Biden Administration Report Recommends Sweeping Changes to Apple's Ecosystem

A report commissioned by the Biden administration this week recommended new legislation to make major changes to Apple's platform restrictions and App Store policies.

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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the president's main advisor on telecommunications and Internet policy. In April last year, the NTIA announced that it had launched an investigation into competition in mobile app ecosystems. The investigation was triggered by an executive order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy from July 2021, with the aim of making recommendations for improving competition, reducing barriers to entry, and maximizing user benefit.

Months after its contents were shared with the White House, the NTIA this week published the "Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem" report – the first such report into Apple's ecosystem by a federal organization. On the basis of the investigation's findings, the report recommends:

  • Third-party app stores should be permitted and users should not be prevented from sideloading apps outside a gatekeeper's own app store. Legislative and regulatory measures should prohibit restrictions on sideloading, alternative app stores, and web apps.
  • Requirements that ban developers from using alternative in-app payment systems should be banned.
  • Third-party web browser apps should be able to offer full functionality and not face browser engine restrictions.
  • Pre-installed apps, default options, and anticompetitive self-preferencing should be limited, including in search results.
  • Users should be able to choose their own apps as defaults and delete or hide pre-installed apps.
  • App store review processes should be more transparent.

The report says that new legislation and additional antitrust enforcement actions will likely be necessary to remedy existing issues and boost competition in mobile app ecosystems. See the NTIA's full report for more information.

Apple's ecosystem has come under intense scrutiny by governments around the world in recent years, including in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the European Union, South Korea, Japan, and more, with a clear appetite from global regulators to explore platform restrictions around issues such as app sideloading, browser engines, and interoperability.

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Top Rated Comments

rhaezorblue Avatar
16 months ago
This makes no sense. If you start a company, build it into a huge company, do you lose your rights to operate your product (app store) how you see fit? The competition cries and cries.. ok, so make your own phones into a trillion dollar company then? It's like if you created a bakery and grew it into a huge chain - then Krispy Kreme complained to the government that your bakery wont let them come in and sell their donuts in your stores. Like wtf kind of logic is this?

If competitive app stores are allowed on the iphone, be prepared for WAY more spyware/malware to slip through the cracks. Do you think Samsung polices their app store as well as Apple does? Sometimes bad apps slip through even WITH Apple's much higher focus on security and privacy.
Score: 91 Votes (Like | Disagree)
poorcody Avatar
16 months ago
Nuts. Most of those things will have real costs in terms of security, support, complexity, and lack-of-uniformity which all give the iOS ecosystem increased value. Government overreach in my opinion. It's not like Android is not a serious alternative.
Score: 86 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fatTribble Avatar
16 months ago
I’ll plan to explain to my Mom this weekend about side loading apps on her iPhone and the merits of various browsers and mail apps so she can make informed decisions.
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
markgpearse Avatar
16 months ago
Hard to argue with what they are saying... but I love my Apple ecosystem... so hands-off. People have alternatives to Apple.
Score: 59 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mystery hill Avatar
16 months ago
Soon it will be easier to list the countries that aren’t investigating Apple for anticompetitive behavior.
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iAFC Avatar
16 months ago
I wish the iPhone worked exactly like a Mac. I'm living temporarily in another country and I can't download a few important local apps, because they are not available at my home country's App Store. The only option is to switch region, which I'm avoiding, as I would first have to undo a family group and cancel all my subscriptions. Would be nice to be able to simply download a .dmg file on Safari.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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