It’s Time to Allow Sideloading iOS Apps

Apple’s firm rejection of letting Hey’s iOS app in the App Store is just the latest in over a decade of controversy over the rules and restrictions Apple puts on App Store apps.

I’m sick of having to keep calling on Apple to reverse some stupid App Store policy decision every several months. Let’s eliminate the problem at its core and stop requiring iOS apps to be distributed on the App Store.

We don’t need the App Store to be exclusive for iOS to be a safe platform. iOS’s security model is great, and sideloaded apps can be made safe by adopting notarization as Apple has for macOS. No one realistically thinks the human app review process is meaningfully making apps safer.

And this would be great for Apple; it frees them up to run the App Store however they want to because developers always have an alternative if they run afoul of App Store policies.

Maybe Apple feels pressure from investors to keep the services revenue gravy train running, but there’s no reason to believe that allowing sideloading is going to slow that down. The App Store will keep growing without exclusivity, just as the Mac App Store has. The App Store wins by being the most convenient way for customers to buy things from developers, and non-power users will always trust Apple to curate an App Store full of apps they know they will trust.

The iOS platform is a massive market, and Apple hasn’t been a good steward of its primary distribution channel. If Apple wants the truckloads of money that come with making the most profitable mobile platform, it needs to accept that it can’t keep running it with monopolistic, rent-seeking behavior.

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