Responding to more than six months of criticism and concern from vendors and organizations alike, Apple announced a recent change to its rules that will create a path forward for apps produced from templates, including many event apps.
If your association distributes an event app to members, there was a pretty good reason to cheer this holiday season.
Just before Christmas, Apple announced that it would change its iOS App Store policies on apps produced from app generation services. Prior to December 20, section 4.2.6 of the company’s App Store Review Guidelines said this:
Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.
Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app’s content. These services should not submit apps on behalf of their clients and should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences. Another acceptable option for template providers is to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or “picker” model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event.
This change came after months of criticism from both the technology space and companies offering help to small businesses such as restaurants and professional musicians. (Event apps produced through a third-party vendor, whether made for associations or not, would have been covered under this rule.)
The new rule makes it possible for app generation services to continue to help third-party businesses produce apps, but they would not be allowed to distribute those apps themselves, unless it was under the name of a single vendor. Instead, the individual company or organization producing the content of the app would be required to submit the app under its own name.
App Makers Respond
DoubleDutch, a major developer of event apps, applauded the decision. The company’s CEO, Lawrence Coburn, said in a LinkedIn blog post that the company was “delighted to finally have clarity” on the issue.
“The branded event app experience is alive and well in 2018, at least if you are working with DoubleDutch (we are unable to comment on other vendors’ situations),” Coburn wrote in his post. “From the beginning, we have done our best to keep the industry informed on macro trends that may impact our customers and partners. Simply put, we will always put our customers first.”
EventMobi, another developer that would have been affected by the guideline changes, wrote in a blog post that the controversy, while initially a challenge, “prompted many valuable conversations this year, and we’ve learned a lot in the process about what’s important to our customers.”
Scrutiny From Congress
The change was significant enough that it drew attention in the realm of politics. TechCrunch notes that Apple’s rule change came less than a month after a member of the House, Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-CA), sent a letter to the company requesting that it “examine possible changes” to the guidelines announced in June.
“Understandably, Apple has a vested interest in ensuring its App Store is free from spam or otherwise illegitimate apps,” Lieu wrote in his letter to the company. “I am concerned, however, that—in weeding out several bad actors—Apple may be casting too wide of a net and invalidating apps from longstanding and legitimate developers who pose no threat to the App Store’s integrity.”
Apple appears to have agreed with that sentiment—changing the rules in a way that still penalizes bad actors but allows developers of template-based apps to continue to distribute their products to consumers.