App stores today are the easiest and safest way to get apps, but the events we have witnessed in recent months show us thatthat not everything is prettier as it seems. Behind that pristine image of comfort and reliability are hidden monopolies led by Apple and Google.
Normally it is Apple that collects the most headlines, and the reason is because we have alternative stores on Android, something that apparently makes Google look less monopolistic. But let’s face it, if there was a real alternative to the Play Store, Trump’s veto of Huawei would not have had one tenth of the impact it has had on the company and its mobile sales.
Isn’t it time to have the freedom we deserve?
Fortnite was only the beginning
One of the movements that has caused the most noise in recent weeks is the scandal between Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, against Apple and Google. The company introduced its own microtransaction system within its famous game, managing to be expelled from the App Store and Google Play simultaneously, to immediately sue both companies for monopolistic practices.
Regardless of who is right in these litigation, what we have clear is that Epic has a great interest in having greater freedom for developers, since 30% of the microtransactions that Google and Apple are keeping would go to accounts of the company. We always have to keep this in mind, and that is that if a company fights for freedoms, they don’t do it for us.
In their adventures in a fierce fight for new rights, Epic has made friends with Basecamp, Blix, Blockchain.com, Deezer, Epic Games, the European Publishers Council, Match Group (Tinder and Hinge), News Media Europe, Prepear, Protonmail, SkyDemon, Spotify, and Tile. All of these companies have created a non-profit organization, calledCoalition for App Fairness, that what you are looking for is, in ten points, that:
- No developer should be obliged to use an app store exclusively or use ancillary services of the owner, including payment systems, or accept other supplementary obligations to access the app store.
- No developer should be blocked from the platform or discriminated against based on the developer’s business model, how they distribute their content and services, or if they compete with the owner of the store.
- Every developer should have access to the interoperability interfaces and technical information that the app store owner makes available to its developers.
- Every developer should have access to application stores as long as the application is fair, objective, non-discriminatory and complies with security, privacy, quality, content and digital security standards.
- A developer’s data should not be used to compete with him.
- Every developer should have the right to communicate directly with their users through their app for legitimate business purposes.
- No app store or platform should incentivize with its own apps and services, or interfere with user choices.
- No developer should be obliged to pay part of their profits or sell something in their applications that they do not want to sell as a condition of gaining access to the application store.
- No app store owner should prohibit third parties from offering competing app stores on the platform, or discourage developers and consumers from using them.
- All app stores should be transparent about their rules, policies, and opportunities for promotion and marketing, applying these consistently and objectively.
Overthrowing the monopoly could bring chaos, fragmentation and new monopolies in the future
Before the advent of app stores, getting software on the internet was a mess. Each developer had their own website, from which they offered their programs and managed purchases individually. If there were some models for distribution of music (iTunes) or video games (Steam) but it was not usual. To this day the official web pages are still a common download point, but theapp stores have done a lot to keep order.
Let’s imagine for a moment that this works fine. Is it really a good idea to topple Google or Apple so that someone else takes their place? Getting that there is a freedom of applications only means the birthfrom an app store fragmentation.
Having multiple app stores is not a great idea as they require developers to spend more time researching and distributing across all possible stores. This is a waste of time, especially for small developers.
An app distribution protocol to match all stores if it would be true justice
On a personal level, I think the only way this new platform can gain credibility and a lot of value is increating an application distribution protocol. But what is that of a protocol?
A protocol is a standardized system of rules that ensures interoperability, and the digital world is full of them. Today you can browse the web in the browser you want thanks to the http protocol, send emails thanks to SMTP, POP3 or IMAP protocols or read news thanks to any RSS application.
Can you imagine that the creator of a web page had to upload it to each browser? Or that a gmail user could only send emails to gmail users? Thinking about it, why can’t stores be application distribution points?
It is not a task that is impossible by itself. In Linux, for example, there are package management systems, in which you can add the repositories of an application distributor to your manager in order to install their software. This system is anything butuser friendly, but it helps us to knowthat technologically it is possible, and that it only takes the will on the part of a consortium of companies wanting to change things.
The day that Huawei could free Android from Google and did not wantWith the loss of access to Google services, Huawei has had the opportunity to free Android, but finally it has not wanted to.
The entry What if it was time to remove the app stores? He appears first in The Free Android.