A framework for change.

I admire Apple, and I believe the world is a better place because of them. As a developer, I’ve made my career on their platform and I’m grateful for it. But I have some criticism. I’m not here to talk about my story, the 30% Apple developer cut, the App Review process, or to challenge any of their guidelines. I want to talk about transparency, and accountability.

For far too long, developers have been discouraged from being able to share their rejection stories with the world. "If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps", used to be the official guidance. The risk too great for most, the fear of retribution overwhelming. And so the stories have largely remained in the shadows, with only a few exceptions. But there’s another, critical reason why such stories rarely see the light of day, one that hasn’t received enough attention:

Apple is systematically erasing our stories.

Unless we’re talking about your most recent submission, all communication you have ever sent or received through the "Resolution Center" is inaccessible to you. Rejection notices, appeal results, anything you might want to reference to better understand previous about your product - it's all gone. Unless you have meticulously and manually kept copies of all correspondence, what happened in the past will forever stay in the past. But why should it?

It’s not hard to see why Apple is doing this. It is hard, however, to see a reason that benefits anyone but Apple. In doing so, they gain more peace of mind, less worry about consistency and correctness in applying the public guidelines. The appeal mechanism helps them improve, but only to the extent that Apple deems necessary. If we ever wanted to know how well Apple is enforcing the guidelines, we have to take their word for it. But who guards the guardians, when App Review’s accountability to the world has been intentionally reduced to the bare minimum?

Transparency is not always the solution. We can’t expect Apple to be open about their future product plans, for example. But when they communicate with developers, they should do so like everyone is watching - every time. And to get there, the possibility that everyone might find out needs to always be on the table.

So Apple, please help us see App Review as a reliable ally. Let us access our past communications with you - including phone call records if we choose to. Show us that you want to be accountable for what you communicate to developers. There may be some legal challenges, but transparency is a prerequisite to accountability. It’s only then that we can begin to have a fair and honest discussion with you about the actual process and guidelines. Because until then, we’re in the shadows.

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⌚️Thursday, 25 June 2020

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