Apple eases rules for App Developers following public conflicts

Apple announced Monday that its new App Store appeals process, first unveiled at WWDC in June, has already started. This means developers can challenge Apple if their app is in fact violating one of its guidelines. In addition to this, Apple says that developers can also propose changes to App Store policies by filling out a form on its online developer portal, The Verge reports. In addition, Apple will now allow developers stuck in the App Store to make bug fixes to their apps.

“For apps already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed due to policy violations, except for those related to legal issues. Instead, you will be able to resolve the rule violations in your next application, ”reads a note posted on Apple’s developer website. “And now, in addition to appealing decisions about whether an application is breaking the rules, you can propose changes to the rules”.

The changes were made at WWDC after a rather public feud with software maker Basecamp, the creator of the new email service Hey. Basecamp openly contested Apple whether the company could distribute an iOS companion app to its mail service without including in-app signup options since Hey costs $99 a year, and Basecamp deemed it unnecessary to give Apple a standard 30% share of that revenue (although Apple only gets 15% of app subscription income after one year of operation). In response, Apple announced bug fixes and update options.

In the end, both companies came to a compromise: Basecamp added bogus accounts to its iOS app, allowing consumers to sign up and then switch to a paid account online. In return, Apple will allow the company to follow the enterprise app model – Hey noted that it will also start supporting businesses outside of consumers – and will not require in-app purchase options.

However, Apple subsequently drew a fair amount of negative press coverage and developer protests over its actions, which apparently led to an appeal process in the App Store. (Apple did not specifically list Basecamp as the reason for the change.) Developers can now appeal if Apple finds they are violating the directive and the company will not do to any developers in the future what it did to Basecamp when the company actually held in hostage to the developers’ update until the dispute was resolved.



Apple is now in a much precarious position than it was in June. Around the time of WWDC, the European Union launched two antitrust investigations against Apple and the App Store, including one specifically related to the company’s 30% commission revenue. After the conference, Apple went into public litigation with Facebook and Microsoft over cloud gaming services (and then a separate feud with Facebook over in-app purchases broke out last week). Then, earlier this month, Epic Games challenged Apple over in-app payments at Fortnite (including Google) in a massive legal battle. This is just the beginning of a multi-year saga that could have serious consequences for the App Store and mobile app adoption in general.

It is unclear how the developer appeal process will work with Apple, as the only company that publicly said it contacted Apple about the appeal was Facebook, which said Apple did not respond to its request for its Facebook Gaming app. It’s unclear if Apple put heavy pressure on Facebook because it wanted to, or because the appeal process hadn’t officially started yet. If anything, Apple’s appeal process is now more formalized, so developers don’t need to be a giant corporation to get things off the ground.

Here is a full note from an Apple developer:

The App Store is designed to provide a user-friendly experience for everyone. To continue to offer users a safe place to download apps and help you successfully develop apps that are safe, high quality, reliable, and respectful of user privacy, we have updated the app review process as announced at WWDC20. For apps already in the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed due to policy violations, except for those related to legal issues. Instead, you will be able to resolve the rule violations on your next ticket. And now, in addition to appealing decisions about whether an app is in breach of the rules, you can propose changes to the rules. We also encourage you to submit your development suggestions to the App Store and Apple so that we can continue to improve the developer community experience.

Apple

Additionally, in a short announcement posted today on their website, Apple announced that they have updated the App Store Review Policy guidelines so that developers can continue to fix bugs even if they are currently in opposition to the App Review Team. Since Apple appears to be pushing developers even more aggressively to integrate in-app purchase frameworks into their apps, this change is setting Apple up to not frustrate users.

The ad text states that “bug fixes will no longer be delayed due to rule violations, except for those related to legal issues.” Developers will not be able to submit updates with new features or content updates, the focus of this policy change is on security/usability.

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