Every so often, my iPhone tells me that Apple have changed their terms and conditions again, and I have to agree to the new ones if I want to install an app ever again. I worry that this is becoming a time sink.
According to a website I found, the current version of the T&Cs is 17,581 words long. It’s been in force since October 12. Archive.org have a copy from July, which had been in force for a little over a year. That is 16,836 words long. The one before that ran from April 1 to at least May 19, and is a staggering 25,115 words. Another 19,273 words served from September 2009 to February 2010, and there was a version in June that was 18,248 words. Lastly, the version that was online between November 2008 and April 2009 was 17,870 words. There are gaps in this, because Archive.org doesn’t scan every website every day, so it’s possible that there are several more iterations that I’ve been unable to count. But let’s go with this for now: I have found 114,923 words of terms and conditions on the iTunes website.
Let’s put that number in context.
iTunes has 200 million users, and the average reading speed for comprehension is 200-400 words per minute. I’m going to take the lower estimate, since this shit is really boring. Using that figure, if, as Apple presumably intend, all of those people read all of those words carefully enough to understand them, it would consume 218.7 man-millennia. Wolfram|Alpha chooses to express that figure in terms of the total age of the universe, and doesn’t bother with scientific notation.
But what’s that figure like for one user? I made you this graph, using figures from this website:
Anyway, I just clicked ‘I agree’ and got on with my day.