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Apple reforms the App Store in Europe in response to the new digital law| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Since Apple introduced the app store In 2008, it tightly controlled the apps and services allowed on iPhones and iPads, giving the company tight control over one of the digital economy's most valuable showcases.

Now Apple is weakening its control over the store, in one of the most consequential signs yet of how new European regulations They are changing consumer technology.

To comply with European Union competition law that goes into effect on March 7, Apple on Thursday announced major changes to the App Store and other services for consumers in Europe. iPhone and iPad users in the 27-nation bloc will for the first time be able to use alternative app stores to download games, productivity tools and other apps. Banks and shopping services can offer competitive payment methods within their apps. People buying new iPhones in the future will also see a new menu for downloading alternative browsers to Apple's Safari, such as Chrome and Firefox.

The changes are some of the most tangible examples of how a laws and regulations chess board is now fracturing people's technological experiences, depending on where they live. In China, government rules force Apple to block apps like virtual private networks, known as VPNs, that would give users unfiltered Internet access. In Europe, customers will now have access to competing app stores and other services. In the United States, where there are fewer laws and regulations, Apple and other tech giants have more flexibility to operate however they want.

The changes to the App Store stem from a 2022 law called the Digital Markets Act. The far-reaching law aimed to reduce the power of the world's largest technology companies in areas such as e-commerce, social media and messaging. Amazon, GoalGoogle and Microsoft have also announced changes to comply with the new rules.

“The changes we are announcing today meet the requirements of the Digital Markets Act in the European Union, while helping to protect EU users from the inevitable increased threats to privacy and security that this regulation brings” Phil Schiller, who runs the App Store, said in a statement.

Europe accounts for about 6 percent of Apple's App Store sales, which are estimated at $24 billion annually worldwide.

EU regulators have long raised the alarm that Apple abuses its control over the App Store to stifle competition. The Silicon Valley company has argued that its gatekeeper feature protects customers from malware, privacy breaches and faulty apps. But developers of apps like Spotify and epic gamesThe creator of Fortnite, has said that Apple misuses its power by requiring them to pay high fees and forcing them to use the underlying technology it makes.

For years, Apple has resisted making the kind of changes it announced Thursday. It is unclear whether the measures will satisfy European regulators who have promised to aggressively enforce the Digital Markets Act.

A spokesman for the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, declined to comment on Apple's announcement.

Apple said it would maintain some oversight of new marketplaces and apps that operate outside of its App Store, but warned that new EU policies would give hackers and criminals a new avenue to distribute malware and defraud customers. The company said it had created a system to monitor all iOS apps, approve alternative app stores and track alternative payment systems.

Apple said developers would also be charged a fee of 50 euro cents for each download of their app after it has been downloaded a million or more times in a 12-month period, regardless of whether it was through the app. App Store or an alternative. This will also apply to free apps, but not those distributed by government, educational, and non-profit organizations.

The new rules could affect Apple's finances. The App Store's policy of taking up to 30 percent of developer sales has made it a critical piece of the company's nearly $400 billion business. But it has also exposed Apple to criticism and regulatory scrutiny because many developers complained that the fees were unfair.

In Europe, Apple said, developers using the App Store will have the option to continue using existing commission terms or move to a new fee structure. This will include a reduced commission of up to 17 percent for digital goods and services. An additional 3 percent fee will be charged to developers using Apple's payment system.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, said Apple's new policies were a “horror show” for developers, filled with “garbage new fees on downloads and Apple taxes on payments they don't process.” He said Apple also maintained the power to prevent a company like Epic from introducing a game store.

“Apple proposes that it can choose which stores can compete with its App Store,” he said. saying in a post on X.

Apple said its fees covered the costs of developing its software and providing tools to developers.

Developers who distribute their app through a competing app store will not be subject to any commission from Apple. And developers who provide links to complete payments outside of their apps can also waive certain transaction fees.

Developers will also be able to avoid what some of them have said is a cumbersome review process by Apple for the apps it distributes in its store. But the company has created a new system, which it calls notarization, to maintain some control over the applications distributed on iPhones. Each iPhone app will include an installation key to provide Apple with information about when it was installed and allow the company to perform automatic scans for malware.

As part of the notarization process, apps will provide Apple with descriptions and screenshots of the services they offer, as well as the names of the developers. Apple will share that information with iPhone users before downloading an app.

Spotify had no immediate comment on Apple's announcement. in a blog post This week, Spotify said the Digital Markets Act would help developers offer new services to customers.

“Developers around the world continue to call on other governments to pass their own laws like the DMA,” the company said.

Apple also introduced a feature for customers to use alternatives to its Wallet app for mobile payments, an increasingly common form of payment on public transportation, restaurants and cafes. Major banks and companies like PayPal can now offer competitive services.

Apple has challenged some elements of the new European law, including a requirement that would allow its messaging service, iMessage, to work better with Android devices. The company has argued that iMessage is not subject to the requirements because it is free to customers.

The European Union has not made a final decision on the messaging issue.

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