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Apple to allow EU App developers to distribute apps directly on their website

Apple’s added features to allow EU app developers to distribute apps from their own websites in order to comply with EU DMA

In a significant development, Apple has granted EU app developers the ability to distribute their iOS apps directly to users from the websites owned by the developers. In other words, users can download iOS apps from the browser directly,  similar to what’s already available on Android. This new Web Distribution Feature will be available with a software update “later this spring”, Apple said in a statement issued on March 12.

Why it matters?

Until last week, Apple users could only download iOS apps from the official App Store and these apps could only process purchases using Apple’s in-app purchase system. But thanks to the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the new competition law in the EU that went into effect on March 7, Apple has started allowing the distribution of apps through alternative app stores and the use of alternative payment systems in the EU. However, the concessions given by Apple come with major caveats, which have been criticised by app developers.

How will the Web Distribution Feature affect developers?

The Web Distribution Feature, which is yet another measure to comply with the DMA, also comes with many caveats that make them unattractive to developers:

  • The developer must be based in the EU.
  • The developer must have a “good standing” in the Apple Developer Program for two continuous years or more.
  • The developer must have an app with more than one million annual installs on iOS in the EU in the prior calendar year.
  • The developer must be registered with Apple and authorised by Apple for Web Distribution.
  • Apps must undergo a Notarization, a baseline review that involves a combination of automated checks and human reviews.
  • Pay Apple a Core Technology Fee of €0.50 for each installation exceeding one million in the past 12 months

More importantly, even after adhering to the above conditions and more, the process for a user to download and install an app from a website is cumbersome with multiple steps and warnings. 

While some of the steps outlined above are one-time and the installation does get easier the second time, it is nevertheless far from the easy and simple way of downloading from the Apple App Store. Developers are likely to challenge this process with the European Commission. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has already criticised the plan, calling it another “malicious European DMA compliance strategy”:

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