Opinion: Today’s Mobile Apps Work Great

Why would policymakers change that? 

Hurricane Katrina destroyed my family’s home, an experience that is etched deep into my memory.

In coastal states like Louisiana, hurricanes pose a growing threat. Despite advancements in government emergency alert systems, I noticed several years ago that many people either didn’t receive the warnings or didn’t think they were relevant. As a developer, I wondered, “Isn’t there an app for that?” However, I failed to find one that had all the important functions, so I went to work and built a new hurricane tracker app.

More than 250,000 people use my free app, which delivers real-time, location-specific hurricane information, including wind velocity, storm trajectories and estimated landfall times. It also provides personalized alerts about these life-threatening weather conditions. I’ve heard from many people that using the app has helped them make smart decisions that kept them safe.

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Twenty years ago, the app’s success would not have been possible without significant investment in the production and distribution of CDs — the physical technology people would purchase to load software onto a personal computer. Today, thanks to Apple and Google, my app is available globally — without the need for manufacturing or physical retail stores. Moreover, in-app advertising allows me to offer the app for free. However, proposed changes by policymakers to the app platform and store model are a real concern, as their ideas could change the model, reduce access to important apps, and increase distribution costs for developers.

Although Apple’s and Google’s dominance in the app market is disconcerting for some lawmakers, these companies provide an invaluable platform for developers to effortlessly distribute apps worldwide. A modest fee and compliance with privacy, security and data collection standards were the only prerequisites for introducing my app to these stores.

Apple’s App Store and Google Play have been instrumental in my app’s success. Within the first year, the app had 5,000 users and a tenfold increase to 50,000 by the end of the second year. Currently, over 250,000 users are actively using the app. This impressive growth was achieved without any marketing efforts. It all happened through users discovering the app when searching for information about hurricanes and safety.

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While policymakers’ concerns about the power of Google and Apple are valid, it’s vital to consider the potential impact of forcing changes to the app marketplace. The current system offers users a wealth of creative and important information and allows innovators to present their work to a global audience. Many apps, like mine, are free due to the efficient in-app advertising system, while Apple and Google ensure the security of user data and personal information.

Imagine a marketplace with 10 different app stores, each with unique fees and policies. Developers, especially small ones like me, may lack the resources to navigate such a complex landscape, and the impact would limit the reach of their apps. If these new app store competitors charged for every download, many users might be reluctant to pay, reducing developers’ success and depriving users of valuable free tools. Smaller app stores might also spend less on data privacy and security, putting users at risk.

The current app platforms and stores have enabled me to offer a trusted, free app that countless individuals use to ensure their families’ safety. The need for regulatory checks is understandable, but lawmakers need to weigh the potentially harmful consequences of their decisions on developers and users. I urge them to consider stories like mine and deliberate carefully on any changes to today’s app platform and marketplace system that, despite its flaws, serves many so well

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Joe Landry is the founder of Louisiana-based JPL Technical Solutions, the developer of Tropical Hurricane Tracker.


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