The Life of Apps Outside of the Mac App Store

A couple of weeks ago, I linked to Jeffrey Johnson’s account of Underpass, his new app, charting in the Mac App Store with a single sale. I wrote:

Of note, most of the apps ahead of Underpass are third-party implementations of popular iOS apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. And, at number thirteen in the Top Grossing chart, Apple’s long-outdated FaceTime app. That doesn’t sound like a healthy ecosystem.

Underpass is available exclusively in the App Store. Now, I want to look at the opposite of that situation. In the past two months, two other developers have shared their accounts of taking their apps out of the Mac App Store.

First, here’s Bogdan Popescu, writing one hundred days after Dash was removed from the App Store:

All of Dash’s App Store revenue has migrated to direct sales, with a slight increase.


Most of the App Store users of Dash 3 have migrated their license to the direct version. I was able to use the in-app notification mechanism I had to let them know about what’s going on so that they don’t get cut off from the app they paid for.

Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba, writing about selling Piezo outside of the App Store for a full year:

The Mac App Store previously made up about half of Piezo’s unit sales, so we might have expected to sell half as many copies after exiting the store. Instead, it seems that nearly all of those App Store sales shifted to direct sales. It appears that nearly everyone who would have purchased Piezo via the Mac App Store opted to purchase directly once that was the only option. Far from the Mac App Store helping drive sales to us, it appears we had instead been driving sales away from our own site, and into the Mac App Store.

Remarkable; yet, judging by the condition of the Mac App Store, unsurprising.

The Mac App Store could have been a golden opportunity for developers. In a hypothetical world, having Apple handle credit card processing, automatic updates, quality assurance, and curation, plus putting their marketing muscle behind the store — all of these factors could have made developers happy to give up 30% of their potential revenue. But the large number and aggressive types of limitations required for apps in the store combined with Apple’s rather lax quality controls has made the Mac App Store a combined flea market and glorified Software Update utility.