Apple will soon let developers challenge App Store rules

Apple has announced an upcoming change to App Store rules that could mark a major shift in how the marketplace operates. Developers will soon be able to challenge not just the rejection of an app, but the rule that prompted that rejection. Bug fixes will also no longer be held up by rule violations.

In a blog post about changes for apps and developers, Apple noted these major additions with remarkably little fanfare:

First, developers will not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates a given guideline of the App Store Review Guidelines, but will also have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself. Second, for apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues.

App Store rules have been in the headlines this week due to a fracas over monetization that saw the new email service Hey rejected from the platform over a reluctance to share its subscription revenue with Apple.

While the issue is hardly new and it seems unlikely that a high-profile play like Hey (from Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson) was unaware that this would happen, this isn’t the first criticism of Apple’s one-size-fits-all business model for apps.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple’s Phil Schiller said the company was not considering any changes to the rules that would allow Hey — and other apps with similar models — to operate on the App Store without surrendering a significant cut of its income.

But while Apple may not be considering changing the rules immediately, it seems from today’s announcement that the rules may change eventually. Exactly how feedback from developers would be solicited, processed and weighed is not addressed, but we can probably expect to hear more during this week’s many developer sessions (and during which suggestions will no doubt begin to be submitted).

The second change takes a bit of the pressure off app developers that may find themselves, as Hey did, blocked from providing security updates because of business concerns. Separating the two seems only right, since Apple doesn’t want its users at risk because negotiations haven’t concluded. It shrinks the size of the stick that Apple wields against recalcitrant developers, but ultimately results in less risk for everyone involved.

The changes to App Store rules will be arriving this summer, and more details will surely be forthcoming before then.