A group of app developers have joined forces to create a coordinated effort to take down Apple. Spotify, Epic, Match Group – all of whom have had public spats with the tech mammoth – along with 10 other developers are the founding members of the Coalition for App Fairness.
The coalition describes itself as “an independent nonprofit organization founded by industry-leading companies to advocate for freedom of choice and fair competition across the app ecosystem,” and is directly targeting Apple, who it says, unfairly, has “total control” over the mobile ecosystem.
This move is a bold one and the coalition’s three main issues take aim at Apple’s anti-competitive app store policies:
- Carefully crafted anti-competitive policies (including the claim that Apple uses its App Store power and control to favor its own products and even steal ideas from competitors)
- 30% “App Tax” on creators and consumers – Apple takes 30% of every single purchase through its App Store which, according to the coalition’s website, is 600% more than the standard rate of 5%. “Apple first introduced the 30% fee on apps in 2011, which forced many apps to go completely out of business,” the coalition explains
- No consumer freedom: The coalition argues that Apple has a “monopoly over iOS users,” and sites the App Tax as the main reason apps are more expensive to be through the Apple App Store than developer websites
Apple’s App Tax is the root of most of the coalition’s grievances. This year, Apple and Epic have been very publicly at war over the tax. Honestly, so much has happened since Epic decided to purposefully evade Apple’s tax (and therefore rules) in early August that I almost forgot Epic had been removed from the platform. After appealing to a judge, though, Epic has not been able to fight its way back in without “returning to the status quo”. Among the other members of the coalition, Microsoft and Facebook also publicly backed Epic, despite the judge’s ruling. Still, Apple’s 30% tax prevails.
Spotify, another founding member, filed an antitrust complaint against the company to the European Union in 2019. Spotify said Apple limited consumer choice. Apple responded the same way it did to Epic’s claims, stating: “Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free.” Still, Spotify remains on the App Store – Epic doesn’t.
The coalition is set up as a non-profit and invites companies of all sizes – from startups to small developers to indie studios to first-time creators – and has 10 core values in its “vision for the future,” including no developers having to exclusively use one app store and no developers being subject to blocking or removal from a platform for its “business model” (I think we know what that one’s talking about).
The aims and demands at the heart of the Coalition for App Fairness are idealistic and an attempt at coordinated organizing against one of the largest forces in the app market. But, like The Verge points out, the majority of the developers protesting the App Store’s rules are, well, on the App Store. As long as they continue to simultaneously play by Apple’s rules, only legal intervention might persuade Apple to rethink its stance. Judging by the Epic Vs Apple case, that doesn’t seem likely, either.