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Zoom, a hallmark platform used by millions during the global health crisis, has been given access to a special iPadOS API that allows the app to use the iPad camera while the app is in use in Split View multitasking mode.

zoom-app-icon.jpg

This case of special treatment was first brought to attention by app developer Jeremy Provost, who, in a blog post, explains that Zoom uses a special API that allows the app to continue using and accessing the iPad camera while the app is being used in Split View mode.

Zoom can do this thanks to an "entitlement," which grants developers the ability to execute a particular capability with an API. As Provost notes, Apple publicly documents the ability for developers to apply for several different entitlements, such as ones related to CarPlay, HomeKit, and more. However, the special API that Zoom has been given is not offered to other developers by Apple, nor is its existence acknowledged by the company itself.

On the Zoom Developer Forum, a staff member for the video conferencing platform had confirmed earlier in February that Zoom has access to the "com.apple.developer.avfoundation.multitasking-camera-access," or iPad Camera Multitasking entitlement.

zoom-dev-forum-ipad-api.png

For obvious reasons, this ability is useful when users may want to reference and use a separate app during a video conferencing call. Without this special API, if a user puts a video conferencing app into Split view mode, the video call would go dark as the app cannot access the iPad camera when multitasking.

The new revelation comes at a troubling time for the Cupertino tech giant. The company is currently embroiled in a mammoth legal battle with game developer Epic Games, which accuses it of holding unfair, and anti-competitive control over the App Store and the distribution of apps on iOS devices.

The trial between the two titans began on May 3, and ever since, evidence, including email correspondence between Apple executives and employees, has revealed that Apple has previously granted certain developers, such as Hulu, access to APIs unavailable to other developers. Apple contuines to pledge that it treats all developers the same and offers everyone a "level playing field."

We've reached out to Apple for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

Article Link: Apple Gave Zoom Access to Special API to Use iPad Camera During Split View Multitasking
 
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zakarhino

Contributor
Sep 13, 2014
1,743
4,373
Berkeley
It sucks that Apple does this. Every developer should be given equal access to APIs. I remember the guys at Linus Media Group talking about how difficult it is to launch a social media platform as a small company/operation on iOS because of limitations that very obviously don't exist on the mega apps like YouTube, Netflix, etc.
 

andrefillipe

macrumors member
Mar 1, 2021
53
160
And what does it have to do with in-app purchases?
”You gave them a special API so we must have our exception with the payment and taxes”

Update on my opinion: although I still think that making an API exception is very different than making a tax or payment exception, I understand that it indeed may be unfair or arbitrary.
 
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displayblock

macrumors member
Jul 31, 2014
92
318
And what does it have to do with in-app purchases?
”You gave them a special API so we must have our exception with the payment and taxes”
Epic is acting like a 4yo child
They are pointing out that Apple allows some apps certain privileges that others do not have access to, and that Apple will bend their own rules based on arbitrary decisions.
 

tadasZ

macrumors member
Aug 5, 2014
54
95
Vilnius
And what does it have to do with in-app purchases?
”You gave them a special API so we must have our exception with the payment and taxes”
Epic is acting like a 4yo child
come on dude.. the point is that apple lies saying they treat every app developer equal, it's just not true - one can use special api other get banned for the same thing (eg. parental control apps). I hope apple loses agains epic, it will be good for everyone.
 

Lihp8270

macrumors 6502a
Dec 31, 2016
900
1,329
It sucks that Apple does this. Every developer should be given equal access to APIs. I remember the guys at Linus Media Group talking about how difficult it is to launch a social media platform as a small company/operation on iOS because of limitations that very obviously don't exist on the mega apps like YouTube, Netflix, etc.
Are you a developer?

The company I work for uses a certain software package. As a trusted partner, We have access to APIs which are undocumented and not available to all. This is because our use case demands it.

Without the API access, and comms directly with their development teams it wouldn’t be possible for us to use their software solution.

As a personal side gig I have a watch app. There’s no way I’d expect to get the same level of access as a major company, particularly with regards to accessing APIs which I don’t need.

