What’s to become of the Mac App Store?

There’s a battle going on, a battle between two opposing forces. On one side, there’s the sandboxed, curated safety of the Mac App Store, a place Mac users can go to find trusted apps, apps they can be sure are malware free.

On the opposing side, the Mac App Store comes with its costs. There’s the 30% fee that Apple charges developers for the privilege of appearing in the Mac App Store. There’s also the (sometimes lengthy) delay that comes with the app review process.

When things are running smoothly, apps benefit by selling more copies, merely by being part of the Mac App Store. Reviews turn around in a day or so and developers can count on Apple keeping counterfeit copies of their apps from ever appearing in the store.

As Apple’s customer base has grown, the review process has faced distinct growing pains. A few weeks ago, the Mac App Store mechanism failed and users were not able to launch their apps. Developers are facing longer and longer review times. Flagship apps such as Coda, BBEdit and, more recently, Sketch, are leaving the Mac App Store. Like a shopping center whose anchor shops are leaving, the Mac App Store is slowly deteriorating.

The Mac App Store comes with a lot of positives. It’s a safety harbor for users. That’s incredibly important. Apps sold outside the App Store are just not guaranteed to have undergone the malware screening they (presumably) go through with Apple. But developers need to be able to turn their bug fixes around in a timely fashion. When Apple makes the review process frustrating enough to force developers to abandon ship, Apple has not done their job properly. And remember, they take 30% of the billings in return for running a proper shop.

Is the Mac App Store a poor stepchild to the iOS App Store? Is Apple diverting Mac App Store resources to the more financially rewarding iOS App Store? This is one of those times when I wish Apple was less secretive, more willing to open up dialog with developers, to work together with developers to find ways to solve this problem.

As a user, I would much prefer to buy my apps through the App Store, to rely on the scrutiny of a solid malware/counterfeiting screening. I imagine that Apple is hearing the klaxon calls from the developer community, reading blog posts like this one from Daring Fireball.

It’d be great to get some kind of response from Apple, to know that they see the problem, that they have a solution in the works.