Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Mac App Store Sandboxing, IAP Trials, Multiplatform Services

John Voorhees:

As the changes announced implicitly acknowledge though, the problems with the Mac App Store run deeper than its design. The Mac App Store has suffered since its inception from editorial neglect, a lack of feature parity with its iOS counterpart, the lack of access to TestFlight beta testing, and restrictive sandboxing that has made selling outside the store more attractive to many developers.

With the update to the Mac App Store in the fall, Apple is addressing some of those issues including sandboxing restrictions.

I’ve not seen any details about the sandboxing changes.

Chance Miller:

Apple today has updated its App Store Review Guidelines with a handful of changes. The new guidelines include revisions related to data security, cryptocurrency mining, free app trials, advertising, and more.

alex hern:

By updating the App Store guidelines to explicitly allow “Multiplatform services”, Apple appears to have explicitly disallowed the Kindle/Comixology compromise. Will be interesting to see if they push that.

Juli Clover:

A new guideline, 4.2.7, says that all Remote Application Mirroring apps, such as Steam Link, must comply with a specific set of rules. Such apps are not allowed to offer a user interface that resembles an App Store view or a store-like interface, nor can they include the ability to purchase software not already owned by the user. Apple is allowing transactions to be made by remote mirroring apps, as long as purchases are made on the host device rather than the iOS device.


A new rule, 2.3.12, states that all apps are required to “clearly describe” new features and product changes in their “What’s New” text. Apps can continue to use generic descriptions for bug fixes, security updates, and performance improvements, but anything more significant must be listed in the notes.

Mitchel Broussard:

Like on iPhone and iPad, the Mac App Store will have articles written by Apple editors to showcase useful apps and games currently popular on the App Store. This will be found in the Discover tab and include stories, interviews, tips, app collections, and more.


The company also mentioned that later this year, apps like Office from Microsoft, Lightroom CC from Adobe, BBEdit from Bare Bones, Transmit from Panic, Live Studio from Snap Inc. and Houseparty, among others, will be made available on the Mac App Store.

Cabel Sasser:

🚨 App Store Free Trials. So important, it should’ve been in the keynote. (I haven’t 100% confirmed this, but it apparently applies to the Mac App Store too.)


🧞‍♂️ So! Transmit 5 in the Mac App Store, coming later this year. Why?

• Coming improvements to sandboxing finally let us offer all Transmit 5 features in the App Store version.

• The new, redesigned Mac App Store is a store we’d like to be in.

But there’s a little twist!

🧞‍♂️ Our idea: Transmit 5 on the Mac App Store will be a subscription, while Transmit 5 direct from us will remain a one-time purchase. The choice is yours! Think Transmit 5 is too expensive or need it briefly? Subscribe. Hate subscriptions and prefer to own apps? Buy from us.

🧞‍♂️ (This approach also allows us to provide free trials on the Mac App Store, at last.) Hopefully we meet (almost) everyone’s needs, get experience with subscription models, and pull a classic Panic “gotta keep things interesting!”.


We’d like for Coda to return to the app store eventually. Right now, Coda cannot be properly sandboxed and still maintain the user experience we’re aiming for. We’re hoping that a few specific sandboxing improvements will land in the future, which would allow it. Stay tuned! –T

Ryan Jones:

Apple made the free trials for Paid apps “loophole” that Omni is most famous for using legal. Kinda handicapped instead of proper support.

Ken Case:

Yes, Apple has updated the App Store guidelines to explicitly allow the free trials approach they’ve approved for all our iOS apps over the last two years. (We worked very carefully to ensure this approach met Apple’s goals, and I’m glad they’ve now updated the guidelines!)

It’s not clear to me whether the guidelines now permit trials for all non-subscription apps, including ones that don’t degrade to a limited-but-still-useful viewer when the trial is over. Also, presumably this is still incompatible with Family Sharing.

Northern Virginia:

They’re really bending over backwards to do it in the most awkward way possible

Luc Vandal:

They seem to be a pain to implement and I’m not looking forward to the 1-star reviews left by users that didn’t end up purchasing. It’s Apple saying “FINE! You can people can have your free trials but we won’t make it easy for you.”

Rich Hong:

App Store Review Guidelines diff: WWDC 2018 Edition.


Update (2018-06-06): Rosyna Keller:

Some [sandbox changes], yes. And there are new entitlements you can use if you need certain changes.

Update (2018-06-07): Daniel Jalkut (tweet):

I think it’s particularly important, in the face of all the celebration this week about Apple’s perceived changes to the App Store, to understand the many ways in which this solution falls short of what many developers still hope for: bona fide support for real free trials in the App Store.


Paid apps are listed as free, even though payment is required to unlock core functionality.


Bulk purchase programs are unavailable.


Family sharing is unavailable.


Not applicable to all app types. Although Apple doesn’t explicitly state it in their revised App Review Guidelines, I strongly suspect that a continuing requirement for ersatz free trials is that the app must continue to function in some way as a perpetually free, unlocked app.


