Yesterday Apple released iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 with a great new feature: Safari extensions! On my iPhone running iOS 15, when I select "More Extensions" in Safari Extensions Settings, it goes to the Safari Extensions page in the iOS App Store.
I won't screenshot the App Store page here, because I'd like people to judge the experience for themselves. There are a few featured extensions at the top, and below that there's a list of "Must-Have Safari Extensions". When I select "See All", there's a list of 22 extensions, written by 20 developers (2 developers have 2 extensions in the list). The featured extensions at the top of the previous Safari Extensions page are all included in this list too. Here's my question: Where are the rest of the Safari extensions for iOS? An iOS user might understandably get the impression that these are the only Safari extensions available for iOS, because they're the only Safari extensions shown by the App Store. (Note that "Content Blockers" are different from Safari extensions and have already existed in the iOS App Store for several years.) As far as I know, a longer comprehensive list of iOS Safari extensions does not exist.
Yet there are many more Safari extensions available for iOS and iPadOS 15. For example, my own StopTheMadness and Tweaks for Twitter. Here's a cool one called SourceWeb that provides a web inspector for Safari on iOS. I'm not going to make a big list of extensions in this blog post. I'm aware of some lists by 9to5Mac (which includes StopTheMadness) and MacStories (which includes Tweaks for Twitter). Again, however, these are short lists, and it would be strange that any third party should be responsible for collecting a list of all available Safari extensions for iOS when the App Store exists. Isn't that what the App Store is for? We've been told countless times over the years by Apple that App Store is "the best place to find apps". But is it the best place? Is it even a good place to find apps?
Speaking of finding apps, let's see what we find when we search for mine in the App Store.
Ah yes, exactly what I was looking for right at the top … AllTrails??
It's Apple's prerogative who to feature and who not to feature. I'm not complaining that my extensions aren't featured at the top of the Safari Extensions page or in the Must-Have Safari Extensions list. As an iOS user and developer, I'm complaining that there's no comprehensive list of Safari extensions in the App Store. If an app isn't featured, then it effectively doesn't exist. If App Store were a physical retail store, then most Safari extensions would be in the back room rather than on the shelves. Apple claims that the App Store gives developers access to over a billion customers, but what kind of "access" is it when the only way that customers find your app is if they follow a direct URL link to your app or search for your app by name (and hopefully see it below the irrelevant ads)? As a developer, I feel like I'm bringing all of my customers to the App Store rather than Apple bringing customers to me. What value is App Store adding to the equation? Some people are going to say "curation", and the featured apps are certainly curated to some extent, but supposedly all apps in the App Store are "curated", even the non-featured ones, so if every Safari extension is curated, then why isn't there a full list of every Safari extension in the App Store?