Two days ago, news about app filing quickly spread across the internet. In summary, there are four main points:
- Internet service providers are not allowed to provide network access services to apps that have not been filed.
- Distribution platforms are not allowed to provide distribution services to apps that have not been filed.
- Smart terminal manufacturers are not allowed to provide pre-installation services for apps that have not been filed.
- Starting from April 1, 2024, apps that have not been filed will not be able to connect to the internet in mainland China.
For example, if a well-known note-taking app like Bear on iOS has not been filed, does it need to be removed from the App Store in the Chinese region? If it has already been downloaded on a phone, will it be unable to access and retrieve data stored in iCloud?
Taking it to the extreme, if Chrome has not been filed, will it be unable to open webpages?
Currently, there is no specific information on how this will be implemented. The best case scenario would be a filing process similar to the ICP filing for websites. If an app wants to access domestic server networks and be available on the Chinese App Store/application store, it will need to be filed.
I will discuss a few unfounded worries. Since I am not familiar with the relevant technology, and the wording of the documents leaves room for imagination, it is possible that these are baseless speculations.
If an app has not been filed and cannot access the internet, then to use an app that has not been filed, one would need to use internet tools such as Nord VPN or Shadowrocket.
Nord VPN is an app with built-in network nodes, and even if it applies for filing, it is highly likely that it will not be approved. In that case, the only option would be to use Shadowrocket.
However, Shadowrocket also requires internet access to subscribe to and update network nodes. As a well-known internet tool, it is unlikely to be filed. Therefore, the only option would be to manually enter node information for internet access and then subscribe to and update network nodes.
Telecommunication operators establish an internet whitelist, allowing only apps on the whitelist to access the internet.
Currently, telecommunication operators offer data-free plans for apps, such as Bilibili, where using the Bilibili app does not consume data if one has purchased the data-free service. Therefore, it should be technically possible to establish an app whitelist system.
In that case, whether using mobile data or broadband, if Shadowrocket is not on the app whitelist, any traffic from Shadowrocket will be rejected by the operator.
In that case, the only way to bypass this would be to disguise Shadowrocket as a filed app. How difficult would that be?
Distribution platforms restrict access based on region. Is there a high possibility of this happening?
Taking the App Store as an example, currently, to download apps that are not available in the Chinese region, such as ChatGPT, Poe, and Reeder, one can switch to a different region account, such as the US or Turkey, to download them.
If an iPhone sold in mainland China cannot switch accounts, for example, if the SIM card is recognized as being from mainland China, then would the download channel for apps that have not been filed disappear?
The Great Firewall (GFW) implements an internet whitelist system.
There are two ways to access the internet: mobile data and broadband, both of which require real-name registration and correspond to an IP address (static or dynamic). Could the GFW, in collaboration with telecommunication operators, establish an IP whitelist for personal internet terminals?
As we all know, the current GFW operates on a blacklist system, where access to domain names or IPs on the blacklist is blocked. If it were to evolve into a whitelist system, access to domain names or IPs not on the whitelist would be blocked.
Although these worries may be unfounded, it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
I am consciously doing a few things myself.
Firstly, I uninstall apps developed by overseas developers or independent domestic developers that I downloaded from the Chinese App Store, and then reinstall them using an account from a different region. Currently, I have many such apps on my phone, including Fastmail, DEVONthink, Heptabase, Notion, Bear, Inoreader, Reawise Reader, Bitwarden, Google Authenticator, OpenCat, SeverCat, and Immersive Translation. Among them, except for OpenCat, which was removed from the store and introduced a region-switching feature, the subscriptions for Fastmail, Bear, and Readwise Reader are in the Chinese App Store, and I am still considering how to transfer the subscriptions.
Secondly, I maintain at least three Apple IDs from different regions, in addition to the Chinese region Apple ID, I also have two Apple IDs from other regions. Registering an Apple ID is not very difficult now. Taking the US region as an example, I set the internet tool's node to the US, then register a US PayPal account and link it to a Visa card issued by a Chinese bank, and then proceed to register an Apple ID.
Thirdly, I consciously reduce my dependence on note-taking software that requires internet access. Based on the current situation, Notion is unlikely to be filed, and my blog, content shared with colleagues and friends, and my personal digital life management are all done on Notion. If one day I am completely unable to connect to Notion, it will have a huge impact on me.
In addition, there are many other considerations, such as overseas VPS and cloud storage.
There are many things that need to be prepared for, far more than I can imagine or list here.
I now understand why so many netizens speculate, lament, and even curse on social media.
Since China's full access to the international internet in 1996, there have been earth-shattering changes at the national level, in various industries, and for individuals. The rapid dissemination of information and cross-regional information exchange have changed many of our behaviors.
But once the iron curtain falls, what will be left?