Archive for September 10, 2021

Friday, September 10, 2021

History of App Store Policy Changes

Dieter Bohn:

Apple’s app store policies have caused controversy and consternation many times over the years, but few periods have been as active and strange as the last two weeks. For the first time, we are seeing Apple being forced to react directly to lawsuits and regulators with substantial policy changes.


Here, then, is a very brief history of the major policy changes and statements Apple has made about the App Store over the years. The impetus for these different changes (or, as Apple tends to call them, “clarifications”) has varied, but the trend has remained the same. Apple has worked hard to keep the fundamental, central model of a 30 percent cut intact while softening it around the edges to appease various constituencies.

But just take a look at the timing and cadence of these changes. After a development period from 2007 to 2011 when Apple fills out the features, there’s a large gap when Apple made few notable policy changes. Then, a major shift in 2016 to address some growing discontent among developers. And then, starting in the summer of 2019, there is an ever-increasing cadence of controversies and policy tweaks to address them.


Epic Wants Its Developer Account Back

Jay Peters (Fortnite, Hacker News):

Epic Games has asked Apple to reinstate its Fortnite developer account so it can release the game in South Korea, following the passage of a bill that will force Apple and Google to let apps use alternative payment systems.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Of note, Epic’s preliminary injunction (to keep the Epic dev account & ability to use Xcode, build, sign, and distribute Unreal Engine for Apple’s platforms) is terminated.

I’m not sure what happens here; if Apple is vindictive, Epic may be forced to drop support for iOS & macOS

Juli Clover:

Apple is under no obligation to allow Fortnite back into the App Store, and further, the injunction preventing Apple from banning the Unreal Engine developer account has ended. Apple is well within its rights to remove Epic’s access for Unreal Engine development and distribution.

Juli Clover:

In a statement to MacRumors, Apple said there is no basis for the reinstatement of the Epic Games developer account.

As we’ve said all along, we would welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else. Epic has admitted to breach of contract and as of now, there’s no legitimate basis for the reinstatement of their developer account.

Apple says that to be added back to the App Store, Epic Games would need to comply with all of Apple’s App Store review guidelines, which the company has thus far declined to do.

With no developer account, Epic can’t submit to the App Store, so how can Apple tell whether or not the app now complies with the guidelines?


Update (2021-09-14): Tim Sweeney:

Like Apple’s attempt to retaliate against all Unreal Engine customers, their refusal to restore Epic’s Fortnite developer account is vindicative and nonsensical. We’re fighting Apple over their iOS terms, but this ban blocks Fortnite from Mac too. Nobody’s arguing about Mac.

Sam Byford:

The South Korean legislation has not yet gone into effect, but if and when it does, according to Apple, that wouldn’t have any bearing on the company’s process for approving developer accounts. Until Epic agrees to comply with the App Store’s app review guidelines, Apple isn’t going to consider its request.

Has Epic really not agreed to do that?

Colin Cornaby:

So there’s a question of Apple restoring Epic’s account.

But couldn’t Epic open a new account either for themselves or through a proxy publisher?

Like if Epic decided to publish Fortnight through EA or something could Apple stop that?

Anti-Steering Ruling in Epic v. Apple

Russell Brandom (via Nilay Patel, Hacker News, 9to5Mac, MacRumors, Slashdot):

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a permanent injunction in the Epic v. Apple case on Friday morning, putting new restrictions on Apple’s App Store rules and bringing months of bitter legal jousting to a conclusion.

Under the new order, Apple is:

permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.

In short, iOS apps must be allowed to direct users to payment options beyond those offered by Apple. The injunction is scheduled to take effect in 90 days — on December 9th — unless it is enjoined by a higher court.

In a separate judgment, the court affirmed that Epic Games was in breach of its contract with Apple when it implemented the alternative payment system in the Fortnite app. As a result, Epic must pay Apple 30 percent of all revenue collected through the system since it was implemented — a sum of more than $3.5 million.

