Web Culture

Are Blackberry and Windows Phone Users Discriminated Against? (No.)

Matthew Hughes 27-01-2015

Last week, Blackberry CEO John Chen wrote an op-ed on the future of net neutrality. It got…weird.


“.. if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer’s mobile operating system.

Discrimination, John Chen? I’m a longtime Blackberry user who loves the platform, but this is just ridiculous.

Discrimination is a word with a very specific meaning, and is generally understood to mean exclusion or ill-treatment of a protected group. In the majority of the West, this generally means gender, sexual orientation, color, disability, veteran status or gender identity. If you deny someone a job, or service in a place of business, as a result of one of those attributes, you will find yourself before a judge in next to no time.

Seemingly, the CEO of Blackberry would also add users of third-tier smartphone platforms to that list, as he openly stated he would like to see developers be legally compelled to make Blackberry apps.

Chen’s astonishingly tone-deaf lack of self-awareness aside, does his argument have any credence? Is he alone in wanting coders to take a more egalitarian and inclusive approach to app development, or else?

Help! Help! I’m Being Oppressed!

Of course, John Chen isn’t the only person in tech who has compared the plight of their chosen platform to the D word. Let’s face it: geeks are an evangelical bunch, many of whom are deeply passionate about their chosen smartphone platform. When fellow MakeUseOf writer Ben Stegner wrote a piece announcing our decision to stop writing about Windows Phone MakeUseOf Says Goodbye To Windows Phone This is going to be a tearful goodbye, buddy, but it has to happen. MakeUseOf will soon be parting ways with Windows Phone. Read More , he ended up dealing with 400 angry commenters. It was like he’d kicked a wasps nest, where all the wasps have crap phones.



It’s easy to see how smartphone use has taken a near-religious slant. Many of us pin our identity on being Android,  Blackberry, or iOS users – in a way people used to identify as Mac or PC users. Far too many people get their tech news in platform-exclusive echo chambers Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Clay Johnson compares this to a bad diet. "If you only... Read More , where their decision to use their chosen platform is constantly reinforced as the right one, whilst the decision to use a different platform is seen as fundamentally misguided.

As a result, it’s easy to see why people can get offended when their chosen platform is slighted.

But is the lack of an Uber app for Blackberry 10 10 Reasons To Give BlackBerry 10 A Try Today BlackBerry 10 has some pretty irresistible features. Here are ten reasons why you might want to give it a go. Read More , or the lack of iMessage for Windows Phone, really discrimination?



Jim Szymanski, writing for Mobility Digest, thinks so. In a piece titled ‘Is Windows Phone being discriminated against?’ he started off by saying ‘Being a Christian, Caucasian, American male, I have not dealt directly with discrimination in most any facet of my life.’

There’s a ‘but‘ coming, isn’t there?

While I don’t want to accuse the corporate world of intentionally discriminating against Windows Phone, I would suggest that neglecting the platform shows some insensitivity to a good number of their customers.

Insensitivity! Neglect! Intentional discrimination!


Thankfully, Jim has a suggestion for how to make things better.

The next time you send a snailmail letter or email to a corporate entity asking why they don’t offer a Windows Phone app, make sure you drop in the “D” words, discrimination and diversity. … Most likely, the emails will be flagged to go to the Director of Diversity Services, and who knows what may happen.

Who, indeed, knows what will happen? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say your email will be printed out and stuck on the office notice board, so everyone can have a good laugh.

It’s not just Windows Phone users who feel downtrodden. Some posters on the Crackberry forum (the largest Blackberry forum in the world, with over ten users) feel particularly hard done by. One such poster, STV0726, has taken to the forum to defend why he uses the term ‘Blackberry Discrimination’.

BlackBerry market share in the US is almost the same as Windows Phone (within a percentage point and a half), yet BlackBerry gets almost all the severely negatively biased press, and nearly all of the point-of-sale bashing. BlackBerry discrimination is a REAL thing. And if you think I’m joking, I encourage you to take a good, hard look around.

