Microsoft Store killing open-source app sales, angering developers (Updated)

Microsoft Store on Windows 11
(Image credit: Future)

Update (1:50 PM (ET), July 6, 2022): Giorgio Sardo, Microsoft general manager of apps, partners, and the Microsoft Store, clarified the intention behind the new Microsoft Store policies. "We absolutely want to support developers distributing successfully OSS apps. In fact there are already fantastic OSS apps in the Store! The goal of this policy is to protect customers from misleading listings," said Sardo.

What you need to know

  • New Microsoft Store policies will take effect on July 16, 2022.
  • Among the changes is a policy that will prohibit the sale of open-source and free apps through the Microsoft Store, even by the developers behind those apps.
  • Developers have spoken out against the change, arguing that the policy stops people from charging a reasonable amount for their apps.

New Microsoft Store policies will take effect on July 16, 2022. Engineer and well-known member of the Windows community Rafael Rivera highlighted some of the changes in a Twitter thread. An update to one policy will prohibit the sale of open-source or free applications through the Microsoft Store. The change has drawn criticism from the dev community.

Here's the exact verbiage of the change (opens in new tab):

10.8.7

In cases where you determine the pricing for your product or in-app purchases, all pricing, including sales or discounting, for your digital products or services must:

  • Comply with all applicable laws, regulations and regulatory guidelines, including without limitation, the Federal Trade Commission Guides Against Deceptive Pricing.
  • Not attempt to profit from open-source or other software that is otherwise generally available for free, nor be priced irrationally high relative to the features and functionality provided by your product.

There's a good chance that the second change is aimed at people trying to profit off other people's work. It's relatively common for a person to take an open-source piece of software that they did not develop and then charge people for it through the Microsoft Store. These are called copycats and rely on making money in a dishonest way.

But there's another category of open-source and free applications that appear on the Microsoft Store. In some cases, developers decide to place an app in the store for discoverability and ease of access. Krita and Paint.NET are examples of this, but there are plenty of others.

"If you buy Paint.NET in the Windows Store, you'll be supporting its development directly (normally we ask for a donation)," explains the Microsoft Store entry for Paint.NET (opens in new tab). As of July 16, 2022 that will no longer be an option for any open-source or free application.

See more

This has drawn criticism from the development community, including Senior Engineering Manager on Community and DevOps at SUSE Hayden Barnes. He commended the general concept of the policy changes, but also warned against unintended consequences.

"I believe the proposed changes to the Microsoft Store policy on open source apps are intended to thwart copycat open source apps repackaged by third parties and sold at absurd prices. These apps are a blight on the Store and I support their removal.

Microsoft is an excellent open source ecosystem steward and Microsoft Store policies are significantly better than those of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for both app developers and consumers.

However, I strongly encourage Microsoft to revisit the proposed policy as written because it sweeps in legitimate open source applications published by the official upstream projects. Revenue from sales in the Store supports independent open source application developers and sustainable open source projects"

Barnes warned that the policy change could also push developers to move away from the Microsoft Store.

"Several existing open source projects have benefited from being sold in the Store, not just copycats, but upstream projects that provide value to Store consumers: WinSCP, Krita, and more. In addition to hurting those projects, this could also drive more Store apps to go proprietary."

This is a developing story, and we expect word from Microsoft in the near future. Jeff Wilcox, Manager of Microsoft Open Source Programs Office, recently joined discussions about the change.

See more

T̶h̶e̶r̶e̶'̶s̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶M̶i̶c̶r̶o̶s̶o̶f̶t̶'̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶n̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶l̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶h̶i̶b̶i̶t̶ ̶c̶o̶p̶y̶c̶a̶t̶ ̶a̶p̶p̶s̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶w̶e̶'̶l̶l̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶w̶a̶i̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶c̶l̶a̶r̶i̶f̶i̶c̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶p̶a̶n̶y̶.̶

Update (1:50 PM (ET), July 6, 2022): Giorgio Sardo, Microsoft general manager of apps, partners, and the Microsoft Store, clarified the intention behind the new Microsoft Store policies.

See more
Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).