Thomas De Reyck's Blog

A Gate in the Walled Garden

Supposedly, under pressure from new regulations from the EU, Apple is implementing a sideloading capability for iOS. While this seems like an absolutely positive evolution, it’s also food for some deeper thought.

iOS has been a closed ecosystem from the start. In the very beginnings of the iPhone, it was not even possible for third parties to publish apps. Webapps would pave the way towards the future. However, as soon as Apple realized the enormous profits that could be made by providing the App Store, that all changed. Apple has kept a very close eye on their walled garden of apps ever since.

Myself, having a Linux and free software preference at the time, thought this was very limiting. Why buy a device that locked you out from installing whatever you want? However, after using Apple products for some time now, there are some advantages to this approach:

An argument that was often brought forward to make sideloading possible, is that none of the advantages go away for users that don’t want to sideload. Giving technical users sideloading capability supposedly does not affect all other users. They can keep using the curated App Store and still enjoy the above benefits. However, when we apply some second order thinking, this is not necessarely the case:

All in all, it’s a return to the status quo from before the smartphone era. I do believe that the net effect is still positive, and we will gain more from it than we lose. However I can’t deny it’s convenient to have Apple’s curated walled garden available. I’m curious how this will play out in the future.

#App Store #iOS