On the eve of Xerocon, Xero has removed receipt-processing app Invitbox from its directory of compatible add-on programs and from its recommended software portfolio for accounting firms, Xero Practice Studio.
Invitbox was one of the few apps in the Xero ecosystem to earn a five-star rating and Xero crowned it Emerging Add-On App of the Year in 2013. Invitbox was bought by Intuit in May, although it continues to operate as a standalone program that is listed on add-on directories for MYOB and Saasu, both of which compete with Intuit QuickBooks Online.
Xero’s decision to delist the program raised hackles among Intuit-aligned developers. It led to a public spat on Twitter involving senior executives from Xero and Intuit last week over which company was more committed to an open platform.
“Everyone who joins our family remains open in ecosystem. Nothing closed off from others,” tweeted Brad Paterson, Intuit vice president and managing director of Asia Pacific.
“Buying ecosystem partners en mass doesn’t make (a platform) open,” responded Stuart McLeod, Xero’s vice president for product strategy – and former CEO of PayCycle, an app acquired by Xero.
“Stu, closing ecosystem? We list competing apps – ‘open means open’,” said Chris Gregg, an Intuit product manager.
Invitbox emailed customers on Monday afternoon to reassure them that the program still worked with Xero.
“Xero has assured us that we will continue to receive development support and API access so that we can continue to bring you further functionality and features to make both you and your client’s lives easier,” Invitbox CEO Roger Gregg wrote in the email.
“It’s just that they are no longer going to tell Accountants, Bookkeepers and business owners that Invitbox (and any new products we develop) exist through their Add-on page, nor will you be able to rate us there. Ouch.”
Xero’s decision was an act of censorship, Gregg told Digital First.
“It’s suppression of information which might be considered inconvenient. That’s close to what censorship is,” Gregg said.
“It’s not going to have too much of an impact on us. It will be more of an impact on accountants and bookkeepers. They are no longer going to have all the business tools available to their business presented to them.”
Xero was definitely an open platform, said Chris Ridd, managing director for Australia. “Invitbox are still in the ecosystem,” Ridd said, noting that three Invitbox employees were attending the Xerocon developers’ day this week.
“When MYOB invested in Kounta (a cloud point-of-sale app in the Xero ecosystem) I just rang Nick Kloete and had a chat. We’ve had a really good conversation internally and we certainly believe open wins,” Ridd said.
MYOB took a minority investment in Kounta, which is still displayed in the Xero add-on directory.
However, Xero would not list apps owned by a competitor in its ecosystem, Ridd confirmed.
“We still view Invitbox as a partner but the reality is that they are owned by a competitor and we’re not going to hand a competitor leads from our website,” Ridd said.
“That’s just the commercial reality. The day that Intuit start promoting Xero on their website, maybe we’ll rethink it.”
Ridd questioned Intuit’s strategy of buying add-on programs such as Invitbox. “We don’t think acquisitions send a great signal to partners in the ecosystem because all of a sudden you’re playing favourites. Why would you acquire if you want to keep it open?”
Correction: A tweet in an earlier version of this story was mistakenly attributed to Arian Motavalli. Digital First apologises for the error.