Strava cuts off Relive: Here’s what actually happened

Here I thought yesterday was going to be a peaceful random July Thursday morning. Nothing but Italian chirping birds at the Giro Rosa, and catching the Tour de France later in the afternoon on TV. Turns out, Strava had different plans for it.

You see, yesterday morning Strava sent out an e-mail to users of Relive (aka Relive.cc). You may have seen this app here or there, but essentially it allowed you to connect your Strava account (or other platform, including Garmin) to Relive and they’d generate a small movie of your workout including photos and such. It was nifty and there were plenty of users (as so evidenced by my packed inbox with upset users this morning).  The company says they have millions of non-Strava users, plus the now non-existent Strava users.

For those not familiar, here’s basically what it created – using my ride two days ago in the Italian Alps:

Relive ‘Italian Distraction’

Cool stuff, huh?

Yup – and Strava thought so too, as in fact over the years Strava hosted the company for events, and Strava employees used Relive too. As did other platforms and companies too of course, since it was nifty. Visuals and data go together well, and usually resonate widely on social media. Win-win. Or not, as Relive found out the hard way yesterday.

After discussing the situation with both sides yesterday and again today, I’ve got a pretty clear picture of what’s going on. Hang on, it’s a wild ride.

The Tides Turn:

It all started with an early morning (European time) e-mail from Strava to Relive users. While the first few words started off nice, it quickly took a turn for darker sides. It was phrased in such a way that implied Relive had done something horrible, dirty even:

“Many of us at Strava have enjoyed using Relive over the last few years, but because of Relive’s recent updates, unfortunately, we have decided to end this integration. The current version of Relive violates several of the terms that we ask of API partners. These terms are in place to safeguard your personal information, to ensure a level playing field for all our partners, and to protect what makes Strava unique. We’ve worked hard with Relive to try to fix this, but they have ultimately chosen not to make the changes needed to honor their agreement. So as of today, Strava will no longer send your activities to Relive for playback.

 

Rest assured, nothing’s changed about how your information is stored or the control you have over how it’s accessed by API partners. And we remain deeply committed to helping our many API partners build experiences that make your workouts and races even better.

 

As always, thanks for being a part of the Strava community,
The Strava Team

Of course, Relive then publicly posted a response– complete with SpongeBob meme. Ultimately a variant of ‘Strava got drunk, and is now ghosting us, help?’.

About this point you’re thinking to yourself: OK, so what, Strava and a 3rd party app are having a disagreement. Why do I (or you) care?

Well, the nuance of what they’re disagreeing about is actually super fascinating. Strava says that Relive violated their API terms of service.  Their API being the development hooks that thousands of developers leverage, including companies likes Garmin, Suunto, Zwift, Trailforks, Polar and many others. There are numerous legal conditions/rules in there – some of them obvious (variants of ‘do no harm’), but some of them less well-meaning and more anti-competitive.

To begin, the first condition that Strava states Relive has violated is the following:

“2b Strava reserves the right to revoke your API Token or terminate or limit any uses of the Strava API Materials if you violate this Agreement or we otherwise object to your use of the Strava API Materials, including but not limited to, uses that enable virtual races or competitions and uses that replicate Strava sites, services or products

The bold part is the bit Strava’s upset about, and translated to simple human English: Don’t do anything that we already have as a feature.

(I’ll point out the fact that almost every fitness/developer site/app already does that, for things like distance/speed/elevation/etc… all technically Strava features that are being duplicated.)

So what Strava feature is that which Strava disagrees with and believes violates their ToS?  The ability to have a social feed.

Yup, for real.

But wait – Strava says that Relive actually broke two term items here, with the second one being:

“2.k.iv You may not process Strava Data, including in an aggregated or de-identified manner, for the purposes of, including but not limited to, analytics, analyses, customer insights generation, and products or services improvements. Strava Data may not be combined with other customer data, for these or any other purposes.”

