Open Letter to Tim Cook
Mr. Cook, we are asking you personally, please bring BlueMail back to the Mac App Store. Please treat small developers with fairness and empathy. Please recognize your own roots as a small business, struggling to compete against the establishment, in our struggle for fairness.
November 22, 2019
We wrote this Open Letter to Apple on November 22, 2019.We were overjoyed when we heard back from Apple within the day – within just a few hours in fact. It seemed to share our desire for a mutual solution and we worked quickly to meet its requests, but these too were just tactics meant to delay us.
Rerouted to teams that didn’t respond for weeks, told outright that our app doesn’t run on macOS Catalina when we can prove it does, and given contradictory guidance from different teams within Apple, we found ourselves back at square one.
BlueMail for Mac was live until June 2019. If Apple really wanted to return BlueMail to the store, it could have done so. Instead, Apple appears to keep coming up with new justifications that do not add up for its decision to remove BlueMail from the App Store – and applying new rules to BlueMail at every step of the process.
Apple suggests we should have initiated some “appeal” by clicking a button, so that Apple could then consider reversing its decision. We weren’t presented with this “click-to-appeal” option when BlueMail was suddenly removed by Apple. But more importantly – Apple knows (and has known for months) that we contest BlueMail’s removal.
BlueMail and TypeApp are neither spam nor duplicates, but Blix voluntarily removed TypeApp in May 2019. In Apple’s December 10, 2019 letter, it wrote that “Enforcement of Guideline 4.3 is important to Apple because, as Apple informed your client, duplicative apps “create clutter, diminish the overall experience for the end user, and reduce the ability of developers to market their applications.”
TypeApp is not a duplicate app and nevertheless we removed TypeApp voluntarily on May 23, 2019, two weeks before Apple removed BlueMail from the Mac App Store. Apple never mentioned there was an issue with that removal process, just by end of November 2019, Apple App Review team suddenly came up with a claim that the removal was not done correctly, and due to fears of duplicate apps and clutter on the store according to Apple’s lawyers, they kicked BlueMail out.
Apple claimed it could not run BlueMail on the Catalina version of MacOS, and that it did not have any way to run Mojave or other operating systems. This is hard to believe – and it is also irrelevant. Apple kicked BlueMail out of the Mac App Store before Catalina was even released. Catalina compatibility had nothing to do with the removal. In any event, BlueMail does run on Catalina, as we have shown Apple and no Notarization is required if distributed through the Mac App Store as Apple has now admitted. Even if BlueMail did not run on Catalina, many applications on the Mac App Store do not run on Catalina – including apps submitted when we submitted BlueMail, which were approved by Apple with no problem.
Apple previously suggested BlueMail could not be restored to the App Store because it was not notarized. But Apple’s own documentation says that “you aren’t required to notarize software that you distribute through the Mac App Store because the App Store submission process already includes equivalent security checks.” And just days ago, on January 25 2020, an Apple employee admitted to us in writing that “You’re correct that apps destined for Mac App Store do not need also be separately notarized, as that is part of the Mac App Store signing and submission process.”
Apple now claims that “unsigned executables are not permitted to launch under a hardened runtime environment,” and that BlueMail needs “to become compatible with Catalina.” Again, Apple’s rejection of BlueMail pre-dates Catalina and was not tied to Catalina. This is another shifting explanation. And again, it is not true. Apps distributed through the App Store are not required to have “Hardened Runtime capability” enabled.