Juli Clover:

In a statement on Twitter, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said that the company was not happy with the verdict, and at the current time, there are no immediate plans for Fortnite to return to the App Store. Sweeney said that today’s ruling “isn’t a win” for developers or consumers.


Though Apple did not score a total win, Apple lawyer Kate Adams told members of the media that the ruling was a “resounding victory” that validates the App Store business model. Apple’s official statement highlights the anti-trust portion of the ruling, which went in Apple’s favor. Apple has yet to comment on the outside payment requirement.


Epic Games plans to appeal the parts of the ruling that it does not agree with, and Apple too will likely submit an appeal to push back on the anti-steering requirements the judge has enacted.

Ben Thompson:

Epic lost on everything else, and has to pay Apple 30% of the money it earned from its own in-app purchase flow. And Apple can still kick them out of the store. Truly a self-sacrifice for developers generally 🤷‍♂️


One final note: neither this ruling nor the JFTC settlement say that Apple can’t require IAP. In fact this injunction specifically says developers can link out “in addition to” IAP. No mention about offering different prices.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Apple just lost a huge part of the Epic vs Apple case, breaking open the App Store to alternate payment systems — Apple will almost certainly appeal the ruling, but with the pressure mounting globally over this very issue, I think the writing is on the wall

This also means that Epic was completely justified in the stunt they pulled, adding alternate payments to Fortnite, as Apple’s rules on this, & enforcement thereof, are illegal.

Matthew Panzarino:

This is really a big likely loss for consumer protections. Have fun chasing down all of the fraudulent scammy junk cash grabs that will result. Big win for game/IAP-focused publishers and for Stripe though.


Imagine a world where Apple had introduced a Stripe partnership a year ago and offered two clear options for developers, web via Stripe or streamlined IAP inside apps.

M.G. Siegler:

Apple needed to tear down the wall proactively and win by competing. And the wild is, they easily could have! (And now will.) In-App/Apple Pay is a great product and has inherent advantages thanks to the iPhone. Just a dumb misread and self-own.

Craig Hockenberry:

Apple is competing against Stripe now.

In my mind, that’s a good thing because Stripe is really fucking great.

If Apple can match their pricing & functionality, they’ll get my business both as a developer and a consumer because I know where they stand on privacy.

Also, when I say “Stripe”, I really mean “Apple Pay”.

Joe Fabisevich:

Stripe is gonna make one hell of an IAP SDK. People keep talking about how Apple has to allow developers to link to the web for payments, but there’s no reason someone like Stripe can’t make a top notch easy to setup native experience.

In my view this is probably one of the best outcomes. Alternative App Stores would be an absolute mess, and while I hope Apple provides some sort of payment plugin to ensure the best experiences, companies that already provide good competitive experiences is a great outcome.

Perhaps it’s the best that could be expected from this case, but there are so many problems that alternate app stores or sideloading would address that this ruling doesn’t.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Seeing a few people interpret the ruling as devs are now allowed ‘to link out’ to 3rd-party purchasing. To me, this specifically prohibits Apple from stopping devs having buttons or other calls to action to use a different payment provider, in-app or ex-app. No link-out necessary

John Gruber:

That’s not how Apple sees it. It is an ambiguously worded injunction, though. Apple’s take, as I understand it, as well as my take, is that it means apps can steer users to the web in addition to IAP.

Michael Love:

Apple seems to be discreetly leaking that interpretation to a bunch of people, but since the language is lifted directly from the App Review Guidelines it’s very hard to argue that it’s doing anything short of totally blocking the anti-steering portion of 3.1.1.

Whatever version of “buttons” Apple says we’re not allowed to use to direct users to outside purchasing mechanisms, that’s the version of “buttons” that they’re no longer allowed to ban.

See also: Nilay Patel (tweet).

Curtis Herbert:

My guess, new IAP rules will follow Sign in with Apple:

  • Can offer alternate payments, but Apple IAP has to be top billing.
  • Can’t show others without also showing Apple’s.

