Developers Fight Apple’s App Store Monopoly

By Chand Bellur

February 6, 2020 at 9:05 p.m. PDT

  • BlueMail developer Blix is in an intellectual property battle with Apple.
  • Dan Volach of Blix published an open letter urging developers to confront Apple about theft of intellectual property.
  • Apple has a long history of co-opting technology developed by third parties.

Blix Musters Developers for Intellectual Property Battle Against Apple

Going up against one of the largest corporations on the planet is difficult, however, an ever-growing group of disgruntled developers may join forces. Apple is well-known for borrowing others’ ideas. The practice is named “Sherlocking”, after the company incorporated ideas from a third-party search tool into Mac OS X.

Through the years, Apple has engaged in a rather conspicuous behavior of absconding with others’ ideas. Apple Music looks an awful lot like Spotify (as does Google Play Music). There are myriad examples. Being a massive corporation with limitless legal resources, most competitors don’t bother battling Apple.

BlueMail developer Blix doesn’t have the option to co-exist with Apple. The Cupertino company absconded with their anonymous sign-on feature, rendering BlueMail far less attractive to consumers. Much like with Sherlock, Apple is making another third-party developer irrelevant, without a modicum of compensation.

Blix co-founder Dan Volach raised a call to action, encouraging developers to fight back:

“We’re issuing a call for unity against the biggest tech company. If Apple has kicked you out of its App Store, used guidelines to control you, hijacked your ranking or stolen your tech, reach out to us at fair@bluemail.me”

Blix Raises Serious Allegations

Allegations against Apple are serious, and have yet to be legally proven. Blix appears to be gathering evidence to support claims of rank manipulation and other anti-competitive behavior. Expanding the field, by inviting other developers impacted by Apple’s monopoly, Blix may be able to convince a jury of Apple’s wrongdoing.

Apple does have a right to incorporate obvious features into their operating systems. For example, every operating system has a media player and browser. At one point, Apple, Microsoft and other operating system developers had no browsers. The first browser and World Wide Web were developed at CERN by Tim Berners Lee. The institution and developer were explicitly credited at first, however, these mentions have long disappeared from “about” screens.

Flashlight apps are another good example of features that Apple can naturally absorb without scrutiny. An app that offers basic control over device components is an obvious necessity and naturally belongs in an operating system. Third-party developers should be aware that developing such apps will, at best, offer ephemeral rewards. It’s low hanging fruit that Apple can snatch up without much opposition.

Apple may have stepped far beyond more natural and obvious technological influences. The App Store is now over a decade old, and Apple has created many enemies. As the ranks of disgruntled third-party developers grow, and Congress scrutinizes the App Store monopoly, Apple may be forced to change their ways.

At the very least, there should be a way to clearly identify that a unique idea has been incorporated, and the developer should be compensated. The end user doesn’t want a perforated experience where several apps are needed to perform routine tasks. It’s best for the user to have third-party features incorporated into operating systems. It’s only fair, however, that hardworking developers are compensated for their brilliant ideas.

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