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Apple is locking down the iPhone App Store to comply with a new law in China

Apple is locking down the iPhone App Store to comply with a new law in China


Apps without an Internet Content Provider license in China won’t be allowed on the Chinese iteration of the App Store after Apple began complying with new regulations last week.

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An illustration of the Apple logo.
Illustration: The Verge

Apple’s iPhone App Store in China is getting a whole lot more locked down. China recently updated an existing online software regulation to lay out strict criteria for app stores and apps in the country, and after looking for ways around it, Apple has started to comply. For users in China, it’s about to get way harder to watch YouTube on iPhones.

Apple, as of Friday of last week, requires app developers hoping to publish apps on its App Store in China to provide their Internet Content Provider (ICP) filing number from the Chinese government. Last month, China announced it would require an ICP license in order for apps to be listed in all mobile app stores. Now, as Apple honors the regulation, it closes a loophole that had let iPhone users in China download and, with a VPN, use apps that the government there has blocked for most or all of the country, like WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube.

Reuters writes that, in order for an app to qualify for an ICP license, they are “effectively” required to host their back end in China. That means foreign apps have to have a local component to be available for download in China. Apple was pushing back on the requirement, but app stores from Tencent, Huawei, and others had apparently already complied with the rule. We asked Apple for a comment and whether the rule has affected any apps yet but did not receive a response by press time.

Before this new requirement, Apple also had to remove tens of thousands of games from its App Store in the country over similar licensing requirements.