Several of Apple’s biggest critics — including Epic Games, Spotify, Basecamp, Match Group, Tile, Blix, and Deezer — have banded together to create the Coalition for App Fairness, a new group aiming to “create a level playing field for app businesses and give people freedom of choice on their devices.”
While most of the founding members have individually fought or are fighting with Apple over its App Store policies, the Coalition for App Fairness marks a more coordinated effort for developers to formally protest Apple’s rules. The goal is to also provide a central organization for developers to join, especially those who may not have the clout or the resources to take on Apple alone.
The Coalition says that it welcomes “companies of any size, in any industry who are committed to protecting consumer choice, fostering competition, and creating a level playing field for all app and game developers globally.”
“We are joining the Coalition for App Fairness to defend the fundamental rights of creators to build apps and to do business directly with their customers,” said Tim Sweeney, CEO and founder of Epic Games in a statement announcing the news.
The Coalition for App Fairness cites three main issues of contention: Apple’s 30 percent cut of any payments sold through the store, the lack of any other competitive options for app distribution on iOS, and a claim that Apple uses its control over iOS to favor its own services.
None of these are new accusations. Spotify, for example, has formally filed an antitrust suit in the European Union against Apple over many of those issues. Basecamp clashed with Apple earlier this year, claiming that Apple was refusing to approve future updates for its Hey email app unless it sold subscriptions through Apple’s store. Blix claimed that Apple stole its ideas for anonymous email sign-in and then booted it from the App Store. (The company has previously tried to rally other developers to join its fight.) Tile testified in Congress that Apple used its platform to undercut its product’s usability on iOS. And of course, Epic has launched a full-fledged war over Apple’s 30 percent cut that’s resulted in the biggest game in the world being removed from the App Store entirely.
The Coalition for App Fairness has a proposed code of conduct that it’s asking Apple — and other platform owners — to adopt. They goals are ambitious, and include requests that developers not be forced to use an exclusive app store, that all developers should have equal access to the same technical information as the platform owner, and that developers should not be forced to pay “unfair, unreasonable or discriminatory fees or revenue shares,” in order to be listed on an app store.
The Coalition for App Fairness is hoping to gain influence over Apple through a united developer front. But even if other developers flock to join, Apple still holds all the cards; while Spotify, Match, Basecamp, and the rest are protesting Apple’s rules, at the end of the day, they’re still putting their apps in the App Store and paying Apple’s fees. As long as that’s the case, short of legal intervention, it’s hard to see Apple acquiescing to any of these demands — no matter how many developers complain.