Sean Heber:

If this is how it goes, it’s not that big a win since supporting 2 payment systems is going to be twice the work and twice the support burden for anyone that isn’t huge. Apple has no incentive to make this situation easier on the developer, either.

Ryan Jones:

We knew the App Store is really a Game Store, but…98% of all IAP revenue comes from games.


10% of iOS users generate 70% of App Store revenue via games

David Barnard:

Kinda gross TBH that this all really boils down to Apple making billions off free-to-play games selling gems and digital trinkets. The rest of us are just a rounding error — collateral damage in Apple’s ability to keep that income stream and prop up the stock price.

Nilay Patel:

Apple’s anti-steering rules are “an incipient violation of antitrust law” regardless of Epic failing to prove its case, says judge.

Ruffin Bailey:

Apple has to take 3rd party payments.

We can judge Apple by seeing if they...

  1. Do this quickly (they anticipated the possibility & have prepared best case implementations) or
  2. Drag their feet (they’re a poorly run company scrambling to adapt; sell).

See also:


Update (2021-09-14): John Gruber:

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled today on the Epic v. Apple case. It seems pretty clear to me that Apple got a huge victory, and Epic was served an even huger loss.

Thomas Claburn:

Amusingly, the judge trashed Apple SVP of software Craig Federighi’s argument that opening up iOS to all apps, as it does for macOS, would open the floodgates for malware. “While Mr. Federighi’s Mac malware opinions may appear plausible, they appear to have emerged for the first time at trial which suggests he is stretching the truth for the sake of the argument,” the judge noted.

Mitchell Clark:

After discussing notarization and App Review a bit more, she concludes that Apple could implement a system similar to the Mac’s without giving up much of the security iOS already enjoys[…]

Sean Hollister:

Epic will appeal the court’s ruling in Epic v. Apple, a spokesperson confirmed to The Verge.

Sami Fathi:

Epic Games has filed an appeal against the ruling in its case against Apple, further prolonging the already year-long legal battle between the two companies.

Dieter Bohn:

Apple won the vast, vast majority of issues Epic tried to bring up, but also I feel like all of those were long shots. But there is an actual win in all those losses (anti-steering), so I’m fascinating by Epic’s rhetoric here.

Update (2021-09-16): Florian Mueller:

What the court got absolutely right is that the 30% cut is not a market rate for the intellectual property in question. The court even takes note of “Apple’s low apparent investment in App Store-specific intellectual property.” The commission is practically imposed and enforced because of Apple’s app distribution monopoly. The term “gatekeeper” (which is very popular in EU tech policy and law) doesn’t appear in that ruling, but that’s what it’s all about.

Universal Control

Dieter Bohn (Hacker News):

The idea is simple enough: it allows you to use the keyboard and trackpad on a Mac to directly control an iPad, and even makes it simple to drag and drop content between those devices.

What made the demo so impressive is how easy and seamless it all seemed. In a classic Apple move, there was no setup required at all. The segment happened so fast that it even seemed (incorrectly, as it turns out) like the Mac was able to physically locate the iPad in space so it knew where to put the mouse pointer.

See also: Teleport, Synergy.

Federico Viticci:

It can only be started from a Mac running Monterey. You cannot start dragging the pointer from an iPad towards a Mac – it only originates from macOS, and then you can move it around.

It seems to be iPad-only, which is too bad because it would be nice to be able to type directly into my iPhone.

Sami Fathi:

While the feature was previewed at WWDC in June, it’s yet to make an official appearance in any developer beta of macOS Monterey or iPadOS 15, leading to speculation that the feature may be delayed to a future update to the operating systems. However, in the latest macOS Monterey beta released on August 11, Universal Control can be enabled and used between two Macs.

To enable it, users will need to follow the steps outlined in this GitHub post, which requires running a series of Terminal lines, altering system settings, and running commands to enable “Ensemble,” Apple’s internal codename for Universal Control.