Apple now allows EU users to download apps through websites

Apple announced on Tuesday that web distribution is now available in iOS17.5 beta 2 and App Store Connect. The move grants developers the option to offer iPhone apps for direct download to EU users from their own websites, marking a departure from the traditional reliance on Apple’s App Store for app distribution within the region.

The development represents a monumental change in an ecosystem that has historically upheld strict guidelines against “sideloading” — the practice of installing apps from sources other than the official App Store. By allowing developers to distribute iOS apps directly via the web, Apple is dismantling its walled garden approach in the EU, a move spurred by new regulations outlined in the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Under the DMA, tech giants operating within the EU are subject to a set of obligations aimed at fostering competition and safeguarding consumer interests. Apple’s decision to enable web distribution for iOS apps aligns with its efforts to comply with these regulatory requirements and promote a more level playing field for developers.

To access the web distribution entitlement, developers must opt into Apple’s new EU business terms, which include a core technology fee of €0.50 for each first annual install over 1 million in the past 12 months. This fee applies regardless of the distribution channel chosen by developers and is designed to support Apple’s investment in platform integrity and security measures.

In addition to web distribution, other DMA-driven changes include increased flexibility around in-app payments and a ban on Apple’s anti-steering measures. These changes empower developers to inform users of alternative purchasing options outside the App Store, fostering a more transparent and competitive app ecosystem.

While Apple emphasizes the importance of safeguarding platform integrity through notarization requirements for web-distributed apps, critics argue that the authorization flow for direct downloads may deter users through what they perceive as “scare screens.” However, Apple defends these security measures as necessary to protect users from potential risks associated with sideloading apps.

Despite the introduction of web distribution, it remains to be seen how many developers will opt to leverage this option, as the established App Store distribution model still remains available. Furthermore, developers in the EU now have a third avenue for app distribution: submitting a marketplace app to Apple for distribution through their own alternative store hosted on the platform.

As Apple continues to implement DMA-compliant measures, including web distribution for iOS apps, ongoing scrutiny from EU regulators underscores the importance of ensuring compliance with regulatory obligations while fostering innovation and competition within the digital marketplace.

Last week, Apple also introduced new measures to align with European Union regulations, unveiling initiatives geared towards streamlining access for music streaming apps on its App Store within the European Economic Area.

Written by Jordan Bevan


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