Being an independent developer is hard – no matter you develop games, applications or whatnot. If you’re in the scene alone, there is a substantial chance that you already have developed numerous projects that did not manage to do well. Making and putting a project out there is an expensive process, and you might not see that money again unless you end up with a surprise hit in your roster.
Most developers (be it independent or not) goes through Imposter Syndrome at some point. Imposter Syndrome is the idea in which you doubt your accomplishments that you feel like a fraud — it’s like you’re not good enough which somebody will eventually realize sooner or later. This is something that even experienced developers goes through in their career.
With all these much to go through, companies like Microsoft, Google and other big players sometimes end up hurting the independent developers.
Microsoft SmartScreen – What it is and How it hurts Independent Developers?
Microsoft SmartScreen is nothing but a new feature that works with Defender for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Microsoft Edge. The SmartScreen determines whether a downloaded app or executable file is potentially malicious or not. To do that, it collects installation data from all Window users allowing it to establish “reputations”.
As you might have guessed already if a particular app doesn’t have a good reputation, then SmartScreen throws a big warning message on the screen. It also gives a big “Don’t Run” button that an average user ends up pressing in an instant. Although clicking on “More info” and then on “Run anyway” will install the app, most users simply prefer to stay away.
This particular thing creates a massive problem for an independent developers community out there.
How to build reputations, then?
Since Microsoft gather information on the bases of who has published the app via code signing certificate, an unsigned app will always fall under the radar of SmartScreen. This means that an indie developer will have to spend some big bucks to acquire this code signing certificate. Typically, a certificate that is valid for a year costs around $100.
Furthermore, getting a code signing certificate isn’t the only thing you need to worry about. You now have to build reputations which, as mentioned earlier, depends on how many people have installed your software. Since your reputation box is completely empty, many potential users will skip your app or game, thanks to SmartScreen.
You then try to get your app published on WinGet, but things still don’t turn in your favour. For those who’re unaware, WinGet is Windows package manager that might replace the existing Windows Store once it comes out of beta. Back to your app, you will most probably receive the same SmartScreen error but this time via Microsoft bot for WinGet. Even if you try to submit your file for another review, you will still be left disappointed. Even though your app is clean, the SmartScreen error will not go away unless and until you have a good reputation.
Managed to build reputations? there’s still one more thing to worry about
Assuming that you finally have managed to build some reputations or have become a trusted publisher in the eyes of algorithms, things might still get worse. Your code signing certificate is about to expire, so you decided to simply renew it. Well, SmartScreen doesn’t recognize certificate renewals. It means that you will now become a new publisher in the eyes of algorithms having to go through the entire process once again.
At this stage, an independent developer will give up since he lacks resources to go through this entire method again. A Publisher, on the other hand, can always go with Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate that costs around $699 a year which, by the way, is reserved for corporations only.
What about other companies and scanners hurting Independent Developers?
Although Microsoft is now getting more praise for its dive into the open-source nature, the SmartScreen and numerous aspects of Windows, in general, end up hurting the independent developers. It’s not just Microsoft, we have seen Google and other big companies also repressing independent developers. Just like this, it’s not just SmartScreen but other scanners such as Symantec Antivirus that blocks software even with proper digital signatures and malware-free code.
Well, we will leave those for some another day. Make sure to let us know your thoughts on this by hopping down in the comments section below.