Now this is where things get whacky.  Basically Strava actually says in their terms of services that you can’t do analytics on their data (side note: It’s not ‘their data’, it’s your data…but we’ll come back to that in a second). That’s a funny distinction since those are – I kid you not – literally some of the same category names (e.g. Analysis) they use for their 3rd party app showcase/landing page:

But apparently that’s not actually what got Relive in trouble on this particular bullet point. Rather, it was the last portion of that sentence:

Strava Data may not be combined with other customer data, for these or any other purposes.”

What Strava is saying here is that you can’t take data via the Strava API and then show it (or combine it) with other 3rd party data. In the case of Relive, that means that Strava doesn’t want them also supporting uploads from Garmin, Polar, Suunto, etc, because then that combines the data from other sources.

Which is somewhat funny – because ironically enough, that’s actually exactly what platform giant Trailforks does (oh, and you can do analytics too):

The Trailforks Strava API integration allows you to pull in your Strava activities, add them to your profile whereby other users can follow you and your activities, browse them, – even get badges as seen below.

And what about the requirement for combining with other customer data? Oh, no problem – Trailforks does that too. You can upload routes outside of Strava, as well as activities. And heck, Trailforks even goes a step further violating the API than Relive by making that available for usage stats and analytics (harkening back to the previous item). All while doing so in an astoundingly clear flow chart on their own site (see above).

Realistically, I could keep finding these examples. After all, I’ve only spent about 45 minutes on this post at this point, and I’ve got a pile of big and small 3rd party apps alike that theoretically broke these same rules.

The real reason I suspect is that Strava somehow sees Relive as a threat. Perhaps they are, but in reality I suspect they aren’t. They’re just a small 3rd party app that wanted to add some common social features that Strava definitely didn’t pioneer. After all, it’s those specific social features that pushed Strava over the line, once Relive rolled them out last week. All of the rest of the customer data combining and analytic bits have been around for years on Relive without any Strava problem.

In fact, Strava even hosted Relive at Strava HQ two summers ago for a 3-day event. And their VP of marketing has also called Relive ‘the best use of Strava’s API to date’. At the time of the HQ visit, Relive already had other 3rd party data connections including Garmin, Endomondo, and Polar.

As for the back and forth in communications that both sides claim? Well, both are correct, just saying it differently. Strava gave some warnings last week, and Relive offered to rollback functionality. But apparently that wasn’t quite good enough, with Strava requiring additional terms that Relive couldn’t agree too. It’s unclear why Strava required additional terms if Relive rolled back the social functionality for Strava users.

No Strava, it’s not your data:

But I want to circle back to something you see over and over again in the Strava API terms of service, which are these two words: “Strava Data”

This term ostensibly refers to may things. It can and does include Strava Segments, Leaderboards, shoe types, device types, and of course – activity uploads. In the case of Relive, they weren’t using any of those things except the last, which is ‘Activity Uploads’.

But the problem is those workout files are actually your data. It’s the data you generate when you upload a workout file to Strava’s platform. In the case of Garmin devices that’s a .FIT file, from Polar a .TCX file, and so on. Ultimately, it’s your data. GDPR enforces that as well, and Strava’s same ToS even notes that too.

But Strava as a group seems to forget that.

In the case of Relive, that was my workout upload. I did that on a Garmin device and then would have uploaded it to the Strava platform. Then, using Strava’s API, Relive would have accessed my track data and generated a pretty little video based on my data. See what I did there: It’s not ‘Strava data’, it’s ‘my data’. They didn’t use segments or leaderboards or my shoe type. Just my track, and only my track.

I say that – because it seems like Strava’s forgetting that. It seems like they’re forgetting that this is ultimately data you create and you authorize these apps to use in ways that you’ve approved. That’s the entire point of the API, and by and large 3rd party apps do fantastic things. Thousands of app developers have created incredible apps – highlighted in their 3rd party app directory. But again – when I sign on to authorize an app (using the standard authorization page you’ve seen countless times), I’m saying that ‘Yes, I want the app to do that’.