Of course, to the credit of the Crackberry community, most pointed out that the discrimination of not having the latest Angry Birds game isn’t quite the same as not being let into a shop because of the color of your skin. User CrackedBarry responded:


Implying that your choice of cellphone opens you to persecution is offensive to everybody who’ve ever faced REAL discrimination.



What Do Developers Say?

It’s easy to get sucked into the highly emotive facet of this debate. Whether the decision to not write apps for Windows Phone is or isn’t discrimination (it isn’t), there remain a number of practical considerations that make it unfeasible for developers to release apps for every platform. As a result, most developers I’ve spoken to are highly critical of John Chen’s remarks.

First up is Tom Willoughby, a Cornwall-based independent app developer.

It is entirely preposterous to say that it is ‘discrimination’ to not develop apps for the Blackberry. The fact is, Blackberry has a very small market share, and most small apps wouldn’t be able to recoup development costs if they were released on the platform.  That would mean that developers are working at a loss to benefit Blackberry. If the platform was better, it would naturally attract more users, and developers would have an incentive to make Blackberry apps.

It’s a good point. If Blackberry wants developers to release applications for their platform, they should ensure that development costs are recouped. This shouldn’t be a wild concept for Blackberry. They did just that in the months leading up to the release of Blackberry 10, where they offered developers a $10,000 incentive to build apps for their (then unreleased) latest operating system.

Seattle-based developer Brian Wisti was also skeptical of Chen’s thoughts, but purely from a legislative point of view.

He’s arguing for open platforms. I think that’s great. He uses clumsy phrasing, but that’s what it sounds like. I think there’s no reason for Netflix to use its resources developing for the Blackberry platform, but it would be great if they could partner with developers who did have the resources and expertise. Even better would be an API which would allow independent developers to make those services available on their preferred platforms.

I think muddling net neutrality with open platforms is a bad idea. Net Neutrality is already vague enough What Is Net Neutrality & Why Should I Care? A significant number see Net Neutrality as essential to the survival of the Internet. In this article, we're going to look at why Net Neutrality matters, and why we should fight to protect it. Read More , but at least we know it has something to do with allowing equal access to network bandwidth for both large and small services. Service availability has many more variables than bandwidth availability.

I love the idea of nondiscriminatory service practices, but I doubt it could be enforced. Legislating service availability for all device platforms creates a legal headache. It becomes too easy for somebody to create their own Tizen fork with a few key differences, and then attempt to tie Netflix up in court for not supporting their deliberately broken fork.

Again, I’m inclined to agree with the developer here. There are countless historical examples of Governments making well-meaning attempts to legislate the Internet, and getting it horribly wrong. For example: the South Korean government mandated that all citizens use ‘digital certificates’ for online shopping. These certificates would be impossible to forge, and would help mitigate against identity theft. The only downside? The certificates depended upon the notoriously-insecure Active X, which only works with Internet Explorer. As a result, South Korea has one of the highest levels of Internet Explorer use worldwide.

Are Mobile Users Being Discriminated Against?

Are there fewer applications and accessories available for Blackberry 10, Windows Phone, and Firefox OS devices? Absolutely. But that’s not discrimination. That’s merely a byproduct of the free market, and the anemic demand for applications and accessories for Blackberry 10, Windows Phone, and FireFox OS, in relation to Android and iOS.

Are people being refused entry into restaurants for owning a Lumia? Do people get attacked for loving a physical keyboard? Absolutely not.

Google Glass, on the other hand Luddites Attacking? Being A Techie Could Be Dangerous Three shocking stories where people have attacked gadget loving techies . Are these anti-technology Luddites with anger issues, or justified privacy-rights activists? Read More

Image Credits: Crying young child Via Shutterstock

Related topics: BlackBerry, Windows Phone.

