Yury Molodtsov

COO and Partner @ MA Family where we help tech companies get into the news

About Me
Twitter ↗
Threads ↗

What The EU Should Have Done Instead of DMA

The Digital Markets Act is a far-reaching framework that can be used against any major company the EU holds a grudge against. It also effectively prohibits product improvements and vertical integration.

July 13, 2024

The Map of Europe

The Digital Markets Act is a bad law. I can understand the idea that led to it. Digital tech companies have a lot of power, and existing regulations don’t adequately cover them. But instead of targeting specific examples of overreach, the EU tried to come up with a universal and far-reaching framework that freezes product development for the largest incumbents and prohibits vertical integration.

Ben Thompson explained this well:

The DMA, though, is much more far-reaching than that; the excerpt above rightly identifies the interoperability requirements as the more meaningful factor affecting Apple’s decision. Consider iPhone Mirroring: given that the iPhone is a designated gatekeeper platform, is Apple allowed to enable iPhone screen-sharing with a Mac but not with Windows or Linux? Or SharePlay Screen Sharing: can Apple allow you to jointly view apps via Facetime, but not other VoIP services? Or the big one, Apple Intelligence: can the semantic index be available to Siri, but not other voice assistants?

Just this week, the European Commission tried to allege that Twitter’s new blue check system violates the DMA. Yes, I believe the transition was stupid. Twitter should have kept the old verified accounts (or at least most of them) and offered new users a blue check through a subscription and ID verification. But it’s baffling for a government structure to intervene. If Twitter makes bad decisions, it can fail on its own. It’s not critical infrastructure by any means.

I also think Apple put itself in this position by being so stubborn. They got themselves to a point where the customer experience on iOS is consciously diminished. Who benefits from the fact users can’t sign up for Netflix or Spotify on their iPhone? Or buy Kindle books? This should have been a signal their approach doesn’t work. Now, they will have to contend with different regulations across the world, as we’re already seeing it developing in the EU, South Korea, Japan, and even the US. This gets us closer to the fragmented internet.

A big part of the problem is that the DMA doesn’t provide firm guidelines. It’s like its authors wink at Apple and other “gatekeepers” but don’t want to say what they really want out loud, even though the EU had the capacity and the experience to require specific adjustments.

So, what could they have done instead of DMA?

First, Apple should allow apps to lead users to a webpage where they can buy digital goods or subscriptions directly with their credit card. This option will always carry more friction, so many existing apps will likely stay on Apple’s payment system. It’s a balance of earning more due to smaller fees and converting fewer customers. If you have a mobile game, you might feel compelled to keep the player immersed (unless you’re Fortnite or Roblox). Since they will also have to compete with alternative payment methods directly, there’s a good chance Apple will beef up their own system and make the fees more competitive. Ultimately, I love that I can see all my subscriptions on a single page and delete them. But under the current regime, it will never be a comprehensive list.

Second, Apple should enable sideloading for applications. There are a lot of advantages to the AppStore model of vetted apps. But there are problems. Just recently, Apple deleted multiple VPN apps from the Russian AppStore. Why they feel obligated to submit to the laws of the country, where they have no direct sales, puzzles me. Still, without sideloading, their users are trapped. By allowing sideloading, Apple can shed this responsibility so that their decisions and censorships would have minimal effect. I don’t understand who actually needs entire external stores. Hide it under a checkbox with scary wording; as long as it’s there, it’s OK.

Everything else is honestly pretty minor. Yes, you can demand Apple to open its NFC chip to third parties. This will allow the likes of Wise and PayPal to save some money on Apple Pay and work directly instead. However, the two major changes I outlined earlier will be enough to act as a steam release valve. Both companies that can’t work under the AppStore model (Spotify or Amazon Kindle) and companies that really don’t want to and can create strong relationships with customers directly (from Tinder to Basecamp) will stop criticizing Apple almost immediately.

Now, you might say that DMA regulates the digital markets in their entirety and covers many other gatekeepers. But it was already carefully designed to affect all the companies they wanted. If you want specific changes to be made, it’d be better to require specific things.

You might say that Apple is a private company and the government shouldn’t be involved at all. I disagree. Apple built one of the most important computing platforms in the world—your phone is the actual personal computer. They’ve benefitted tremendously from this and will continue earning billions from it. But it makes sense for society to intervene and limit negative externalities.

Comment on Twitter

Subscribe to my blog and get new posts delivered right to your inbox


June 24, 2024
The United Internet is Collapsing

The internet is one of my favorite inventions of all time. When nobody was watching, it emerged as a global network without borders, but now the governments are returning the physical borders.

June 15, 2024
Why Arc is The Best Browser

Arc reinvented web browsing for the modern Internet. And I’m very thankful.

June 6, 2024
Can Markets Regulate Themselves?

Sometimes, governments regulate markets. And sometimes, market participants regulate themselves. The outcome can be surprisingly different; thankfully, we have several examples that can serve as case studies.

May 18, 2024
Why Execution Eats Ideas For Lunch

Most people tend to overvalue ideas and undervalue execution. In my experience, that holds even for many people in the tech industry. Yet it couldn’t have been further from the truth. Let me tell you about a product that allowed you to easily create and manage your own relational databases together with your team members. It’s not Airtable but their early competitor.

