26 Dec 2016

The Mac App Store Is a Crappy Place to Distribute Apps

The Mac app store is a crappy place to distribute apps. It does so many things poorly.

First, it forces users to log in to download a free app. Would you make people do that if you're offering a download from your web site? Of course not. You don't want to add roadblocks before users can download your app, because some users will abandon your app. There's no reason for the store to do this for free apps. It can track which version of an app is installed, and if a newer version is available, update it. Again, just like apps downloaded from the developer's site do, using their own update mechanism or Sparkle. Only when money is involved do you need to track who has paid for it, so that they can download it again or receive updates without paying again.

Second, even if you're logged in, you sometimes get a prompt to re-enter your password before you can download a free app. Why so much security? You're not launching a nuclear missile!

Third, you sometimes get a prompt saying that the terms of service have changed, and you need to accept them before you can download the app. Multiple clicks later, it finally fails to open the page for the app you clicked a link for, telling you to click the link again. This is poor UX, and shows that Apple doesn't really care for users or developers.

Fourth, the Mac app store app is a crappy app that does what the browser does, but worse. Those who don't understand the web are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. For example, when you click a link, it takes a while to load, unlike most native apps, which load instantly, and then sync in the background. If you do a search, and two apps look interesting, you can't open both in two different tabs. If you want to bookmark a page to see later, it's impossible, or hard. And so on.

Fifth, if you're reading about a Mac app store app on your iDevice, and you click a link to the Mac app store, the iOS app store hijacks the link, only to give an error message saying that the app works only on a Mac. Why, then, did the iOS app store hijack the link? Let the browser load it as usual, as on a desktop browser.

Sixth, the store has so many poor quality apps, and outright scams. If you search for "microsoft office", you get many apps whose icon is similar to Excel, and whose titles and descriptions sound like they're an office suite, when they're only templates for Microsoft Office.

Seventh, I had to reinstall macOS, and for multiple days after that, when I tried to launch an app I bought earlier, I got a prompt asking me to type my Apple password in before I can use the app. What if I were offline, like on a long flight, and was planning on using the app to get my work done? I can't, because of Apple's poorly implemented security.

Eighth, the Mac app store had a high-profile outage where all apps bought from the store refused to launch. Every service has had outages, but in the context of everything else that's broken about the Mac app store, it's concerning. And an argument against centralising everything.

Ninth, apps in the Mac app store have to be sandboxed, which makes some of them less functional than apps distributed outside the store.

Unlike the iOS app store, which Apple forces developers to use, the availability of alternatives to the Mac app store shows us how crappy a job Apple does, and then charges a high fee of 30% for it.

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