Apple allows iOS apps to be downloaded directly from websites in the EU

Apple is planning further changes in EU countries to allow some developers to distribute their iOS apps directly from the website. The new web distribution feature will be available with a software update “later this spring.” According to Appleoffering developers a major new way to distribute iOS apps in EU markets without the need for a separate App Store — as long as they're willing to adhere to Apple's strict rules.

While Apple is opening up iOS to more third-party apps here, these are still some basic security protections around how apps are distributed via websites — specifically, you'll still have to work within Apple's strict app development ecosystem. “Apps provided through Web Distribution must meet authentication requirements to protect the integrity of the platform, like all iOS apps, and can only be installed from the website domain that the developer has registered with App Store Connect.” Apple explains.

Installing these apps on an iPhone in the EU will also not be a simple process. “To install apps from a developer’s website, users will first need to approve the developer to install apps in Settings on their iPhone,” Apple says. “When you install an app, System Sheet will display information that developers have sent to Apple for review, such as the app name, developer name, app description, screenshots, and system age rating.”

So this will not be an open and free way for developers to distribute apps via the web on iOS devices in EU markets. “Apple will allow developers after meeting specific criteria and adhering to ongoing requirements that help protect users,” Apple says. Developers will need to be part of the Apple Developer Program and be registered in the EU. They will also have to agree to a number of key pledges, as set out by Apple:

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There are a lot of hurdles developers have to jump through, and Apple seems to be limiting that to only big developers thanks to the 1 million installs requirement. Having a developer account good for two years may also disqualify Epic Games from this specific distribution method. Epic Games is still hoping to launch its iOS game store in the EU soon.

Apple currently allows developers to distribute their apps to third-party marketplaces in EU countries, but if these apps reach more than 1 million annual installations per year, they will need to pay a 50-cent fee for each additional install and update. The same underlying technology fee process is part of iOS app distribution on the web as well. Only non-profit organizations, selected educational institutions and EU government bodies are exempt from this basic technology fee.

However, the ability for developers to offer their apps directly to iPhone users in the EU without having to go through the App Store or another third-party store will be useful to some willing to put up with the strict restrictions. There is some obvious friction for end users, but with some third-party stores demanding fees, this allows iOS developers to avoid the stores altogether if they are willing to host their apps directly and abide by Apple's rules and policies.

Apple is also changing its strict rules about how developers can link to an external web page to complete purchases of digital goods. Developers can now “choose how to design promotions, discounts, and other deals,” according to Apple. This means that Apple's design templates are optional, rather than imposed on developers.

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