Apps are ranked and featured in the wrong charts.


Transaction mechanics are pushed onto developers.


Apps cannot be made to “just work” out of the box.

Read the whole thing.

Ken Case:

I’d love for the App Store to let free downloads categorize themselves as paid!

Luc Vandal:

As @danielpunkass pointed out, those App Store “free trials” are just a workaround that’ll confuse users and be a pain to implement and maintain for developers. Time that could be spent on improving our apps instead.

A better solution would’ve been to implement trials at the App Store level but I understand that Apple doesn’t want to spend time on this considering their stance on the issue and their push toward subscriptions.

Paul Haddad:

I really don’t care about free trials. Proper paid upgrades are far more important, I’d love to know why Apple refuses to implement them.

Michael Love:

Just realized an equally amazing consequence of this change: we can sell IAP to volume purchasers now!! I can sell a school 1000 copies of Pleco at a big discount and it’s totally OK with Apple that I did so.

Apple might be unwilling to put in the engineering time to actually support IAP with their own volume purchase program, but (as with IAP “free trials”) at least now they’re no longer standing in the way of my doing so independent of them.

Chris Liscio:

Not a single thing that I was hoping to hear about. Still no word on TestFlight for macOS, and nothing about the new Mac App Store providing analytics on page visits, etc.

30% cut: Develop your own beta program, no insight into where store traffic comes from, and DIY trials.

Update (2018-06-08): Ken Case:

I wonder how many people realize that the free downloads approach we’re now using doesn’t just solve the problem of free trials, but also the problem of upgrade discounts?

Until VPP supports in-app purchases, though, it means many business sales have to be outside the App Store.

Note that in order to keep the app available for anyone who doesn’t upgrade, each major version has to be a new SKU in the Mac App Store.

Update (2018-06-13): Drew McCormack (tweet):

I don’t want to get into a point-by-point debate on the topic; instead, I want to do something that I haven’t seen anyone do: try to understand why Apple don’t want the sort of free trials that are being demanded.

I do not agree that every developer rolling their own IAP-based solution is going to be clearer to the customer than Apple implementing trials in a uniform way.

Update (2018-06-15): Ken Case:

WWDC didn’t bring any news regarding the Volume Purchase Program and in-app purchases, so we’re planning to work out an alternative solution.

For those out there looking to make a VPP purchase, would you prefer separate B2B apps, or MDM-deployed unlock logins for existing apps?

Update (2018-06-20): John Gruber:

I think “free app with a free in-app purchase to unlock a one-month demo period, which, when expired, will require a $20 in-app purchase” is fundamentally more confusing than “this app costs $20 but you can try it for free for the first month”. You just need good design to make that clear. The former is what we have now, the latter is what the indie community has been clamoring for ever since the App Store debuted. And don’t forget paid upgrades.

Aristotle Pagaltzis:

The problems with App Store free trials [are] are actually just problems of a single-button UI. With 2 buttons, one to start a trial and one to pay for the app right away, most of them evaporate. (As you said: design.)

See also: App Store Review Guidelines History.

Update (2018-06-21): Damien Petrilli:

May be a good sign from Apple to convince everybody that IAP and subscription are the future would be to provide tools to make them easily.

Juli Clover:

At the same time, Apple also quietly expanded its data sharing rules, as Bloomberg points out, introducing strict new guidelines that prevent app developers from collecting user data to build advertising profiles or contact databases.

Update (2018-06-29): Brian Roemmele (via Dave Mark):

In 1983, Steve Jobs gave a speech to the International Design Conference in Aspen. The theme of that year’s conference was “The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be”.

Steve presented a concept of an online software store. Where one could purchase software, have it sent over a phone line and pay for it with a credit card. In 1983, few thought of this idea. This concept became the Apple app store decades later in 2007.

Update (2018-07-27): Here’s a clean URL for jumping to your App Store subscriptions list (via David Barnard).

11 Comments RSS · Twitter

"Like on iPhone and iPad, the Mac App Store will have articles written by Apple editors to showcase useful apps and games currently popular on the App Store."

And, of course, objectivity will be optional.

So what are these mysterious changes to the sandbox?

With Mojave, Apple makes changes inside and outside Mac App Store
Jason Snell
Six Colors

But in Mojave, the Mac App Store is getting more expansive. For example, Apps are able to ask for permission to creep out of the restrictive “sandbox” and access files more broadly across your Mac’s hard drive. The severe restrictions of the Mac App Store’s security policies were one of the reasons most frequently cited by developers who decided to bail out on the store and just go back to selling apps directly. It’s no coincidence that two notable developers who abandoned the Mac App Store, Bare Bones and Panic, were highlighted in a slide at the WWDC Keynote: That’s Apple sending a message to developers that the Mac App Store is changing and that they might want to give it a second look. I’d expect Apple to continue in this direction with the Mac App Store in the future.


i hope most devs keep their apps available on the web too. it would be tragic if macos ended up a totally walled garden like ios. ;(

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