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Apple Quietly Changes Some App Store Rules

Posted June 23, 2020 | App Store | Apple | Dev | iOS | iPadOS | Mac and macOS | Windows

Those hoping to see how Apple would respond to growing accusations of its App Store abuses were no doubt disappointed by the WWDC keynote. But the firm did make some changes to its App Store policies this week. And unlike its secretive and anticompetitive behavior to date, these changes were at least made publicly.

Publicly but quietly.

Consider this quote from Apple’s press release about its new developer technologies and capabilities.

“The Apple developer community inspires us all with apps that help more than a billion users, transform industries, and change the world,” Apple’s senior vice president Phil Schiller is credited with saying. “[At] this WWDC, we’ve introduced innovative new APIs, frameworks, and tools designed to help developers take their app experiences further and reach even more users. The App Store ecosystem is more diverse, dynamic, and successful than it has ever been, but we know that to make it better for everyone, there is more we must do together. This year at WWDC20, we’ve added online App Store Labs, extended the annual App Store developer survey, and more because we want to hear directly from hundreds of thousands of developers on how they want us to improve the App Store for them, and for users.”

So where’s the change in policies, you ask? It’s in that “and more” bit.

Apple is making two changes. First, it is creating new developer forums where “developers are encouraged to share their suggestions, large and small, so that Apple may continue to implement changes and improve the App Store experience for the entire developer community.”

Second, Apple is making a few changes to its app review process “this summer.” Now, developers will be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates an Apple rule, and they will have a mechanism to challenge individual rules. And Apple pledges to not delay bug fixes for apps that are already in the App Store, even if they contain non-legal rules violations. Instead, developers will be able to address Apple’s issue in the next update.

If that latter issue sounds familiar, it’s the exact problem that Basecamp complained about last week: It issued a bug-fix update to an email app that was already in the App Store and Apple rejected it even though its supposed violations were present in the original version of the app, which remained in the Store.

Like many, I was curious how—really, how little—Apple would respond to recent complaints, and I guessed that if it did so during the keynote, it would be draped in arrogant language about how great the App Store is for everyone. But the way Apple handled it is more in line with the passive-aggressive nature of a firm that presents a friendly face to its customers while forcing a hostile environment on any developers dumb enough to try and compete with it.

These are good first steps. But Apple obviously has a lot more to answer for.

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