“Are App Store Regulations Significant?” by Benedict Evans.

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Apple’s App Store Rules: What Could Change Next and Why It Matters

Apple’s App Store rules have faced increasing scrutiny from regulators, developers, and users around the world. The main issues are the 30% commission that Apple charges for in-app purchases and subscriptions, the mandatory use of Apple’s payment system, the lack of alternative app stores or side-loading options, and the restrictions on app functionalities and features. Some argue that these rules limit competition, innovation, and user choice, while others defend them as necessary for privacy, security, and quality control. Here are some of the possible scenarios and implications of the ongoing debates and investigations, without conclusion or introduction.

Side-Loading and Third Party App Stores

One of the most discussed alternatives to Apple’s App Store is side-loading, which would allow users to download and install apps from sources other than the official store. Some also advocate for third-party app stores, which could compete with Apple’s monopoly and offer different app curation, pricing, and revenue sharing models. However, there are concerns about the risks of malware, viruses, and scams that could harm users’ devices and data. Moreover, side-loading and third-party app stores could undermine Apple’s ability to regulate and ensure the quality and security of the apps available on its platform. While some developers might benefit from side-loading and third-party app stores, most users are likely to stick with the default App Store to avoid potential issues.

Payment Options and Competition

Another potential change that could result from regulatory pressure or legal action against Apple is the ability of developers to use their own payment systems and avoid Apple’s 30% cut. This could lead to lower prices for users, higher revenues for developers, and more competition among payment providers. However, it could also increase the risks of fraud, disputes, and chargebacks, as well as the fragmentation of payment methods and standards. Moreover, even if developers can choose their payment providers, Apple could still offer its own payment system for convenience and trust. Therefore, the impact of this change might be more significant for smaller, independent developers who cannot afford Apple’s fees than for larger, established companies who could negotiate their own deals.

Regulatory Diversity and Complexity

A challenge for both Apple and developers is the diversity of regulatory approaches to app stores and digital markets around the world. For example, the European Union has already proposed new rules that would require app stores to allow alternative payment systems and app sources, but also limit certain app behaviors and data sharing. The United States and the United Kingdom have also expressed concerns about Apple’s monopoly and anti-competitive practices, but have not yet taken concrete actions. Meanwhile, China has recently cracked down on tech giants and their overseas listings, raising questions about the fate of app stores and platform businesses. Therefore, even if Apple complies with one set of rules, it might face different requirements in other regions, which could lead to fragmentation and confusion for both developers and users.

Business Models and Innovation

A broader question that underlies the debates about Apple’s App Store rules is the nature and scope of digital business models and innovation. While some argue that Apple’s rules stifle creativity and diversity, others contend that they foster a secure and trusted environment for users and developers to interact and transact. Moreover, some app categories, such as games, have thrived on the App Store despite the 30% fee, while others, such as music and books, have struggled to compete with Apple’s own offerings. Therefore, it is not clear whether relaxing or removing the 30% fee or allowing side-loading or third-party app stores would unleash a wave of new apps and services that cannot exist under the current rules. Moreover, there might be trade-offs between different values, such as privacy, security, competition, and usability, that need to be balanced carefully.


In conclusion, the future of Apple’s App Store rules is uncertain and complex, as it involves multiple stakeholders, interests, and factors. While some changes are likely to happen in the near future, such as the adoption of alternative payment systems or the allowance of side-loading in certain regions, the overall impact of these changes on developers and users is still unclear. Moreover, the debates around app stores and digital markets are not only about economic interests or technical features, but also about societal values and policy choices. Therefore, it is important to have a broad and inclusive discussion about the implications of these issues for the future of digitalization and innovation, and to seek solutions that balance the interests of different parties and promote the common good.

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