The Open App Markets Act (S. 2710 / H.R. 7030) Explained
What Does the Open App Markets Act Do?
At their core, both versions of the bill prohibit any firm that controls an app store with more than 50 million US users from blocking access to third-party payment methods and third-party app stores. They also bar these “covered” platforms from self-preferencing their own apps at the expense of competitors within searches, and require that consumers be able to “sideload” apps onto their mobile devices and computers. They free consumers to add or delete any app, to set their own defaults, and mandates that covered companies open their OS APIs to 3rd party developers. As third-party payment systems are forced onto platforms, it becomes unclear if liability for fraud and abuse of data would be shifted to developers. While several of the legislation’s objectives could benefit developers, taken together they will negatively impact small developers and their businesses.
What Are Devs Saying?
The bottom line is that devs are open to some of the changes proposed in the Open App Markets Act. But there are real red flags here that lawmakers who don’t design apps wouldn’t immediately understand. That’s why we are asking them to slow down, talk to devs, and come up with better legislation.
Developers are concerned that both versions of the bill could actually end up reducing competition by mandating that platforms essentially all operate the same way. While clear, common-sense rules are great, they should still allow platforms, developers, and consumers to prioritize security, privacy, convenience or price differently.
Safety & Security
Platforms don’t always get safety and security right, but under the current proof of harm standard, they are at least encouraged to try. Both bills shift to a proof of necessity standard, which eliminates any incentives for responsible stewardship and pushes platforms toward doing all they can to avoid liability. This is a recipe for disaster.
Insofar as the Senate and House bills promote transparency and easy access to operating system (OS) innovations, developers are supportive. But developers also recognize the role that OS owners play in safeguarding the system and promoting user trust. As such, devs believe that ecosystem stewards must be empowered to restrict 3rd party access to sensitive functions and features to protect against exploitation by bad actors.
Finally, devs believe the Open App Markets Act is fundamentally flawed because it does nothing to prevent conflicting obligations from overlapping state laws. Opening the door even a crack for states to draft their own app store laws alongside a federal one would be a compliance nightmare, one that would put some small developers out of business.