As new European tech regulations are set to take effect in the coming weeks, Apple is preparing for a future where it will be required to allow users to download apps from sources outside of its App Store. The company hasn’t shared details about how the process, called sideloading, will work, but it seems it may not allow developers to circumvent the company’s fees and app review rules after all.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the App Store owner “plans to collect fees from developers that offer downloads outside of the App Store” and that it will require some kind of review for downloads that don’t go through its storefront. Sideloading would only be offered to iOS users in the European Union in order to comply with the bloc’s Digital Markets Act.
While the report notes Apple’s plan hasn’t been finalized, the strategy would be in line with another significant change the company just made to its US App Store policies. Last week, the company officially changed its rules for US developers to enable in-app purchases that bypass the App Store’s billing system.
However, the new rules, which came after a lengthy court battle with Fortnite developer Epic Games, stipulate that developers must still pay a hefty 27 percent commission on purchases made outside of the App Store (some smaller developers will only be charged 12 percent). The new rules also give Apple the right to audit developers’ records to ensure compliance. That’s already led to much criticism from Epic, Spotify and other developers who have long been critical of the App Store’s restrictive rules and fees.
If Apple were to charge developers for sideloading, that could lead to similar criticism from app makers. The Digital Markets Act is set to go into effect March 7, and even though Apple has yet to share its plan to comply with the regulation, companies that have previously butted heads with Cupertino over its rules are already preparing. Spotify, a longtime opponent of the App Store’s commission, just previewed what the European version of its app will look like once users can pay for subscriptions and audiobooks inside of its app.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that Meta, another vocal Apple critic, is working on its own project that would allow it to distribute developers’ apps via Facebook ads. The effort, reportedly called “Project Neon” internally, could allow the Facebook owner to compete with the App Store more directly, at least in Europe.