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  1. David
    October 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Sorry but I agree with Chen it's discrimination against Blackberry users many of which are Canadian. Also there are many developing countries where many people use Blackberry for basic communication... and the discontinued support of key apps like Whatsapp and Facebook to me that's a form of discrimination and instead of connecting the world forcing people to change. Just because I prefer to use a better, safer and more secure OS does not mean I should be treated so poorly.

  2. PlaGeRaN
    February 2, 2015 at 9:15 am

    sounds alot like the dev forum for Motorola Ruth MB511 (I had one and that's where it ends.) alot of other user's of the small droid wanted dev support, which pretty much died with the phone. Still a good compact device.

  3. Joaquin
    February 1, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I think it's "feasibility" instead of "discrimination".

    No worries for me. I am fluent in using the three platforms (ios, android, bb). Those three have their strengths that I like yet i don't mind their weakness too much.

    So I'm not into bashing others with their platform of choice. Nor I'm pushy in suggesting a specific platform.

    Please pardon my english...

  4. Brmir
    January 30, 2015 at 3:23 am

    The future looks bleak in a online world dominated by a empire or two. The internet was a free playground for all. Not so anymore. Might be a good time to free ourselves from all this. I want my freedom back, the freedom to choose.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      You do! You've got Blackberry, Android, iOS, iOS, Tizen, Firefox OS, and soon you'll have the ind.ie phone!

      It's a great time to be a smartphone consumer.

  5. rich
    January 29, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    As someone who used a Lumia for a while, it's no question that the Windows Store has less apps than Android or iOS. However, I do think that Windows 10 is going to make that difference shrink. By having this convergence strategy, MS is showing that they are willing to put the time and money into changing their system, to make it easier for developers. Blackberry hasn't shown they want developers to make their system better, they just complain and complain. I like BB phones, and the Classic looks likes an amazing phone, but until Blackberry changes the way they do business, they'll continue to have less developers than anyone else.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Interesting. Thanks for your comment!

  6. H
    January 29, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I want Photoshop on Linux and my old Amiga.
    Time to play the discrimination card I think.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      The Amiga did have some pretty amazing graphics applications!

  7. Paul Bahre
    January 29, 2015 at 1:08 am

    I think Microsoft can at least get Apple to develop along with Google, for windows phone. Microsoft developed for Android and Apple and I can see them leveraging MS Office to that end. BlackBerry need to just become a developer of software and get out of the handset business.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      I don't know. I like the handsets. But I accept they're fundamentally niche devices.

  8. Raj
    January 29, 2015 at 12:01 am

    What no one is talking about when Blackberry offered devs to pay, support and even create Apps like Instragram and Netflix, they refused (repeatedly). We know that no one will buy your platform without big name apps and smaller devs won't write software if you have no marketshare. It is an endless cycle of death. Blackberry investigated the cost of creating an Android forked version for Blackberry. They found it would cost 4 billion dollars and only had 1 billion to spend on a new OS. They committed to Blackberry 10 development and used QNX as the kernel. They included the Android runtime to help lower costs to devs to port their apps over. $10,000 was given to devs to port their apps over but the performance was sub-par. Devs didn't want to invest time building native apps, the sales of the devices didn't do so well as people didn't have their favourite apps (Netflix, and Instragram came up over and over again).

    Fast forward today and I can say that John Chen isn't crazy. He wasn't saying that you should support Blackberry per say. Since the internet can be access from any browser (IE, Chrome, FireFox) it can be said that the new Internet will be apps. If Google and Apple work to close out everyone else, then we will have discrimination against everyone who doesn't work with Google or Apple. If you don't know how hard Google, Apple and devs work to ensure that no other OS can be successful then you reside under a rock. Google recently introduced Google Play services so that forked Android version cannot run Apps that require Google Play Services. Devs will not make the additional effort to port over their apps to Forked Android versions (ASOP). Apple has worked really hard to ensure that people don't leave it's garden walls and even forcing people to download music on iTunes. If you happy with a marketing firm and a tech company owning the future mobile market, then do not call for government intervention against this duopoly.

