Saurik talks Cydia revenue model, Cydia for Mac, and more

Have you ever wondered how much money Saurik makes for running Cydia? Or whatever happened to Cydia for Mac? Good. We’ve just come across the answers to these questions, and more.

In a response to a recent forum tantrum, Saurik decided to address a number of misconceptions in the jailbreak community regarding him and his popular underground app store…

For a little context, the following exchange happened in the Featured Themes section of ModMyi’s forums. A member went off on a rant about how Saurik is neglecting Cydia and other projects despite the fact that he makes “tons of money” off of the jailbreak community.

In his response to the rave, Saurik addressed the misconception that he makes 30% off of Cydia sales.

“100% – 70% (developer) – 7.5% (PayPal) – 7.5% (EU VAT) is nowhere near 30%. Cydia also bears a greater cost than I thought it would for outgoing payments (as almost every developer makes no money, so the PayPal fees end up being really expensive every two weeks to send “almost no money” to thousands of people), and if you subtract bandwidth and servers and the two employees SaurikIT does have, you are left with quite little; what is left is spent back on the community, including  bandwidth for non-Cydia things such as jailbreaks/TinyUmbrella, sponsorships of open conferences, etc. That TSS/SHSH server I run that people love so much alone costs many thousands of dollars a month.”

So doing some quick math, SaurikIT makes roughly 15% off of sales, and a majority of that is put back into the business. I’m sure Saurik has other money-making avenues, but he’s certainly not getting rich off of Cydia.

“Stores like this really do not make much money… you can claim it all you want, and you can be pissed about it all you want, but it doesn’t change the facts: Apple pretty much breaks even on the App Store (public earning reports, statements in press conferences), the Android Market loses money (analysis by a judge in a lawsuit based on internal accounting documents), and other random stores you see (including Cydia) are lifestyle businesses at best and pits of despair and debt at their worst (anecdotal statements and evidence from developers of alternative Android markets I meet at conferences). For me, this all honestly takes up much more mental time and pain for sufficiently little money that if I didn’t feel this community was important I’d be stupid for continuing to subject myself to rants like yours.

You have to understand that the most popular applications in the ecosystem are from Intelliborn, and I only get 1% of their earnings due the Rock deal… which, if you remember, is a deal where I paid $1 and did not actually get any real control of Rock (in fact, I specifically told them they could continue distributing and hosting the app itself, and they declined). As Mario (owner of Rock Your Phone) said to the Washington Post (in the same article where these terms were published): “I saw an exit strategy and I wanted to focus on developing [apps]”.

The deal he is referring to is Cydia’s acquisition of the Rock Your iPhone app store back in September of 2010.

And for those wondering, here’s what happened to Cydia for Mac:

“I’ve apologized a million tons about this, in every single possible forum I could imagine (and some in which I never would have thought it could come up), and am apparently going to be hearing about this until the day I die… I bet “where is Cydia for Mac (you *******)” is going to be chiseled into my tombstone. 🙁 I am truly truly sorry. If it makes you feel any better, I have learned a serious lesson from this, and I no longer even tell people what I’m working on, lest I get held to it.

As I have stated on numerous other occasions: I got almost universally negative feedback from it when I announced it, including entire articles online calling me stupid for even having suggested it. I seriously left a conference early feeling like I had been half-laughed off of the stage for even suggesting the idea (yes: that’s definitely an overstatement of reality, but I kind of felt that way at the time). It wasn’t until half a year later (when Lion was released) that any reasonable number of people decided to say “maybe saurik isn’t so stupid after all”.

Meanwhile, the real goal was “Substrate for Mac”, and when I started getting more testers I discovered that it didn’t really work and likely wasn’t going to work without a lot of serious effort. Contrary to then what you will likely claim: I then actually put in a lot of serious effort, but in the meantime Lion came out and actually made the problem a lot harder with its sandboxes. Remember: unlike on iOS, there isn’t a “patch your kernel with a jailbreak” step.”

Saurik’s full response includes some interesting insight into some other topics as well, including WinterBoard and his thoughts on the Rock app store. It’s really worth the read, if you have the time. You can find it here.

I think the big takeaway from all of this is that the jailbreak community isn’t making any millionaires. In fact, far from it. And anyone, especially Saurik, could one day wake up and say the juice isn’t worth the squeeze anymore and leave to go do something else.