20th July 2020

Technology Apple makes concessions to App Store developers

Technology Apple makes concessions to App Store developers


Technology Tim CookImage copyright

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The changes to the App Store rules were revealed following a presentation led by the company’s chief executive

Apple is to give developers more leeway in disputes regarding apps that have fallen foul of its App Store rules.

The company will allow developers accused of violating its guidelines to launch an appeal.

And updates to apps that fix minor problems will no longer be delayed by these disputes.

The changes follow a public row between Apple and Basecamp, the developers of Hey, an email app at the centre of an App Store dispute.

Their timing coincides with Apple’s week-long Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), at which it is seeking app-makers’ help in switching its Mac platform to a different type of chip.

Technology Strict guidelines

Apple’s App Store is where nearly all iPhone and iPad users acquire apps for their devices.

But Apple has long retained the right to decide when apps should be suspended or even pulled from the App Store, based on its strict guidelines.

And it halted an update to Hey, saying its $99 (£78) annual subscription should be available to purchase inside the app instead of on an external website only.

But Basecamp said it “won’t ever do IAP [in-app purchases]” and neither did other apps, such as Netflix.

Image copyright

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Hey puts messages from familiar contacts into an Imbox – for important emails – while placing newsletters and promotional messages elsewhere

And it is now offering a two-week free trial within Hey, to fulfil Apple’s requirement for apps to “work” immediately on being downloaded.

The stand-off also sparked a wider debate about Apple’s pricing policies.

On Tuesday, Basecamp’s chief technology officer, David Heinemeier Hansson, tweeted Apple’s decision to relax its rules was “pretty significant” but the exact nature of its future relationship with developers needed further clarity.

“I really do hope Apple is serious about reform,” he said.

“There’s a path forward here, where Apple goes back to being a friend of developers not a big bully they’re all terrified of speaking out against.”

Many developers have issues with the cut Apple takes from app revenues.

But nearly all, especially the small ones, grumble in private rather than offend the mighty company on which their livelihoods depend.

Basecamp was different, coming out punching when Apple threatened to bar the app, and using words such as “outrageous” and “abuse”.

At another time, Apple might have swatted the company away.

But the risk of the row overshadowing WWDC and diluting its messages was too great.

So before the keynote, it moved quietly to make peace with Basecamp.

And afterwards, even more quietly, it made a few tweaks to its deal with developers.

But this isn’t over.

With the EU mounting an investigation into the App Store and other bigger developers spoiling for a fight, Apple may have to give further ground.


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