    • Francois
      January 29, 2015 at 2:16 am

      Well said Raj.

      By the way, for the rest of you, I can run Netflix just fine on my BB10 phone. I just installed the Android version.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      I mentioned this in my article. But I remember it came with some pretty big strings attached.

      Plus, $10,000 is only 1.5 month's salary for a senior developer in San Francisco. That's not a lot of money, especially considering the time it takes to develop a sophisticated, polished application.

    • Hildegerd
      February 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Thank you for explaining this so elegantly.

      O ye BB Passport.. How I love thee.

  9. Jay
    January 28, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Let's see how practical Chen's proposal is. If developers are mandated to write apps for ALL platforms, then Blackberry will have to port all their apps to my 20 year old Motorola brick phone that I still have. It's a platform, and I still have it. Otherwise, I will feel discriminated against.

    By the same token, I'm feeling discriminated against because none of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders will go out with old, fat, balding guys like me. There ought to be a law!

  10. Charles
    January 28, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    One thing is for sure! iOS has THE MOST 5 YEAR OLD apps of any app stores out there. I mean there's 750K 5 year old apps! I can't believe everyone doesn't jump on that band wagon. 5 year old apps! Thats the ticket!

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      Not sure I get your point, Charles! But cheers for your comment.

  11. Leah
    January 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    You can call it discrimination not developing apps for these two platforms but you can also call it not worth the time. I don't know anyone who has a Blackberry or Windows phone, unless they are really good at hiding them. I don't know what the percentage of smartphone and tablet users use theses platforms so I don't really know how beneficial it would be to make apps for these platforms, but thinking that I don't anyone who has them, I would say the percentage is pretty low so it's not worth it.
    I do wish they could make universal apps that work on every platform but with Apple in the game that'll never happen nor do I even know if that's possible.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      It's possible - Blackberry can run Android apps by using their Dalvik VM - but universal apps is not feasible. Apple just won't have it.

  12. Leo
    January 28, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Wake up people! Shake your head and clear up your minds.
    I'm so glad that someone dared speak out about "The future of technology".
    Chen speaks also for hundreds of millions of people who are getting tired of this duopoly.
    As a consumer, I want choices and welcome competition and technological diversity.
    I'm not a Fruit, Berry or Droid worshiper but I see the potential of QNX. I get the feeling that when dust settles, the ONX will be standing the clear winner as the OS of the future. The developers who are capable and with a vision will jump in. As for windows, no body trusts Microsoft any more. They have been torturing us with their elementary and stagnated technology for years. They did help put Apple back on the road though.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      QNX is a very capable OS, but it's not the smartphone OS of the future. It's not even the smartphone OS of now. It's not even a smartphone OS. It's a very, very versatile real-time OS, but that's it.


  13. f
    January 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    This comment relates to the article, bit more so to the comments made by others

    Microsoft tries to exclude and control 20 years ago, the whole world gets upset.
    S.Jobs, bigger control freak than Ballmer and Ellison combined locks things up, charges thru the nose, and everyone lines up to pay thru the nose, so they can join the herd and 'bleep, bleep' with everyone else.

    Chen's comment was satire. Satire is something that many 'religious' people have problems with, and may explain a bit why some commentators are calling Apple's products the "Jesus' phone. So, if your favorite product of choice is so great, why do so many have to defend it, especially with such childlike comments. Its is either great or not. Having to defend it means that maybe not so perfect.

    I believe that Chen is calling for the equivalent of a Java type product for the phone market, which would be platform neutral. Something that Jobs would declare nuclear war on. And yes, Jobs and Co do discriminate against everyone who does not done the white and get into line.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      I'm sorry, but Chen's comment wasn't satire. There's nothing about it that shouts satire. I think he was honestly, deeply serious. And deeply, deeply tone-deaf. Jonathan Swift he ain't.

