Mac App Store in a nutshell

March 23 2020 by Jeff Johnson

During this unprecedented period of working from home, Zoom is unsurprisingly among the top 10 paid apps in the Mac App Store, currently #7.

Mac App Store Top Paid Apps

Wait… is Zoom an upfront paid app?

Remember when people bought the wrong Zoom stock because ZOOM is Zoom Technologies, whereas ZM is Zoom Video Communications? Well they're at it again, this time on the Mac App Store instead of the stock market. "Zoom is an [sic] screen magnifier":

Zoom app description

Zoom, the #1 paid utility in the Mac App Store, was written by Leanid Navumau, developer of Chill & Relax Ocean Waves Video & Sound, among other apps. There aren't the droids we're looking for.

Zoom in the Mac App Store  Leanid Navumau in the Mac App Store

You'll notice that Zoom has a 1 star review, even though, it doesn't have any 1 star ratings. This is an indication that at some point, the app's rating were reset. Did you know this was possible in the App Store? A good way to erase bad ratings and raise the average.

Zoom Ratings & Reviews

However, my purpose here isn't to criticize Zoom on the Mac App Store or its developer. After all, the app appears to be abandonware, last updated 4 years ago. Which makes it even more astonishing that the app is now in the Mac App Store Top 10.

Zoom Ratings & Reviews

My purpose here is to criticize the Mac App Store itself. The fact that mistakenly purchased abandonware is among the top paid apps is an indictment of the Mac App Store. Why isn't the "real" Zoom on the Mac App Store? I don't have any insider information, but as a Mac developer I can make an educated guess: Mac App Store policies. Specifically, Mac App Store policies that restrict API usage, especially the sandboxing requirement.

When the Mac App Store opened in 2011, it did not require apps to be sandboxed. This requirement was added later and caused many good apps to either become abandonware or leave the Mac App Store entirely. I worked on one such app that had to leave the store due to sandboxing. At WWDC 2018, Apple made a big announcement that several popular apps were returning to the Mac App Store, including BBEdit, which had also left the Mac App Store due to sandboxing. At the time, Mac developers had hoped that Apple was loosening the sandbox restrictions in general. But those hopes were dashed. The few popular apps such as BBEdit received special sandbox exceptions from Apple, and the rest of us got nothing. To be clear, as a longtime user I love BBEdit. Indeed, I'm writing this very blog post in BBEdit. I love Rich Siegel, one of the all time great Mac developers. Yet it boils my blood that BBEdit gets sandbox exceptions. Not because BBEdit doesn't deserve it, but because everyone else does too. The App Store is not a level playing field, in direct contradiction to Apple's patently false responses to the Spotify case. Every app developer knows this.

As for Zoom Video Communications, the "real" Zoom, you can bring up some controversies that Zoom has engendered, and perhaps Zoom deserves criticism for mistakes they've made. In the current context, though, those controversies are beside the point, because clearly people are using and relying on Zoom in large numbers, particularly right now. They want Zoom, they're looking for Zoom, and when people look for Zoom in the Mac App Store, they don't find what they're looking for, they find another app that they're buying by mistake, which isn't a good outcome for anyone. Except Leanid Navumau, I guess. The premise of the App Store is that it's supposed to "protect" consumers; in this case it fails miserably.

Jeff Johnson (My apps, PayPal.Me)