China’s Clampdown on App Hosting Threatens Major App Delisting

In early August, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) made a significant move to enhance its visibility over mobile apps.

MIIT declared that apps must provide their business details to the government to maintain a presence in the app stores. Failure to do so will result in penalties after a grace period that ends in March of next year.

This development comes on the heels of China’s introduction of a new license for apps utilizing generative AI. The ripple effect of this decision forced Apple to respond with the evaluation and subsequent removal of over 100 AI apps from their Chinese App Store.

Under the new regulations, app developers are required to either establish a company within China or collaborate with a local publisher. These stipulations could lead to the removal of apps like X, Facebook, and Instagram from the Chinese App Store. Although these apps are officially banned in China, there are ways, such as using a reliable VPN, that allow users to access them.

Apple took action on September 29th by mandating developers submit an “internet content provider filing (ICP)” when publishing new apps. Existing apps are graced until March to comply with the ICP filing system. This system is not entirely new, as app stores operated by companies like Tencent and Huawei in China already employ the ICP filing mechanism.

Over the past several years, Apple had a more relaxed ICP policy, allowing them to host a more extensive range of apps than other tech app stores. However, with the recent push from the MIIT, thousands of apps now face the risk of being delisted.

Apple’s compliance with the ICP filing license and the expanded rules introduced in August effectively necessitate that the backend infrastructure of all apps be hosted within China. Major foreign apps will have difficulties complying with these requirements. Android App Stores have also been subjected to regulations since the beginning of last month.

These changes signal a significant shift in the app ecosystem within China and its impact on both local and international developers. It will be fascinating to see how Apple navigates the challenge keeping apps on its App Store in light of these new regulations.