Fixing the App Store for developers

It’s WWDC opening day. I wasn’t planning on writing about the App Store again, because I feel like I’ve said it all before, but maybe I haven’t put it together in one place, or in a concise enough format.

Because I’ve dedicated the last several years to working on and writing about the open web, I think about the problems with massive social networks all the time. I’m obsessed with it. The App Store is also a huge platform with far too much power, so fixing it is not all that different than figuring out what to do with Facebook.

Here are the 4 things Apple should do:

  • Allow side-loading. Essentially like Gatekeeper on macOS, but for iOS instead, this can still allow Apple to disable malware while letting developers skip app review. As I wrote in 2011, there will always be another controversy until side-loading is allowed.
  • Don’t require in-app purchase. Exclusive payment mirrors the problem of exclusive distribution, so both have a similar solution. Let developers charge customers outside the App Store. Apple should compete on payment user experience, not with force.
  • Keep curating the App Store. Apple is on the right track with highlighting great apps in the store. The point of my post about open gardens is that by loosening their tight control over distribution, Apple would actually be more free to curate, even rejecting apps because there would be an alternative with side-loading.
  • Lower the cut to 15%. For all paid downloads, all subscriptions, and for all companies. This is the least significant part of anything in this blog post, because as Jason Fried writes, choice is more important than money. But it would go a long way to rebuilding trust with developers.

Anything short of all this is a band-aid, not a permanent fix.

Manton Reece @manton