Apple’s last-minute App Store changes come with a catch — here’s what developers think

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Apple’s plans to comply with the European Union’s new rules governing big tech have already gotten off to an interesting start, and not just because Apple pulled Epic Games’ developer license. Apple made last-minute tweaks to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) compliance plan to add flexibility, but they’ve met mixed reactions among developers.

Developers considering Apple’s post-DMA fee structure, which comes with a new “Core Technology Fee,” can now try them out and then switch back to the original terms — instead of, as originally announced, making the change a one-way trip. In an update posted on Tuesday, Apple says it created the “one-time option” to revert to Apple’s standard agreement in case of “unexpected business changes” or if developers just change their minds. But there’s a caveat: developers can only switch back if they didn’t put their apps on an alternative app store or use alternative payment options.

Apple’s new rules let developers distribute their apps on third-party marketplaces and use alternative payment options. Even if they don’t distribute outside the App Store, they can opt in to the new structure and benefit from a lower App Store commission rate. But if their app has more than 1 million annual installs a year, they’ll need to pay that 50 euro cent fee for every additional installation and update — which can add up, especially for popular freemium apps.

Decisioning by membership: To make it easier for more developers to sign up for the new terms, we’ve removed the corporate entity requirement that the Addendum must be signed by each membership that controls, is controlled by, or is under control with another membership. This means an entity can now choose to sign up for the new terms at the developer account level.

Switching back: To help reduce the risk of unexpected business changes under the new terms, such as reaching massive scale more quickly than anticipated, or if you simply change your mind, we’ve created a one-time option to terminate the Addendum under certain circumstances and switch back to Apple’s standard business terms for your EU apps. For details, view the Addendum.

Alternative app marketplace requirements: To make it easier for developers who want to create alternative app marketplaces, we’ve added a new eligibility criteria that lets developers qualify without a stand-by letter of credit. For details, view the marketplace support page.

Apple is now giving developers a chance to change back to its standard terms, which means ditching the per-installation fee and returning to the higher commission rate. That offers a way out for app creators who rack up millions of downloads but can’t afford the fee — but only if they haven’t gone outside the App Store. While this should allow developers to test the waters with Apple’s new terms, it also arguably discourages developers from trying out alternative app stores, which undercuts a major goal of the DMA.

“I believe that the concept of these new agreements… bears an uncanny resemblance to a mafia-like ultimatum to developers, essentially conveying, ‘Remember who’s in charge here, I’m your friend if you remember that; I’m willing to give you one more opportunity to stay with me,’” developer and author Maximiliano Firtman tells The Verge. “That new rule, along with most of the new regulations for publishing in EU countries, appears overly complex, potentially creating a significant barrier for developers, deterring them from even attempting to navigate these waters.”

But other developers see the update as a welcome change. “I think this will encourage more developers (especially indies) to adopt the terms just for the reduced App Store commission rate, because now they can ‘try it out’ and see whether they stay under the CTF [Core Technology fee] threshold,” AltStore developer Riley Testut says in an emailed statement to The Verge. “I don’t expect many developers to actually revert, but just knowing they can will give them the confidence to adopt the terms.”

David Barnard, the founder of software development company Contrast, similarly writes in a post on X that Apple has “eliminated the risk in accepting the new terms.” In addition to allowing developers to switch back to Apple’s standard terms, Apple is also making it easier for some developers to open an alternative app store. As outlined in Apple’s terms, developers can now open a third-party store if they’re a member of good standing in the Apple Developer Program for at least two continuous years and have an app with more than 1 million annual installs in the EU. Apple previously required all developers to present a €1,000,000 letter of credit from an “A-rated” financial institution.

The DMA’s rules went into effect for digital gatekeepers like Apple on Wednesday. Although Epic Games previously announced that it was going to bring Fortnite and its game store to the App Store, Apple quickly dashed those plans. Apple revoked the game publisher’s developer license after fielding harsh criticism from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, saying the company is “verifiably untrustworthy.” There are still other app stores coming to iOS, however. The enterprise-focused app store Mobivention launches this week, while MacPaw’s Setapp store will arrive in April.

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