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App Store Woes: A Perspective

Over the past couple of days, iOS developers have been citing complaints from users that their apps are crashing and causing waves of 1-star reviews. What’s worse is the hit to the user’s faith in the developer to deliver a consistent, stable experience.

For years, the sides of the argument that make the case for why the “walled garden” approach of the App Store has a detrimental affect for users have largely been proven wrong. You need only look at the state of malware on Google Play to see how advocates of Google’s approach have to live with their choices. It doesn’t look like a lot of fun to me.

For the vast majority of users, the approach Apple has taken with their App Store (curated, sandboxed applications) delivers a good user experience overall. Knowing that an app you bought has been vetted by some authority goes a long way for some people. That’s not to say that this method is totally perfect.

The problems arise when the trusted system goes bad. The app corruption problem that’s being brought to light is a huge issue for people who base their whole livelihood on the App Store.

When something like this is beyond your control as an application developer, it is a terrible feeling. It highlights the fragility of the ecosphere and underlines the reliance on a system that you have no input to, no authority over and no autonomy from if you want to continue to distribute your apps this way. Indeed, for iOS developers, this is the only way to distribute apps legitimately. As long as there is no workaround, or acknowlegement from Apple that there is even a problem, as a developer, you are left in a limbo state with no recourse whatsoever.

As frustrated as the developer community is right now with this issue, (rightfully so), I try to temper my reaction somewhat with the fact that what we do isn’t possible without Apple’s infrastructure.

Over the last 4 years, we have enjoyed an unprecedented ability to reach new users, clients and respondents. We have reaped the benefits of Apple’s distribution system, audience reach and smartphone technology. We have gained a whole new platform since this whole process started in the iPad and we have seen our businesses grow because of Apple’s success.

While this may be frustrating now, keeping the above things in mind will help us keep perspective on this bump in the road. Once things settle back into the status quo of solid up-time and the reliable mechanisms of software distribution we’ve enjoyed since 2007 but it may be smart to examine our reliance and find ways to mitigate the risks inherent in a system so beyond our control.