Mail app

Apple restores messaging app after developer tries to rally ‘Sherlocked’ victims

Apple has restored the BlueMail messaging app to the Mac App Store after its developer launched a campaign to rally small developers. Blix, founded by brothers Dan and Ben Volach, has been in a dispute with Apple for several months. He alleges that Apple stole its anonymous login feature for “Sign in with Apple” and then kicked it out of the App Store under flimsy pretenses to suppress competition. Apple, on the other hand, said it removed the macOS app for security reasons.

Now Apple has accepted a version of BlueMail into the store, a week after Blix published an open letter urging smaller developers to join forces and fight Apple. Blix says it never addressed many of the “unwarranted” and “shifting” issues raised by Apple, arguing that BlueMail was rolled back in response to public pressure. A message delivered to The edge does not offer a specific reason; it just indicates that the status of the application has changed.

Apple denied that its standards were inconsistent. “The App Store has a uniform set of guidelines, equally applicable to all developers, which are intended to protect users,” the company said in a statement. “Blix offers to replace basic data security protections that can expose users’ computers to malware that can harm their Macs and threaten their privacy.” A spokesperson said that last week, Blix submitted a new version of its app that complied with Apple’s Gatekeeper security software and fixed technical issues, including an issue that produced privacy and security warnings for users at launch.

Blix sued Apple for patent infringement on “Sign in with Apple,” and the company said it had “no intention” of dropping that lawsuit. But he wants to emphasize the value of public complaints. “When we wrote to the Apple developer community, BlueMail was back on the App Store within a week,” Dan Volach said in a statement. “If you’re too scared to come forward, let this be your proof that talking works.”

A number of small and medium-sized developers have complained about being “Sherlocked” by Apple, a term that refers to Apple undermining third-party apps by building their functionality directly into its product. This may provide a better experience for users, but some companies are complaining that Apple is also making it harder to use competing third-party products, like Tile, which testified before Congress in an antitrust hearing last month.

Update at 1:00 p.m. ET: Added statement from Apple.