Apple’s “Core Technology Fee” Raises Two Giant Middle Fingers at EU’s DMA

First off: I want to be clear that I like Apple’s products. I have an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and a Mac. I don’t always have my personal SIM in an iPhone, but I use the other three fairly regularly. I enjoy their approach to software design. But the fact of the matter is, their concerns about “security” fall flat. They shouldn’t be making those decisions for their users on whether or not they can install any app they want–the users should. I’m not saying open up the filesystem or anything, but allowing third-party app stores and even direct installing of apps isn’t a bad thing.

And if users are concerned about security, they can just not install anything from third-parties. Including from the App Store, which Apple touts as this mega secure thing (we’ll come back to that point in a sec.)

That said, David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) writes (emphasis mine):

“[…] let’s take Meta as a good example. Their Instagram app alone is used by over 300 million people in Europe. Let’s just say for easy math there’s 250 million of those in the EU. In order to distribute Instagram on, say, a new Microsoft iOS App Store, Meta would have to pay Apple $11,277,174 PER MONTH(!!!) as a “Core Technology Fee”. That’s $135 MILLION DOLLARS per year. Just for the privilege of putting Instagram into a competing store. No fee if they stay in Apple’s App Store exclusively.

DHH and I don’t always see eye-to-eye–who does?–but this is something I can absolutely rally behind him on. I’m not an EU resident, nor an expert in US or EU law, so take what I say with a grain of salt from here on out.

Like DHH said in the title of his post, it’s an “extortion regime”–and I’d take it one step further to say it’s literally two giant middle fingers raised directly at the EU Parliament, who passed the Digital Markets Act not that long ago. It’s no secret that Apple makes a shit ton of money from the App Store, and for the EU to say “you can’t do that anymore here” literally hurts their wallet.

The thing is, Android has been open since the platform’s infancy, so it really hasn’t had this problem. Don’t want the Play Store? Install another store. Google doesn’t care. Samsung doesn’t care. It might warn you about installing from “unknown sources” or whatever, but it won’t hinder you. No matter what kind of device you have, you can install whatever you want on Android. No questions asked. Play Protect will scan things for malware, but it still won’t stop you.

Apple, however, seems committed to not allowing anyone to do what they want with their mobile devices that cost upwards of $1,000 USD. On the Mac, however? It’s a different story. Install what you want, no problem. It’s really absurd to me and I don’t fully understand why this hasn’t been taken up by regulators until now.

Watching Apple list a bunch of requirements for “alternative app marketplaces” to even exist on iOS with their proposed rules seems like it’s the most bad faith attempt to comply with any law ever.

iOS is one of the most secure platforms out there. My friend and fellow tech enthusiast ChiefGyk3D said in a mention to me on Mastodon that “stock ios [sic] is way more private” than Android is judging by his firewall logs. That’s not because of the App Store lock down. Remember how I said we’d come back to the whole “even third-party apps from the App Store are insecure” thing? Well, my friends at Mysk discovered a huge privacy-invading tactic that apps like TikTok use to collect your data every time they send a notification on iOS, too. (Oh, and their discovery has since made international headlines, so hats off to you guys if you’re reading this!)

My point is, iOS’s leg up in security doesn’t come from being locked into the App Store. It comes from Apple’s own development and PR investments. The platform can still be cracked and exploited–that’s why jailbreaks are still popular to this day. There are ways around Apple’s own third-party app installation restrictions, too, that I won’t name here. You can find them with a Google search if you’re interested.

The truth is, these rules Apple set forth this past week are preliminary and haven’t been approved. They probably won’t even go into play, and they’ll be forced to drop and tweak some things. I hope to God that they’re not accepted and they don’t move forward, for the sake of everyone involved. Apple is simply moving the “Apple Tax” they collect from the App Store over to this new “Core Technology Fee” of theirs, and then adding another shit ton on top of that. It’s a scare tactic, plain-and-simple, to keep people in their storefront and no-one else’s. They just want to make more money off this legislation, because again, it hurts their wallets. They cannot (and should not) be allowed to.

And by the way–regardless of what their excellent PR team wants you to think–they’re kind of lying to you about some of this. I was always taught there are two sides to every argument, they’re just litigating their side in the court of public opinion instead of where it belongs. They have a lot of evangelists dedicated to their brand who won’t see why this is such a big deal, and why Apple is in the wrong. They’re using them against the EU right now.

The law is clear, the EU shouldn’t accept this attempt at extortion. Apple must be put in their place once and for all.