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How iOS Web Distribution works in the EU in iOS 17.5

Apple is allowing EU developers to skip the App Store and offer sideloading from their websites

The new iOS 17.5 beta introduces app sideloading from websites in the EU and Apple has announced both what eligible developers have to do, and what users can expect to see.

As previously expected, the new beta release of iOS 17.5, adds the facility for sideloading apps from a website. Apple had previously resisted allowing this Web Distribution, but was pressured into it by the EU and its Digital Markets Act.

Apple has now issued new support articles for developers on what is required for eligibility, and how the sideloading should work for users. The company stresses that it will check apps for basic security and safety.

According to Apple, sideloading on iOS will work much the same way that a Mac user will be familiar with. The first time a user wants to download an iPhone app from a website, for instance, they go through various steps to confirm that they want to do it.

That starts with permission and authentication that means the user chooses to approve downloads from the developer. Following that first approval, Apple says that subsequently, users will find that downloading apps takes fewer steps.

Limitations and agreements

Apple says it does not impose any requirements or restrictions on how developers promote or discount their apps when distributed through their website. However, it does require that developers only offer their own apps for sale this way, not those from other companies.

Consequently, this is a method for any one developer to get their apps to their customers. It is not a way for any company to create an alternative app store.

As with third-party app stores, developers must be based in the EU. They must also follow local laws, and handle requests regarding their apps, such as governmental takedown ones.

Also as with the new third-party app stores, developers selling iOS apps via their websites are liable to Apple's Core Technology Fee. This fee has proved controversial, and Apple has asked that developers "stay tuned" for more details about it.