      I'm all up for consumer choice and part of that is having a healthy, competitive smartphone market, but Chen's proposals aren't the answer.

  14. Alex
    January 28, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Wasn't there talk of blackberry having android apps? I guess that didn't turn out well.

    I'm still undecided about windows phone, it's not my cup of tea but IF they don't completely kill windows 10 and IF the desktop app store gets some popularity I can see some advantages with the combined API they're supposedly working on but who really knows, that's a topic of speculation for another day... One thing's for sure, Chen's comment is more likely to drive developers away with his heavy-handed, grumpy-toddler approach

    • Francois
      January 29, 2015 at 2:12 am

      It's more than talk. I run tons of Android apps along with BB10 apps on my phone. Works great. The fact is, because the BB10 can run most Android apps as well as the BB apps, we probably have access to more apps than any other phones - especially Windows phones.

  15. Rob
    January 28, 2015 at 9:09 am

    One definition of discrimination according to the OED is:

    "The ability to judge what is of high quality; good judgement or taste:
    those who could afford to buy showed little taste or discrimination"


    In which case, developers likely ARE discriminating against Blackberry.

    "Those who recognise that Blackberry offers a worse environment in which to launch apps show much discrimination'

    True that.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      Ooooh, shots fired. ;)

  16. Jessica C
    January 28, 2015 at 8:12 am

    The reason that not making software for all smartphones isn't discrimination, is because no one HAS to have any particular device they didn't choose, and you don't have to stick with it. You're not born with a smartphone in your hand like you were born with your skin colour or gender identity.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Exactly. Consumers have a great deal of choice in the smartphone market. If you aren't being served by a given platform, switch. It's not hard.

      Cheers Jess!

  17. will
    January 28, 2015 at 6:40 am

    I wouldn't go as far as to call it discrimination.
    However if your talking about major banks, then yes I believe they should have apps for all platforms.
    As for sticking my email on notice board and having a laugh, well that's a form of bullying. Well if they want to play that game I will be the first to change banks and have a following. They will not be laughing then.
    All major banks , shops, etc should have apps for all platforms yes.
    I'm an android and windows phone user.
    If my my Windows phone had my bank app I would ditch android tomorrow without a second thought.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      But where do you draw the line? There are a *lot* of platforms out there. Should Citibank create apps for, BREW, or Windows Phone, or Tizen, or Firefox OS? That's expensive.

  18. congerjan
    January 28, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Way to Go Matt... tell it like it is!

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks so much!

  19. kam
    January 27, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    And you lost me right here: "It was like he’d kicked a wasps nest, where all the wasps have crap phones.". Nice, clear, failure at being unbiased. Too bad you are a chip who doesn't understand opinions are subjective. News flash asshole: Windows phones aren't crap because you say so. Learn to distinguish opinion from objective fact, then maybe one day you can learn to be a REAL writer.

    • Ben
      January 28, 2015 at 12:16 am

      exactly, that's the problem with this website, lack of distinguish opinion to objective fact. Lack of real writers here. Failure of balanced news and being fair, so biased.

    • Ben
      January 28, 2015 at 12:19 am

      However discriminated phone is a foolish statement. Way to go blackberry. You have won no developers. Once they host their vapourware dry event, Blackberry Dev Conference, 0.1% developers will attend, then Chen will start moaning and crying on stage of lack of apps for the platform blah. "Are people being refused entry into restaurants for owning a Lumia? Do people get attacked for loving a physical keyboard? Absolutely not." - Exactly. BTW I'm done here.

    • Guy Dye
      January 28, 2015 at 12:22 am

      Thank you, kam, for pointing this out. It's always amusing to read such clear examples of the line between actual journalism and the words of a self-serving blogger.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 12:27 am

      " Too bad you are a chip who doesn’t understand opinions are subjective."

      So I'm the editor of this article. I considered removing this line, but ultimately didn't because I thought it was funny.

