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I hadn’t planned to write much about the back and forth between Apple and the government of the Netherlands that led to yesterday’s announcement. After reading the press release, it sounded like Apple were giving more detail into how developers would apply for the new entitlements after being told their original announcement didn’t contain enough detail.

Well, what Apple published yesterday certainly added more detail! Lots more. There were unexpected requirements, like needing to present a sheet which must state verbatim that “This app does not support the App Store’s private and secure payment system”. Then there was the detail that developers will still have to pay a commission of 27% on top of whatever fees their chosen payment provider has. 😅

I remember there was lots of optimism when the Epic first challenged Apple. People hoped it could lead to lower fees and fundamental changes to the App Store. However, I could only see negative outcomes and hoped it would not end in forced changes. I focused on my belief that alternate app stores would erode end-user trust in these platforms and how it’s almost impossible to get that trust back once it’s gone. I found it impossible to see a positive outcome in any aspect of the legal action, though.

As the various court cases progressed, it became clear that I was right, but mainly for a different reason than what I initially focused on. Naturally, Apple would make minimal changes to comply with each court ruling. A small change in South Korea followed by an even more specific one for dating apps in the Netherlands. Nothing sweeping or fundamental. Instead, each minor change only makes operating in the App Store more complicated.

Today’s main ire has mainly been around the commission, but I’m surprised at how much anger there is. I didn’t find it particularly surprising. If I remember right, Apple stated several times during the Epic case that alternate payment systems would make it difficult to collect their cut. I don’t think anyone expected that cut to be 27%, but would people be less angry at 25%? or 20%? I don’t think so. While the intentions in some cases (Epic excluded, obviously) might have been pure, the only ruling that could force sweeping changes is maybe a monopoly judgement of some kind.

I honestly can’t see a positive end to any of this. I think it’s now clear that all of these legal cases only make the App Store worse (something I’m sure Apple would agree with me on!), but more legal action will keep coming if Apple continues to move inch by painful inch. But, at the same time, as a for-profit company, they have a duty to their shareholders.

I know some of you will see this as unnecessarily kind to Apple, and I’ll make sure not to read this week’s unsubscribe reasons 😰 but I really don’t think anyone benefits. Apple certainly doesn’t look good. I was quite shocked at the arrogant tone of yesterday’s announcement. However, they are behaving in a predictable way for a company being told what to do by courts.

I’ve said this before too, but I would support a bigger rethink of how the App Store works. A shake-up that focuses on downloads and usage more than taking a percentage cut of financial transactions. One that makes sure that the largest companies in the world, who get massive value from the platform, pay something instead of nothing. I don’t know what that model looks like, but I can only really see changes of that magnitude putting an end to this current situation.

As it is, this is going to go on and on, and the inevitable result is a mess.

Dave Verwer

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And finally...

I'm sure this'll be the most heartwarming story you'll read today. ❤️

Dave Verwer