Apple profits from scam apps in the App Store

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Isn’t this what iPhone users always criticize the Play store for?


Just to be clear, this is the Mac app store being talked about, not the IOS app store.

The Mac app store never took off (because there are already websites that bring together and list in one place all the mac apps you might be interested in buying, and so there was no benefit to developers to list their app there, and a huge downside of the 30% cut that Apple wanted of the purchase price). And it’s been dying a slow death of neglect as more and more developers decide it’s not worth it to be there at all. Now it looks like Apple has been neglecting their weeding duties in that particular not-so-walled garden.


The restrictions on apps allowed on the App Store (can’t perform actions that would require elevated permissions) basically make App Store apps toys. For example, you can’t sell memory checkers, system optimizers or even programs that can accurately calculate storage usage on the Mac App Store.

It doesn’t help that Apple makes it really fucking hard to report apps like these.

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On the other hand, you can sell email clients. You can sell video editors. You can sell calendars and calculators to supplement or replace the ones that Apple provides, music software as an alternative to iTunes… You can sell word processing software, you can sell graphic editors, you can sell accountancy and tax preparation software… you can sell time trackers, disk usage visualisers, system monitoring utilities…

It’s disingenuous to declare that everything in the App Store apps is a “toy” because Apple demands they run inside a sandbox.

Are you also going to claim that Discourse (the software that runs this very forum) is just a “toy” because it runs inside a docker container? Is that our definition of “toy”, now?


Well, for my purposes, the App Store sells toy versions of software.

Notice how all the system analysers and disk monitors have both an App Store version and a non-app store version with more features? I can’t even diagnose caching issues with the App Store version of, say, Daisydisk because it’s not allowed to look at the system library. The App Store version of BBEdit can’t edit system files. You can’t do memory testing. You can’t even make a clone of your system with a backup utility sold on the App Store, or remap your keyboard, or manage fonts and font caches. So yeah, I’d go elsewhere to look for that kind of software. And once I go elsewhere, why would I go back to the App Store to look for a word processor?

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Yes, we’ve discussed that and are already in agreement. App Store programs are currently required to run inside a sandbox which is intended to protect the rest of the system, and there are certain types of program which can’t perform their intended function when constrained inside a sandbox.

To repeat my question:

  • Is this forum a “toy” because it runs inside a Docker container?

It’s not running on the bare metal of the server; it’s inside a sandbox. Does that make it a ‘toy’? Because that seems to be your sole criteria for what makes software a “toy”. (In fact, I’d be shocked if the Docker container sandbox was itself running on the bare metal; there’s probably a VM hypervisor under there. In effect, this forum software is likely running within a sandbox which is itself inside another sandbox. Meta-toy!)

No, the forum works perfectly as a forum. On the other hand, the utility software on offer at the App Store is incomplete. It looks like Utility software, but doesn’t perform certain crucial functions. So it is basically a toy. Daisy disk on the App Store shows me my storage usage except for the stuff I don’t own as the current user running it. That’s not fully functional software, it’s a toy version of the full Daisydisk you can get outside of the App Store.

Let’s face it, the App Store sells toy versions of fully featured pieces of software, from utilities to text editors to synchronization platforms. The fact that you are restrained by the sandbox from performing tasks that require privilege escalation to be completely fulfilled makes these pieces of software incomplete or, as I refer to them, toys.

Based on your answer to the ‘is this forum a toy’ question, I understand your opinion to be: When software is restricted from performing some of its expected functions because it’s running inside a security sandbox, that software is automatically “toy” software.

And furthermore: If software is running inside a security sandbox but its full expected functionality is not hampered by being inside that sandbox (such as this forum software), then it is not automatically “toy” software.

Would you agree with that restatement of your answer?

Considering that you have other avenues to get software for a Mac, the Mac App Store never really had a chance. Oh, there might be a game or two that I have from the App Store, but most of my apps are straight from the software houses themselves.

In this particular case, the problem is that Microsoft itself does not offer Office in the App Store. The only Office app you can get this way is One Note, so there is no real incentive for either Apple or Microsoft to clean this up. If you want Office, get it from Microsoft.

Really, the Mac App Store isn’t for geeks. It’s for casual games and Apple’s own software. It never really got off the ground otherwise, so a lot of developers tried it out, didn’t like it, and pulled their products. It isn’t a primary way to get software, and it shows.

I do the same–whether I’m using FOSS or commercial software, I figure it is always best to get it directly from the developer. The only thing the App Store is good for is updating Apple’s own software.

And I’d guess Apple’s profits from these apps is pretty small, though how small is hard to say–Apple doesn’t report Mac App Store revenue as a separate item from other services. It’s a fair guess that’s it’s a tiny percentage compared to the iOS app store and iTunes.

I don’t think it’s accurate to say they’re “toys”, as much as they’re intentionally restricted. There is a specific target demographic for Mac app store purchases, considering both technical proficiency and security. To say that you’re not in the target demo doesn’t itself justify being critical of the app store. I’m frankly glad to have sandboxed, non-elevated permission versions of apps, signed by accountable developers collected in one spot, as opposed to having a non-technically minded user downloading who knows what from softpedia or, or where-ever.

As a more experienced user, or a user with more specific needs, downloading non-sandboxed software independently and autonomous of apple is a perfectly acceptable practice.

(incidentally, daisy disk is a poor example, as once you own a Mac app store license, you can also run the non-sandboxed version at no additional cost. Is it perfect? Of course not, but scrupulous developers have found ways to support the sandboxing limitation)

Now, I’m not endorsing the myriad of other issues with the mac-app store, search abuse, developer refunds, opaque software approval process, etc; there are many. But constraints do not inherently make toys.

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