The mobile app stores assert a significant technical and time investment to stay on good terms with them. They grow more anti-competitive and toxic to small grassroots development projects like this every year. What are the other options? In the video below, the new EU rules and regulations explain how a free app going viral could financially doom a small to medium-sized business.
Apple requires all iOS and iPadOS browsers to use the WebKit runtime. Even Firefox or Chrome are just essentially skins over Safari on these mobile platforms. This is where the problem lies, Apple has a stranglehold on which web standards are adopted on these platforms, as there are not any different browsers that get around this. However, I think Apple could be slowly losing grip on its walled garden.
At this time to me the recent release of the Apple Vision Pro and its new VisionOS feels a bit like a distraction from their primary objective; to continue to dominate the "App" distribution platform of the present and future. I suspect ultimately Apple will lose the locked-down nature of their web features on these platforms, blowing the door off their walled garden App Stores.
I’ve invested many thousands over the years, both of my personal hours and finances to make this app, all for the pleasure of crafting a quality product. This last summer through the winter I went through a period of burnout that caused me to take a step back and reflect.
Through this time I got denied for my Forbes 30 under 30 referral and application, I then turned 30, closing that door behind me. To add insult to injury, my app fell behind on one of these app stores ever evolving hoops to jump through. This resulted in the app becoming delisted from the iOS App Store.
Only the PWA (Progressive Web App) remains available to all platforms... This got me thinking critically; what do and don’t the native app stores do for me as a developer? Has the state of Progressive Web Apps finally gotten to the point that they could be a viable primary deployment platform?
So let’s list out some of the pros and cons that I see as a solo founder/developer and small business owner for continuing to deploy my app not only as a Progressive Web App.
- I get access to the native iOS and Android background geofence APIs
- Completely native app experience with no need for workarounds
- I get charged an annual fee to participate ($100 on iOS)
- I’m significantly limited in advertising implementations and providers
- I have to submit to the whims of their reviews. On iOS this feels like a roll of the dice based on the mood of whichever particular individual reviews your app that day.
- They can take a 30% cut of any in-app purchases and no alternative payment processors
- In the EU, as a result of their malicious compliance, going viral could bankrupt Lazztech
- I have considerable time and energy overhead to make sure I’m maintaining a good standing on their platform's ever-evolving expectations or they can take my app down whenever they desire
- I have to rely on 3rd party services for push notifications
So without a native deployment, we'd primarily be losing background geofences. However, at this point in development, I’m not sure if that will be such a loss either... Background location, in today’s tech climate, seems to give many people the ick, I think very understandably! Background geofences just don't seem to be worth the level of effort for the end users. So maybe losing that functionality isn't such a big deal then?
There’s no freedom here in these app stores. The story has played out. Lazztech LLC and the Lazztech Hub app are passion projects for me, to help build and maintain a stronger sense of community. So what options do I have remaining to fuel this passion? A passion for free, open, and democratized communications and connectedness.
Looking back in history.
Almost two decades ago, Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone. Steve Jobs, himself originally intended the web as the primary app distribution platform when the iPhone was first released. Here's what he had to say about the original plan for app development on the iPhone at WWDC 2007.
I think this was the right idea, maybe not with newly budding "Web 2.0 and AJAX" though. It was just too early for its time. However, since then web application development has come a long way with many notable new technologies and widely adopted web standards to fill the gaps of native apps. The Lazztech Hub is a prime example of what can be accomplished with modern web technology.
Going forward I’m going to pivot. I’m no longer going to expel effort into the native app stores. I’m going to focus on the web. From now on Lazztech will focus purely on web-only app distribution. This will continue to be the case unless things change significantly in the native app store ecosystem, or I end up deeming PWAs still not ready for an exclusive means of app distribution.
So what does that mean for the Lazztech Hub app? Well, fortunately, not all that much! The app is already at nearly 100% feature parity on the web as it is on the native iOS or Android distributions… With the recent addition of web push notification support on iOS, there's even less of a reason to jump through all of these hoops.
The progressive web app version of the app can be "installed" on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, & Linux. All of which result in a nearly native application experience with a desktop, or home screen icon to launch the app etc.
I really want to thank you for coming here and seeing it with us today. We're really really proud of it. Everybodies worked really hard on it. So thank you. - Steve Jobs
Wait a minute though, I forgot. There is one more thing...
This is really important. Lazztech Hub is now open source. This is for the sake of transparency, user trust, and the longevity of this service. You'll now find an AGPL-V3 license in both, now public, GitHub repos.
There's certainly more work going forward and I think it will be a good time to review the roadmap and make some updates. However, these decisions open many new doors for further building community out of and with this project.