Open app stores, open source

I started writing (and may complete) a long post about the current Apple App Store arguments. I should say that I think Apple (and Google) need to sharpen up what they do: payments need to be lower, rules need to be clearer and consistently applied. But a lot of the arguments seem to want a lot more than that.

I think a lot of this is about developers wanting more control – but they forget that the people who matter are end users, not developers. And I really don’t see any practical advantage which breaking up monolithic app stores bring to end users.

I wrote a long time ago about how the “freedom” in open source software was freedom for developers, not end users, and I think a lot of this argument is the same. So many arguments about “freedom” in technology fail to focus on the consequences of that freedom for end users.

What developers don’t see is the unequal power relationship with users. In an open platform, it is the developers who have the power – power to install all kinds of shit on users machines. iOS 14 showed they had the power to track what users are doing without proper consent. Until Apple effectively stopped them doing it, 53 applications were accessing clipboard data without user consent. And yet, users are supposed to trust developers to do the right thing?

Don’t get me wrong: I like open software. I like the ability to move data from a platform of my choice to another one. I like published source code. But I’m not seeing many people argue for that kind of user-beneficial openness in this debate.

Ian Betteridge @ianbetteridge