after its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple released the updated App Store guidelines that included a new rule that allowed it to prohibit applications created by a "marketed template or application generation service". He understood at the time that this was part of the biggest cleanup of Apple's App Store, and the goal was to help eliminate low-quality cloning and spam applications from the market. But things have changed since then. Several application development companies that previously believed they were free are also being affected.
Recently, many companies received a deadline of January 1, 2018, after which any new applications they submit will be rejected by the App Store Review team, as Apple has told them. Meanwhile, some have been able to maintain their existing applications, but it is not clear how long it will last.
Example of Apple App Store rejection notices for rule 4.2.6.
Example of Apple App Store rejection notices for rule 4.3.
The unfortunate thing about the extended application of policies is that these application manufacturers are specifically targeting the small business market. They build applications for companies that do not have the internal resources to build their own applications or can not afford to hire a custom store to design a new iOS application from scratch.
Instead, these companies help small businesses, such as local retailers. , restaurants, small fitness studios, non-profit organizations, churches and other organizations to create presence in the application through templates, drag-and-drop badistants and several tools to build a more basic application that can be further customized with your own brand and images.
These may not be the most used applications, no doubt, but for the audiences they serve, for example, customers of a local pizzeria who prefer to have their own application instead of paying the fees badociated with being in a Food order platform such as Seamless / GrubHub or Uber Eats – serve a useful purpose.
As one application creator put it, the decision to limit the ability of these small companies to compete in the App Store is as if a web hosting company said they would no longer allow web pages created with WordPress templates or those created using badistants from service websites such as Wix or Squarespace.
The Apple movement, which seems to be blocking a large number of small companies in the App Store, now caught the attention of Congress.
In a letter dated December 1, 2018, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (District 33, California) asked Apple to reconsider its expanded application of its guidelines 4.2.6 and 4.3. The former prohibits template-based applications, while the latter is more of a catch-all to ban spam, a rule that Apple is now using if it can not prove that the application was built using some kind of wizard or by dragging and dropping system .
"Recently, I was informed that Apple's decision to more strictly enforce its policy guidelines with respect to design and functionality may result in the total rejection of applications based on templates from the App Store," Lieu wrote. "I understand that many small businesses, research organizations and religious institutions rely on template applications when they do not have the resources to develop internal applications."
The congressman suggests that Apple is launching "too net" in its effort to eliminate spam and illegitimate applications from the App Store, and is "invalidating applications from old and legitimate developers that do not pose a threat to the integrity of the App Store. "
Above: Letter from Representative Ted W. Lieu to Apple
The expansion of the policy has had a dampening effect on the industry that serves these small businesses.
One company, Shoutem, already closed as a result, for example. (Only a small team remains to support current customers)
Explained Shoutem CEO Viktor Marohic, the company closed its store a few weeks ago, a decision that attributes to the change to the App Store guidelines, combined with the challenges of operating a business in this space.
"The 4.2.6 was just a final straw that made us move a little faster with that decision [to close]," he said of Shoutem's closure. "It was also a threat to our business business, because it's hard to predict what Apple could do next, although we understand their intentions, the overall approach they took was quite unfair to our business customers who actually built completely custom applications in the top of our platform and do not share much of the code with other applications created on the platform. " said Marohic.
Another company affected by the rule is ChowNow, which designs applications for restaurants that use components that allow them to have their own online ordering systems and loyalty programs.
ChowNow used to be an Apple Favorite In fact, the company was even cited in Apple's documentation on best practices for Apple Pay because it was one of the first companies to integrate Apple's payment technology into its development platform Of applications.
But even Apple tells Apple that January 1, things will change for them.
Above: How different can restaurant applications really be? Big brands vs. ChowNow (right)
"There was no way in June [when the guidelines changed] that we would have said, that's going to target our applications," said ChowNow CEO Christopher Webb. to TechCrunch about how he reacted for the first time. News. "Apple had told us that you are not being targeted for this from a quality point of view, so being beaten now under the umbrella of spam is shocking for all quality developers and for all good actors."
Apple's concern about restaurant-based applications for restaurants, Webb added, also makes no sense because "there's only so much you can do with applications that perform the same utility: order food."
Pizza applications, for example, tend to have pizza photos, use red in their designs and offer buttons to pick up and deliver.  In addition, ChowNow applications use 100% native code, while major brands such as Pizza Hut and Domino contain web views.
Apple has not sent any large-scale communication to its developer community about the extended application of its rules. Instead, all the conversations you are having are one on one with individual businesses. This allows you to more selectively select your own list of "winners and losers" in terms of which companies will be targeted by the changes.
Not surprisingly, Apple's partnership with IBM means that IBM creates template-based applications for enterprise customers. , is not affected by the new rules.
The irony regarding this situation is that Apple has taken a strong position on the neutrality of the network, arguing that all companies have the right to an open Internet. Apple's US vice president of public policy, Cynthia Hogan, wrote in a letter to the FCC in August this year:
Broadband providers should not block, limit or otherwise discriminate against websites and services legal Far from being new, this has been a fundamental principle of the FCC's approach to net neutrality for more than a decade. Providers of online goods and services need the badurance that they can reliably reach their customers without the interference of the underlying broadband provider.
However, what Apple is doing with its expanded ban on applications with templates is equivalent to preventing small businesses from competing in the same ecosystem as major brands. It is the guardian effectively creating a system that impacts the small one by interfering with its ability to do business on the web, a web that we access more and more through native applications, not a browser.
According to Flurry's 2017 data, use of the mobile browser decreased from 20 percent in 2013 to only 8 percent in 2016, with the rest of our time in applications, for example. They are our gateway to the web and the way we interact with the services.
"Rule 4.2.6 is a concrete illustration of the danger of Apple's dominant position," lamented Jérôme Granados of Goodbarber – a company that had fortunately invested in progressive web applications before Apple changes. "This rule prevents many local newspapers, online media, NGOs, religious communities, sports clubs, local stores, schools, universities, local public administrations and other actors with limited resources from counting among their iPhone users," he told TechCrunch.
Among the frustrations of these companies is the fact that cleaning an App Store did not have to involve the total elimination of applications from small businesses. Apple could have only applications not included in the list of category pages to reduce "clutter" or have only returned applications in the search results when customers write more matching names.
"We understand the need to clean the App Store, but they feel that Apple could have done it in a different way," said Bizness Apps CEO Andrew Gazdecki, who is transitioning his customers to progressive web applications, according to the company. advice from Apple.
"We are concerned that this rejection notice is problematic because being questioned is not the quality of the application, but the way in which it is generated," said Gazdecki. The CEO yesterday established a Change.org request to beg Apple to change its mind. More than 250 signatures have been added, at the time of writing.
"They've wiped out almost an entire industry – not just DIY tools like AppMakr, but also development suites like Titanium," said Jay Shapiro, CEO of AppMakr, which now builds applications for the international markets where Android dominates.
Above: The official Lumineers application, created by AppMakr
We have also heard from a source that the change will affect other companies that create applications, including MindBody (applications for fitness studies), eChurch and Custom Church Applications (applications for churches), LevelUp and Olo (applications for restaurants), Hopscotch (games), uCampaign (applications for Republican legislators) and others. [None in this list have yet responded to a request for comment, but we’ll update if that changes.]
"I'm sure Apple has some commercial reasons to do this, but they just deprived an entire ecosystem of rights and none of us can really understand why," Shapiro said. "There were much simpler ways to solve the problem they perceived."
Apple has not responded to requests for comments.