The Mac App Store Safari Extensions Experience

December 21, 2018

By Jeff Johnson

Disclosure: As the developer of a (beloved, highly rated) Safari app extension, the contents of this blog post are relevant to my financial interests. (I'll write the obligatory Reddit/Hacker News comment in advance to save them the trouble: "Just a developer whining about Apple not featuring them more prominently. Why is this even news? Pointless." You're welcome!)

Earlier this year, Apple announced that .safariextz files are deprecated, and starting January 1, 2019, new extensions will no longer be accepted to the Safari Extensions Gallery. Apple now prefers that Safari extensions be distributed via the Mac App Store. In Safari 12, the "Safari Extensions…" menu item in the Safari main menu no longer takes you to the Safari Extensions Gallery but rather to the Safari Extensions section of the Mac App Store. Let's examine that customer experience. We'll take a glance at the old Mac App Store on High Sierra and then move on to the new Mac App Store on Mojave. I'll start with the App Store app window at its minimum height and width (which at minimum is still quite wide). Um, nothing to see here:
High Sierra Mac App Store

Now extended to the width of my MacBook Pro screen. Not particularly useful either:
High Sierra Mac App Store

Going back to minimum width, here's how tall you have to make the window until you finally see my extension. Third row:
High Sierra Mac App Store
This is despite the fact that mine is the highest rated extension in the whole 65 item "Featured" list. But we'll get back to that soon.

Here's the new App Store app on Mojave with its window at minimum dimensions. Much more useful than on High Sierra, so that's some progress:
Mojave Mac App Store

Let's widen to screen width. Ok, not so useful. More white space — err, black space — but no more apps:
Mojave Mac App Store

Going back to minimum width, here's how tall you have to make the window until you finally see my extension. Fourth row, which is a row lower than on High Sierra, so that's "progress" in reverse:
Mojave Mac App Store

At the same height, let's widen then window a bit and… WHUT:
Mojave Mac App Store
By widening the window, we go from seeing 12 apps to seeing 3½ apps. How is that possible? How is that good design?

Widening the window a little further, we see a second column of apps:
Mojave Mac App Store

Finally, at full screen width, we see my app once again. But how is it that we see the same number of apps, 12, at maximum width that we do at minimum width? Widening the window doesn't help the customer at all:
Mojave Mac App Store

Notice also that on Mojave, no ratings are shown with the apps, unlike in the High Sierra App Store. On Mojave, 5-star apps look the same as 1-star or 0-star apps in the list. This erases useful information for the customer and makes the vertical position in the list even more important.

Speaking of position, my extension StopTheMadness is positioned between Utility Cube and Translator & Voice Collection. It turns out that these 2 extensions are by the same developer. It also turns out that this developer seems to be a scam artist with almost 100 apps combined on the Mac App Store and iOS App Store. So that's my position, sandwiched between scams. Here are all of the developer's apps on the Mac App Store:
Mac App Store scam artist

And here are some of the developer's apps on the iOS App Store. My screen is not big enough to fit them all:
iOS App Store scam artist

In the Mac App Store, all of this developer's apps have low ratings or no ratings, some of them "recently reset", which suggests previously low ratings deleted. The customer reviews are also terrible. A lot of "does not work" and "crashes on launch". You have to wonder how all these apps got through App Store Review, how the huge volume of apps from a single developer was not a red flag, and how Apple saw fit to prominently feature two of the apps in the Safari Extensions list. None of this reflects well on Apple's curation of the App Store.

If you'd like to support a legitimate indie developer rather than a scam artist, my apps are StopTheMadness and Underpass. Thanks for listening and purchasing! Happy holidays from me, the Grinch.