And that’s where it appears Strava seems to misunderstand the definition of ‘Strava data’. At that point I’m saying ‘Yes, I want you to use my data that happens to be on Strava’s platform to create a nifty movie’. Again – it’s my data, and according to GDPR I’m in control of my data. Strava is merely a temporary holder of it, not unlike a bank.

Going Forward:

The challenge here for Strava and their apps is really twofold. For app developers, it’s the reality that Strava re-interpret their terms the moment they feel threatened. At least if you’re small. It’s the exact same story that played out last summer with Strava Live Segments, where now smaller GPS device manufacturers (e.g. not Garmin or Wahoo) have to pay Strava a licensing fee for usage of the Strava Live Segments functionality in their devices. It’s why you’ve seen that feature dry up over the past 12 months in newer devices on the market. Because Strava relies on companies like Garmin to convert paid Strava Summit subscriptions using their devices, Strava can’t actually pressure Garmin. Garmin would laugh in their faces.

But for Strava itself it’s that they keep tripping on stuff they needn’t trip on. One only need to look at social media yesterday to see how badly Strava lost in the social media game. They may have thrown the first legal punch, but they got badly beaten by meme’s and the reality of frustrated users calling Strava a bully.

And while Strava’s changes a year ago around renaming Premium to Summit were probably good for the company, they were ridiculed in the comments section for the name, with most users saying a variant of ‘How about developing features instead?’.  Which they did back in January.

For the first time in years they developed a new Strava finger-dragging route creation feature, only to have reality strike a few days day later when it was learned they actually painstakingly duplicated a 3rd party app (complete with IP logs showing Strava HQ, Bourne Identity style). And now here we are a year after Strava announced Summit – with yet still no new features. Instead, we’ve just got lawyers from Strava protecting turf that isn’t actually theirs to protect.

It’s thus somewhat ironic that Strava’s own breakup letter to Relive users actually sums it all up the best: “Rest assured, nothing’s changed about how your information is stored or the control you have over how it’s accessed by API partners.”

However, it’s missing the next line to complete it and make it more accurate. So I’ll finish it for them: “Ultimately, what’s changed is that we sat down and decided that instead of creating new features for you as Strava users, we’d spend that time on removing functionality from the greater Strava ecosystem.”

Seems about right.

DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (321)

  • It is a good article. If you want Export quality of CCTV camera from Bangladesh. AristaExport is a online base global import export platform & visit us -- AristaExport

  • Seriously think we should all delete our accounts, and show them whos data is whos!
    Not that I ever really used Relive (yes it was cool) But what urgs me is that notion that Strava is claiming my data as their own... Hmm as I recall I paid them for years of premium before I didnt seen any value.

    Getting super tired of the social of strava anymore anyway. The Leader Boards drive people crazy and to do crazy things. People cheating every single day... Ive known even before ebikes were a thing (Which I support by the way), "Athletes" were throwing their garmins to make up seconds of time to just get a KOM.

    Seriously tempted to delete Strava and just stick with my Garmin.

  • I tried out komoot and it works well. After the ride i have to export the gpx-track to my pc und upload to relive. Thein Relive taks the tracke and the photos on the mobile phone and makes a video as usual, with all photos on the right place. Look at http://www.komoot.de

  • To add to the list of long standing bugs they don't want to fix:
    if you are doing a live segment on the android app the little arrow you tap to go back to the map screen used to be visible, but now it got moved up under the top status bar. You can still tap it if you hit a tiny spot on the screen just right. This happens on at least 3 different phones from 3 manufacturers on 3 different versions of android since at least the start of last summer.

  • Talking about Strava's empathy - or rather more to the point - total lack off.

    I still use a phone (iPhone 5S), as my head unit. it has limitations, but it's "free".
    I have tested so many apps : SportsTracker (my first one on a Nokia N95 - it was brilliant), biketracks, Decat' Coach, Suunto, BTWIN Training, Panobike, Komoot, Cyclemeter, RoadBike (Runtastic) and of course, Strava.

    The only thing that keeps me on Strava for live recording is that it doesn't crash. Unfortunately, I cannot get total ascent since the beginning (how difficult is that ?) and only shows average HR.
    I have asked god knows how many times Strava if they would implement those features : NOT a single answer.

