Why We’ve Removed Longform from the App Store
For the last year, the Longform team has been working on a revision to our iOS app, which in the absence of updates had gotten quite buggy and dated.
After our heroic developer moved on to greener pastures, we hired a talented young programmer, tossed the codebase, and built a simplified 3.0 version from scratch that ran beautifully on iOS and Android (thanks, React-Native). The app went to beta earlier this year and testers loved it.
When we submitted to the App Store for review, we assumed it was a shoo-in—the Longform App has been available on iOS since 2012 and this build contained no functionality that hadn’t appeared in previous versions.
Apple rejected the app.
The app reviewer spelled out three changes we could make to be approved. We were torn. Two of the changes were flat-out impossible, and the third would require huge amounts of ongoing developer labor while providing a worse experience for users.
After some bummed conversations, we concluded that we simply don’t have the time, money, or personal hubris to continue supporting the Longform app. For five years, we’ve managed to keep the app functional through a combination of favors, steeply discounted contract work, donations from our supporters, inspired interns, and dumb luck. Our team is small and we were already stretched thin.
So, as of today, Longform has been removed from the App Store. (We’ll also be pulling it from the Google Play store, as we can’t afford to support an Android orphan.) Previously downloaded versions will cease to update shortly.
We’re working on a tool to let people export their bookmarks, if you’d like to know when it’s available, sign up here:
We’re proud of what the Longform App achieved. Combined, the Longform App and longform.org have sent over 100 million outbound links to publishers since 2012. We were featured in the App Store and consistently held a Top 10 spot in the News section while the app was being actively developed, eventually racking up over half a million downloads.
While we wish that it could have survived, the Longform App is less needed today than it was when we launched. Mobile reading experiences have dramatically improved since 2012. Safari, not to mention countless other apps, can now save articles for offline reading. We were never in a position to truly compete with Facebook or Apple News, but it’s heartening to see that some of the ideas we explored in our designs are popping up in other apps.
This month marks year seven for Longform, and our goal is to stick around for the long haul. In lieu of the app, Longform’s mobile site should be sufficient for most readers, and if you have ideas to how we can improve it, we’re all ears: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Lammer and Max Linsky
Founding Editors, Longform