With Apple App Store Fail, Who’s Guarding the Guards?

A stunning new report says that Apple's vaunted App Store approval process is a sham, with hundreds of dangerous apps easily making their way into the store every day.

This is a problem, and it cuts right to the heart of the concession, and the compromise, which users make when agreeing to the many limitations of curated app stores like Apple's. And that is that we accept whatever collection of apps that the platform maker deems worthy of our consideration. But in return, that platform maker keeps us safe via a stringent approval process and ongoing monitoring of apps, virtually all of which are connected in some way to the outside world.

It's not working.

We've seen it fail brilliantly with Microsoft's Windows Store, especially the version on Windows phones, which was a worst-possible combination of low numbers and low quality. The running joke in the Windows phone community was that Microsoft was so desperate for apps that they would accept any app that compiled and ran. But it was no joke: We're still dealing with the after-effects of the spectacularly bad Windows Store, with Microsoft struggling to explain why anyone would trust it in 2016 to deliver basic apps, let alone AAA game titles.

Android is no better, but at least Google can boast of its strong ecosystem and app count. But Android has always been hampered by a steady stream of low-quality apps in the store and an even worse stream of lower-quality apps that users can choose to install from outside the store. Give Google some credit for this innovation: They were the first to allow users to bypass the security and reliability controls of its app store and install any app they wanted.

But Apple? Come on. Not Apple.

Apple, you may recall, was the company that wasn't going to even allow an app store, or third party apps, on its iPhone. At that device's launch in 2007, then-CEO Steve Jobs explained that web apps based on Safari would be good enough, and since they couldn't impact the phone in any meaningful way, they would be safe for users as well.

But this plan came under fire immediately, and for 2008, Jobs and Apple unveiled a development platform for developers and the App Store. The company said that the inclusion of the App Store "on every single iPhone" meant that all developers would have incredible reach, that they could all reach all iPhone users. App updates, too, would be automatically made available to users. Apple 30 percent take, or vig, on each app sale seemed ... reasonable. After all, all developers could reach every iPhone user.

Here in 2016, most people probably understand the benefits of such a system. But the downsides are important to remember too. When Steve Jobs said that the App Store was the "exclusive way to distribute apps" to the iPhone in 2007, it seemed magical. But with millions of apps in the store now, getting in front of users is far from automatic, and most iPhone apps never generate any usage at all.

But the central...

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