April 5, 2024
The Unsettling Battle Between Media and Technology

There’s a lot of antagonism between the media and tech. But most of it is produced by a small minority of people with outsized voices, so it doesn’t exactly reflect reality.

March 5, 2024
The Unstoppable EU and The Immovable Apple

Apple is hell-bent on standing its ground against any attempts to limit their control over the AppStore. As a result, they might see governments worldwide legislating their product experience, and the result will likely be far worse both for them and their users.

November 23, 2023
Why AI Doomerism is Flawed and Misguided

The Internet favors simple opinions, meaning we're stuck between AI dommers and e/acc people. And yet the most urgent and interesting questions relate not to its potential capacity to kill us all, but rather mundane things.

November 7, 2023
My Default Apps

Here's the list of apps and services I like and use daily.

November 3, 2023
Communicating with Numbers

If you can find a figure that makes your business more appealing than competitors, you should run with it.

November 1, 2023
Does Blogging Even Work?

Blogging is still the most reliable way of broadcasting your thoughts without being at the whims of someone’s algorithm.

October 24, 2023
Why Superhuman Is Worth $30

I pay $30 a month for my email client. And I think it’s worth it because it’s excellent and there aren’t many alternatives, unfortunately.

October 8, 2023
Uber is Good, Actually

A conventional taxi is similar to a tourist-trap restaurant that you will never visit again. Uber leverages technology to become an arbiter between you and the collective of drivers so they can provide a better service.

September 9, 2023
Basecamp is a Contrarian Marketing Operation

Basecamp is well-known not because of its product but because its founders heavily leverage marketing and communications, eventually turning into contrarian marketing machines producing edgy posts and starting crusades just to get everyone’s attention.

August 29, 2023
Web Apps Are Better Than No Apps

There’s a certain community in tech that’s very vocal about their preference toward native apps. I share that sentiment, yet sometimes people take this idea too religiously. Unfortunately, the actual choice is about having an app or not, and I'd rather take something over nothing.

August 19, 2023
Sorry, But Google Meet Is Better Than Zoom

It seems that we're finally getting out of this weird period of collective gaslighting where people tried to convince everyone Zoom was the best conference app out there.

August 15, 2023
Finalist: A Simpler To-do App

Finalist is built for people who liked keeping all their tasks in Apple Notes but wanted it just a bit more structured.

August 12, 2023
Omnivore Review: An Underrated Read-Later App

I sometimes see people using Pocket, Instapaper, or Safari’s Reading List even though all of them have been practically abandoned and the first two definitely don’t deserve a subscription. I reviewed Readwise Reader and Matter earlier, but they only work properly if you pay. It’s not for everyone, so I wanted to tell you about Omnivore, a rapidly-developed read-later app.

July 25, 2023
What Is Elon Musk

I’m a bit tired of how people let their existing opinion on Elon paint their entire image of him yet I myself struggle to define his actions.

July 20, 2023
I Wish Bear Hadn’t Wasted Years

Bear emerged as the flagship notes app, but then lost its lead because of technical debt. I doubt their latest update makes them competitive right now.

July 15, 2023
You Can Compete By Being Competent

Perfect your execution. This is the part you fully control. It won’t save you when the results aren’t there, but it can help sustain the relationship while you wait for them.

July 12, 2023
How To Recognize Grifters

Serious people list facts. Grifters list tags that can elevate their social status.

July 11, 2023
Facebook Went Meta, But Google Isn’t Alphabet

Google called itself Alphabet for corporate reporting purposes, Facebook rebranded to Meta because their business had changed.

July 7, 2023
Why Privacy Is Overrated

I’m not against privacy, and I understand why people might not want someone to track web pages or apps they use. But it’s important to remember that there’s a trade-off and be prepared for the outcome.

July 5, 2023
The PR Flywheel: What It Can And Can’t Do For Your Business

People often think that PR and communications alone can help them achieve their goals and end up surprised when it doesn’t move the needle as much as they wanted. In fact, it’s a bit more complicated. PR is only a part of the virtuous circle.

June 20, 2023
You Can't Work On An iPad

Modern iPads are marvelous machines. But their software is too limited and unrealiable for them to replace your computer despite over a decade of innovation.

May 18, 2023
Why Algorithmic Feeds Can Be Good

People like to say they prefer chronological feeds to algorithmic ones. The actual problem is we rarely see good algorithms built to help us and not drive engagement. But I’d love to see a social network giving me tools to catch up on the people I care about.

May 1, 2023
Why Micropayments Don’t Work And People Hate Paywalls

Customers want micropayments but they're a bad option for news organizations. What they should do instead is provide us with better paywalls.

April 24, 2023
Touch the Glass: Finding a Better Home for Your Photos

The painful journey of photographers looking to find the best avenue to post their photos online and the lock-in exacerbated by subscriptions.

April 20, 2023
How to Use Virtual Backgrounds for Meetings in a Non-Cringe Way

Virtual backgrounds might look goofy but if you use them right you can definitely improve your picture without spending $5000 on a DSLR and a shelf full of books to be your background.