called Dropbox.1 It’s cross-platform and near-universally supported in every other app. The other one is a system-level syncing service Apple created called iCloud.2 It only works across Apple devices, but did I mention that it’s a system-level service?
Fucking use one of those. Hell, you can even use bloody Google Drive3 if you really insist. But for the love of the gods properly use a token system4 so I only have to enter my pre-existing service password once to authorize access, and never have to think about it again.
If I ever have to sign in again after an initial setup, I’m deleting your app. Updates shouldn’t break previous authorization. If they do, you didn’t do your fucking job right. Use TouchID or FaceID for re-authenticating a token. Don’t ask me to do the sign-in dance to make up for your lack of app design skills.
The apps I use most heavily on iOS — Drafts, Editorial, 2Do — all got the fuck out of my way and let me get some work done when they were first launched. None of them wanted me to sync to their service. All of them support Dropbox. A recent post detailed how Dropbox enabled me to try — and buy — several text editing apps that I might not have if I’d been locked into a proprietary sync service. For 2Do, Dropbox is the recommended choice even though the app supports several other sync methods.
Some developers get it. Overcast was recently redesigned to deprecate email sign-ins because Marco Arment (correctly, in my opinion) now thinks that there’s actually no real reason for him to be collecting that information when a user token can be used instead for ID and syncing.
I do understand why some of you developers want me to sign into your service. Usually it’s because you started as a web service and the iOS and macOS apps are just a way to connect to that pre-existing platform. Sometimes it’s because you think that sync services don’t offer all the functionality your home-grown service would. Sometimes it’s for business reasons; people will pay for an ongoing service, but resist paying for an app.
Sync is a pain in the ass and has been for a long time. Let someone else deal with it. Even companies that try really hard and have good intentions fuck it up sometimes. Honestly, I trust you way less not to fuck it up than I trust Apple or Dropbox, or (gods help me) even Google.
From a customer point of view, I don’t even fucking care why you want me to sign in. I’m tired of creating (another) account, signing in with and managing (several) email addresses based on the level of trust I have in the service, and managing passwords5 for Every. Single. Fucking. App or service. (Oh, and by the way, if you disable pasting on the sign-in screen, I’m deleting your useless motherfucking excuse for an app.)
So developers, if you want me to create an account, you’d better give me a good fucking reason. Proprietary sync is not a reason. Marketing is not a reason. Signing into a web service is barely a reason. Lately, I only use a service through a website because rotting something doesn’t work properly in the app6 or there’s no iPad version.7
I’ll use Facebook or Google as a sign-in alternative around the time going outside with a 0% chance of a sunburn becomes a thing.
Creating an account is a roadblock to my using the thing you (presumably) want me to pay you money for. Don’t put barriers in front of my wallet. Make the money flow by reducing the friction of use as much as possible. I pay for apps that make using them easy and delightful. Entering an email address (which you will probably spam) and entering a password (with abstruse rules, and which you will probably store in plaintext at some point so it will be stolen and sold after your service gets hacked) and having to keep track of that information, maintain it, and update it — this is the opposite of ease and delight.
The best thing about GDPR is getting email from all the services I no longer want to be using. It’s a good way to get all the trash into one pile for sorting and disposal.
For the sarcasm-impaired, I’ve been using Dropbox for about a decade. ↩
If you’re an Apple developer for either iOS or macOS, you might have heard of this by now. ↩
Now inexplicably renamed “Backup and sync from Google” on macOS, but not on iOS. I’d really prefer Dropbox or iCloud since The App Formerly Known as Drive likes to freak the fuck out when it can’t connect to a network. Once, when I was offline, it chewed up 3 of 4 cores on my older MacBook Pro and started eating memory faster than even Safari could scarf it up. It also spun up my fan higher than anything short of transcoding video ever did. I only run it now when I’m deliberately syncing files. ↩
If you don’t support 1Password to make my life easier when signing in with what you consider a “secure” password (minimum 12 characters; must include punctuation, number, upper and lower case; incantation performed in the dark of the moon on Samhain), you fucking suck, and I will strongly consider not bothering to use your shit app, because why should I when you force me to enter long strings of nonsense that normal humans can’t remember? ↩
A strong indication I’m probably going to delete your piece of shit app unless A) There’s a very compelling reason not to, or B) I have a way of using the service without having to interact with the app. ↩
See previous footnote. ↩