Recently, Apple started removing VPN apps from their iOS App Store in China in order to comply with local laws. That may be something they have to do as a business, but it’s time to allow apps from developers outside of the App Store. Gruber:
To me, the more interesting question isn’t whether Apple should be selling its products in China, but rather whether Apple should continue to make the App Store the only way to install apps on iOS devices. A full-on “install whatever you want” policy isn’t going to happen, but something like Gatekeeper on MacOS could.
Keep iOS App Store-only by default. Add a preference in Settings to allow apps to be downloaded from “identified developers” (those with an Apple developer certificate) in addition to the App Store. In that scenario, the App Store is no longer a single choke point for all native apps on the device.
The App Store was envisioned as a means for Apple to maintain strict control over the software running on iOS devices. But in a totalitarian state like China (or perhaps Russia, next), it becomes a source of control for the totalitarian regime.
Gruber doesn’t think this will happen, but it should. These pocket computers are supremely important to communications and it’s well past time for Apple to open things up.