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I would imagine steps like this

  1. The community (current maintainers) makes request to the foundation about publishing an application to App Store. Note that only the current maintainers can submit such request; if the project isn’t maintained then it shouldn’t be published.
  2. The foundation checks out the code on some publicly available repository (such as GitHub).
  3. The foundation examines the application, such as checking license compatibility, obvious malicious content, popularity, and user feedback. It can do this with help of community, such as publishing the request and wait for comments. More communication can happen in this stage (such as discussing how the foundation receives update).
  4. The foundation publishes the application under its own developer account.
  5. The application homepage directs user to install the application in App Store.

This should be a valid model because only the foundation pays the fee for developer account, and it should be able to publish unlimited number of applications. Is there any such foundation?

  • What's the advantage of what you're suggesting other than a fairly marginal cost saving? – Philip Kendall Jun 29 at 18:22
  • @PhilipKendall If the cost is “marginal” to you then this is less attractive. Nevertheless it’s a way to say “the binary is the same as the source code”. – Franklin Yu Jun 29 at 21:40
  • How is this different from what Linux distributions like Debian do? They take open source apps and publish them in a way packaged for their system. Some even have graphical browsers which they call an "app store" but in the end it is just a web site where you can download software. – Brandin Jul 5 at 12:43
  • @Brandin Yes they are very similar in terms of licensing (actually I think it is more closed to Arch Linux since Debian team still does a lot of maintenance), so I'm wondering whether anyone is doing this for App Store. According to the answer below, no one seems to be doing this business. – Franklin Yu Jul 5 at 21:31
  • I mean Canonical (Ubuntu) and Red Hat (RHEL, Fedora) seem to do exactly this with software repositories. RHEL for example actually charges for their RHEL official repositories access, which is fine since free software is free as in freedom, not price. – Brandin Jul 6 at 11:29
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To the best of my knowledge, there is no such foundation. Such a foundation would also face the following difficulties:

  • where open source apps exist, the app's original maintainer has likely already published it. Re-publishing it through the foundation will – in general – only lead to unnecessary duplication and may be rejected during the app store's review.

  • the foundation would likely not be in a position to provide necessary maintenance for the application, such as implementing security fixes, removing deprecated APIs, or keeping up with publication requirements. All of those things take effort. Either this effort is already provided by the upstream project, or the foundation would need developers that do this work.

  • the available selection of open source apps may be quite slim. Whereas Android has a large open source ecosystem, iOS does not. There is also the issue that GPL-licensed software may be incompatible with Apple's App Store, which drastically limits the available software. (Where iOS apps are GPL-licensed, there are typically either CLAs or license exceptions involved, neither of which are compatible with the wider GPL ecosystem.)

The advantages of such a foundation would be:

  • that individual developers can get their app published without having to cover the developer account fee
  • that users can trust the foundation's curation, and don't have to trust a no-name developer.

If you think that would be worth it, do start such a foundation!

  • where open source apps exist, the app's original maintainer has likely already published it.” Maybe I didn’t make it clear, but only the current maintainers can submit request to publish. The foundation should verify the authenticity of the request; this can easily be done by (for example) posting to the application’s public issue tracker or mailing list for developer. I updated the question accordingly. – Franklin Yu Jun 29 at 15:59
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There is one main issue with your question, it is not possible to publish Free/Libre and Open Source software on the Apple Store.

Per the OWASP Mobile Security Testing Guide,

Apple has implemented an elaborate DRM system to make sure that only Apple-approved code runs on their devices, that is, code signed by Apple.

And also, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's article, Apple's Crystal Prison and the Future of Open Platforms,

Additionally, because Apple modifies binaries before publishing apps in the App Store, open source apps released under the GNU General Public License cannot be published without the approval of all authors, which caused the popular media player VLC to get removed from sale.

See also: https://stackoverflow.com/q/459833/8507637

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    I know the issues between GPL and App Store, but MIT and BSD licensed software can be submitted, so I wouldn’t say that’s “main issue”. – Franklin Yu Jul 20 at 20:27
  • Technically, those would be derivatives of the original MIT or BSD licensed applications. There is no way that you can ensure that the final application on the store is 100% YOUR code, because it isn't. – Lucas Ramage Jul 20 at 22:02
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    From developer’s point of view, Apple modifying the code isn’t a concern at all. I would agree with you if you mean that the application is no longer free software once it is published on App Store; what I would like from the (imaginary) foundation is a guarantee that only Apple did the modification. After all, using App Store means trusting Apple. – Franklin Yu Jul 30 at 6:19

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