      I think Matt understands that this is his opinion, and not objective reality. You clearly understand that this is his opinion, and not objective reality. So what's the problem? Why should he have to be "objective" in a piece that, for the most part, explores people's thoughts about an issue? Why should Matt pretend he doesn't have a point of view?

      In Web Culture, the section this article is published in, authors are going to make it clear that they have a point of view while also attempting to be fair to the points of view of others. Sometimes expressing their point of view is going to include jokes. I don't think this is a problem.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      Justin said pretty much everything I wanted to say.

      This piece was an opinion piece. It wasn't supposed to be a dispassionate overview of a subject. I was going to tell the reader what I thought, and (hopefully) add a bit of humor whilst doing it.

  20. Ogman
    January 27, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Chen is a whiny idiot. However, as Verizon and Comcast have taught us, on this side of the pond, lack of competition is a bad thing. Maybe it's not a bad idea throw a bit of support at BB and WP.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      I agree, but this isn't the way.

      Thanks Ogman.

  21. Brian Wisti
    January 27, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    I thought calling it discrimination was idiotic too, but I figured others would cover *that* aspect well enough. Looks like I was right ^_^

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Yes, you were. Thanks for your quote, and for your comment!

  22. Christian Cawley
    January 27, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Hmm. John Chen is clearly a pillock. His language is the problem here, really.

    As a former/occasional Windows Phone user, I would say that there is a definite imbalance, something I would describe as an exclusion. The BBC's iPlayer app is a good example, which was restricted from WP users for quite some time, *despite the feed being completely compatible with the platform*.

    But the reason that WP and BlackBerry are in this Twilight Zone of exclusion is simple. M$ and RIM fell asleep at the wheel of the mobile phone station wagon, and when they woke up Steve Jobs was driving it and had turned it into a juggernaut, even claiming to have invented it himself.

    Both have tried to change this, both have attempted to innovate, but it's really not working. Well, not until Windows 10 comes along and suddenly Microsoft can escape from the mobile market while simultaneously remaining in it...

    • Ben
      January 28, 2015 at 12:14 am

      Blackberry has tried and failed, they are asleep not MS, MS was asleep before WP7 era. Windows Phone is doing far better with apps developers than Blackberry 10. Windows 10 Microsoft will have the edge, its more bigger with devs, mobile partners and marketshare and its own hardware Lumia line and Surface Line. Yes John Chen is an total idiot, he could of shut his mouth and try to combat the app gap situation which Microsoft is doing investing and providing with improved dev tools far more than Blackberry shoving you android player which is no justice for the platform natively and developer acceptance. He needs to sort out Blackberry, ESPECIALLY there BB10, its been two years, nearly 18 months, no hard progress here, compared to MS.

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      > His language is the problem here, really.

      Oh, absolutely. It's unpardonably tone deaf.

      > But the reason that WP and BlackBerry are in this Twilight Zone of exclusion is simple. M$ and RIM fell asleep at the wheel of the mobile phone station wagon, and when they woke up Steve Jobs was driving it and had turned it into a juggernaut, even claiming to have invented it himself.

      Couldn't agree more. When Apple had released their second revision of the iPhone, Microsoft were still flogging the dated, clunky Windows Mobile OS.

      They failed to keep up.

  23. WinDork
    January 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Someone has too much freaking time on his hands.

    Signed, WP8.1 user

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 12:18 am

      I'm confused: are you accusing Matt of having too much time on his hands because he wrote an article, ie did his job? Sincerely curious.

    • WinDork
      January 29, 2015 at 1:45 am

      No, I'm talking about the yuk-yuks who are feeling discriminated against. Don't we have enough legitimate matters to concern ourselves with?

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 31, 2015 at 7:58 pm

      Yep, we do. Like *actual* discrimination, and actual disenfranchisement. Not this pointless posturing about smartphone apps.

      Thanks for your comment!

      And 'yuk-yuks'. I love it!