A trio of U.S. Senators introduced a bill that would force Apple to allow sideloading of applications and alternative iOS app stores. Other modifications to Apple’s and Google’s business models would be required as well.
Whether the proposed Open App Markets Act will pass is anyone’s guess. So far, Big Tech has always talked lawmakers out of passing legislation that would put significant restrictions on it. But if this bill becomes a law, the App Store will never be the same again.
Taking on ‘Big Tech bullying’
The three co-sponsors are Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
“For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark — pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market,” said Blumenthal in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will help break these tech giants’ ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices.”
Law proposes major changes to the App Store
Apple currently puts up significant roadblocks to sideloading — installing applications onto an iPhone or iPad from a Mac. The Open App Markets Act would require Apple to allow sideloading.
And that’s just the start. At this point, there is only one iOS App Store allowed: the one run by Apple. The Senators would like to open the door to third-party app stores.
Most developers must sell in-app purchases, if any, via Apple’s purchasing system. And they can’t tell customers that they can buy get a lower price by buying directly from the developer. These two practices would also become illegal if the Open App Markets Act apples.
Many of these are changes that companies like Epic Games and Spotify have lobbied for.
Apple says changes would endanger user security and privacy
The U.S. Senators say the proposed law will “set safeguards to continue to protect privacy, security, and safety of consumers,” but those are the very reasons why Apple has said in the past why it opposes all of these changes.
An Apple spokesperson told The Verge on Wednesday, “Since our founding, we’ve always put our users at the center of everything we do, and the App Store is the cornerstone of our work to connect developers and customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy.. At Apple, our focus is on maintaining an App Store where people can have confidence that every app must meet our rigorous guidelines and their privacy and security is protected.”
And the company has been arguing against any such changes for months. In June, CEO Tim Cook said that sideloading “would destroy the security of the iPhone and a lot of the privacy initiatives that we built into the App Store.” As one example, he argued that his company wouldn’t be able to enforce its requirement that third-party developers ask permission before tracking users.
Also in June, Apple’s head of user privacy pointed out that Android already allows sideloading, alternative software stores, etc., so any law that forces Apple to do the same would be reducing consumer choice — they already have access to Android if they want a platform that emphasizes openness over security.