Resetting the App Store

Apple launched the App Store in 2008, and tightened up the payment rules in 2011, and we’ve been arguing about it ever since. In many ways the issues haven’t really changed - it’s just that the numbers got a lot bigger.

Almost everyone understands that some kind of locked-down, sandboxed software model has been a huge step forward for both users and developers. If there’s one lesson to take from the last few years in tech, it’s that allowing any random developer to do whatever they want with your device and your data is not a good idea (and that saying they can do it if the user gives permission just creates a target). Equally, a built-in, one-tap-to-install app store with frictionless payment led to an explosion of software creation and developer revenue. Trust was a huge problem, distribution was a huge problem, and Apple solved both.*

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The trouble is, if you’re going to have rules for what apps can do, what rules? And if you’re going to curate a store, how do you curate it?

Many of Apple’s decisions around this have to balance privacy, security, reliability, battery life, simplicity, ease of use, and competition. But their choices often seem to treat ‘things Apple likes’ as the most important criteria, and often seem to rank competition last. This is a particular problem for in-app payment, where Apple’s rules make some kinds of business simply ‘prohibitive’ - most obviously ebooks and music. You can be in the store, but you (Read more...)