An important rule of any secure system is that people have access to only what they need and nothing more.
 

Karllake

macrumors regular
Jul 15, 2012
225
298
And what does it have to do with in-app purchases?
”You gave them a special API so we must have our exception with the payment and taxes”
Epic is acting like a 4yo child
I think its more about apple ability to fairly manage the App Store, I’m 100% team apple generally but the optics of this are bad, only FaceTime having access to API’s is bad, apple choosing which developers do outside of apple is unacceptable.
 

NightFox

macrumors 68030
May 10, 2005
2,799
3,222
Shropshire, UK
Are you a developer?

The company I work for uses a certain software package. As a trusted partner, We have access to APIs which are undocumented and not available to all. This is because our use case demands it.

Without the API access, and comms directly with their development teams it wouldn’t be possible for us to use their software solution.

As a personal side gig I have a watch app. There’s no way I’d expect to get the same level of access as a major company, particularly with regards to accessing APIs which I don’t need.

An important rule of any secure system is that people have access to only what they need and nothing more.
But does that software company claim in court that it treats all its partners equally?
 

amartinez1660

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2014
1,320
1,231
I can understand this during these times, however it's odd that other big platforms (like Teams) didn't also get access.
Maybe they didn’t ask for? what’s true is that this looks bad for the score sheet.

I was wondering why Discord when in floating or split screen view would show me dark to others, this answers it. I thought it was either iPad being iPad or Discord devs having a bug, even rebooted couple of times to see if it worked... it has been special library access all along.

I also find curious that microphone, location services, etc are multitasking and background-app friendly yet the camera isn’t? Maybe it’s not completely on purpose (what to gain from that?), has been programmed a bit wonky or is it still being ironed out.

Nevertheless, as an user, knowing that it could have worked all this time actually (first world problem) sucks. At the same time, as the platform arbiter, if I find something potentially sensitive I would think about special access to some, companies do it all the time in general and there’s an analogy with key/access-cards/back doors and many other things.

Tricky ball on play currently... I say let them run their business however they feel best but what do I know.
 

Lihp8270

macrumors 6502a
Dec 31, 2016
900
1,329
But does that software company claim in court that it treats all its partners equally?
How are you defining equally? If you mean everybody has access to everything, then that is entirely unrealistic.

Im sure everybody is free to request access if they’re big enough to have the contact. Doesn’t mean that they will be granted.

My employer treats people equally. Yet my boss has less access on secure systems than I do. Because he is deemed to have no reason to require the access.
 

Lihp8270

macrumors 6502a
Dec 31, 2016
900
1,329
I wonder if the purpose was precisely to prevent a key competitor (Microsoft) from getting too big and influential on the platform. Hence the granting of special APIs to help keep them in check.
If this were to be true it’s no different to MS withholding key Software packages from MacOS, so they don’t lose market share with windows.
 

amartinez1660

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2014
1,320
1,231
But does that software company claim in court that it treats all its partners equally?
I guess there are levels of nuances just like in real life with many other examples... if I were a one-man-team developing a notes taking app for groceries shopping lists and ask for this camera special multitask access API, I wouldn’t get it. However if I were a multi-chat-conference big corporate tech company called BOOM I would probably have a bigger chance at that.

Just like a nightclub says that they welcome everyone and advertise it all as a place for everybody to have good times... yet some people will go through the back door, others will skip the line, some won’t even pay for drinks.
 

Johnny907

macrumors 68000
Sep 20, 2014
1,785
3,065
Are you a developer?

The company I work for uses a certain software package. As a trusted partner, We have access to APIs which are undocumented and not available to all. This is because our use case demands it.

Without the API access, and comms directly with their development teams it wouldn’t be possible for us to use their software solution.

As a personal side gig I have a watch app. There’s no way I’d expect to get the same level of access as a major company, particularly with regards to accessing APIs which I don’t need.

An important rule of any secure system is that people have access to only what they need and nothing more.
Ok. Why isn’t this API available to Teams, then? Is Microsoft not a “major company?” Why is Zooms “need for access” to this API greater than Teams, exactly?
 
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