    The best for customer care were :
    - Decat' Coach (Decathlon) - these folks are fantastic. You may not always get what you want, but at least, they are listening and answering (very quickly indeed),
    - Komoot : as above.

    The worst ones : Runtastic : very long to respond and their response is pretty basic and utterly useless; the app didn't record speed nor distance 🤬 and hasn't been updated since ... stone age.
    Cyclemeter is on paper amazing, but very buggy and no answer.

    So where is Strava ?
    it's stable, but featureless and insanely poor at customer car and empathy.
    At least they could answer and say, like Décathlon : thanks for you're feed back. it's not part of our development plan.

    I used Relive a lot at the beginning as it was very cool. I now stopped using it as it was a "nice distraction", but not adding anything to me. I feel bad for Relive, but this Strava's complacency.

  • I mean really, removing functionality. Relive is not even close to a threat to Strava. No one has ever said, "If its not on Relive it didn't happen. No one."

    And don't even get me started on the fact that they should have implemented something (anything) for swimming years ago while one programmer was bored over a lunch break. How about supporting laps for Fenix 5/5 plus/945 etc etc.... maybe a proper graph showing paces.... simple things.

    And lastly, and most unbelievably, changing your FTP STILL changes TSS (or whatever Strava call it) for all activities that you did in the past, rendering the whole Fitness and Freshness thing completely useless.

    • When Relive is not allowed to fuse Strava-sourced tracks and tracks from other sources it creates a network effect: when a group ride get's the relive treatment based on a Strava majority in the group, it creates a "cost" for those who are not on Strava, they won't appear in the (imho pointless, but apparently tastes differ) video. relive mixing convenient Strava data with other sources would lessen the network effect enjoyed by Strava.

      The whole value of Strava as a company is based on it's presence as a de-facto standard network for a certain group of athletes, based on that network effect. Any erosion of that network effect (e.g. the convenience relive would love to offer of sourcing the majority of group ride tracks from Strava and allowing the data of "individualist strays" to come from other sources) is a piecemeal threat to Strava's value, even if no replacement of the whole thing is in sight.

  • Is there a way I can connect the data of strava with any other app to make a 3D video besides relive?

  • I've been really wondering what value Strava actually provides a lot recently, since it's a leaf node in my data tree anyway (entry point is Garmin Connect, cos Garmin) so it's more been the social aspects and egging each other on. Their attitude of charging a credit card annually with zero advance warning and a "best ask for forgiveness instead of permission" attitude, and assumption I require the full summit pack at twice the price I signed up at (again without warning) and now apparent entitlement or belief of ownership makes it all about the dollars and not the cycling/running. I'll never deny someone a profit, but respect those that get you there.

    But really, what exactly does Strava provide? I was at a fitness level recently where the idea of chasing KOMs felt like it was in reach, until I looked at current KOMs and they're either e-bikes cruising up hills at impossible speeds, or even cars. Then again, maybe 70km/h over 5km uphill with nothing but your own legs and lungs is worth chasing?

    • Wish that all of these smart people would continue to collaborate and provide me even better views of my rides, my progress etc. But, if Strava doesn't want to make it easy to access THEIR SERVERS, THEIR BANDWIDTH, etc to make it easy for other apps, that is basically a marketing decision... and we will just have to see how that works out for them.

      Meanwhile, MY DATA is still mine. I've got backup on my Garmin Devices and in Garmin Connect. I can download if I want to back it up. I even have a backup in another Strava API supported APP that easily downloads all of my activities.

      But, in then end... I feel better when I ride and I really don't want to get all worked up about this. Both Garmin and Strava were connected to Relive. And Relive continues to work (easier now that i don't need to hurry to upload images to Strava) for me.

    • Agreed on Strava's usefulness. It is(was) a community where you could compete without having to do a field sprint with lots of crashes via USAC. Or whatever your local race org is. After careful consideration I opted to stop accidentally paying for "premium" features. I think Strava should remember what made them special - the ability to foster competition via segments.

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