Apple has announced that it will allow users in the European Union (EU) to download apps directly from websites.

The new web distribution feature will be available with a software update “later this spring,” according to Apple, providing developers with a key new way to distribute iOS apps in EU markets without the need for a separate app store — as long as they’re willing to adhere to Apple’s strict rules.

“Apps offered through Web Distribution must meet Notarization requirements to protect platform integrity, like all iOS apps, and can only be installed from a website domain that the developer has registered in App Store Connect,” explains Apple.

It’s also not going to be a simple process to install these apps on an iPhone in the EU. “To install apps from a developer’s website, users will first need to approve the developer to install apps in Settings on their iPhone,” says Apple. “When installing an app, a system sheet will display information that developers have submitted to Apple for review, like the app name, developer name, app description, screenshots, and system age rating.”

Eligibility and requirements

Distributing apps directly from a website requires responsibility and oversight of the user experience, including the ability to manage apps and provide customer support and refunds. Apple will authorize developers after meeting specific criteria and committing to ongoing requirements that help protect users.

To be eligible for Web Distribution, you must:

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  • Be enrolled in the Apple Developer Program as an organization incorporated, domiciled, and or registered in the EU (or have a subsidiary legal entity incorporated, domiciled, and or registered in the EU that’s listed in App Store Connect). The location associated with your legal entity is listed in your Apple Developer account.
  • Be a member of good standing in the Apple Developer Program for two continuous years or more, and have an app that had more than one million first annual installs on iOS in the EU in the prior calendar year.
  • Agree to, among other things,
    • Only offer apps from your developer account.
    • Be responsive to communications from Apple regarding your apps distributed through Web Distribution, particularly regarding any fraudulent, malicious, or illegal behavior, or anything else that Apple believes impacts the safety, security, or privacy of users.
    • Publish transparent data collection policies and offer users control over how their data is collected and used.
    • Follow applicable laws of the jurisdictions where you operate (for example, the Digital Services Act, the General Data Protection Regulation, and consumer protection laws).
    • Be responsible for handling governmental and other requests to take down listings of apps

Apple’s decision to allow direct app downloads in the EU is a landmark moment with the potential to reshape the app landscape. It offers developers new avenues while giving users greater choice. It will be fascinating to see how the mobile app ecosystem evolves in the EU and how this change might influence practices worldwide.

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