With phone sales flagging Apple is really turning the screws up on companies (and by extension their customers) in an effort to extract more money from iPhone owners.
The latest victim is WordPress.com, which offers an iOS app which lets users acquire and manage free websites on their service.
On Twitter, the founder of the company, Matt Mullenweg, revealed that Apple was blocking updates to their iOS app until WordPress added functionality to the app which would allow users to purchase premium websites, from which Apple would then take a 30% cut.
Heads up on why @WordPressiOS updates have been absent… we were locked by App Store. To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans. I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions. Allow others IAP? New name?
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 21, 2020
WordPress has agreed to kiss the ring and comply with Apple’s demands, but this will, in the end, result in the company being less profitable and/or viable.
Other publishers have confirmed that they have been extorted in the same manner:
This exact thing happened with CoughDrop, but it's small enough that nobody cares. Free app for 4 years (they knew we had an external subscription), suddenly our bug fixes were held hostage until I scrambled to add iap. https://t.co/LlR0V6TQzD
— Brian Whitmer (@whitmer) August 22, 2020
Defenders have pointed to Apple’s publisher rule 3.1.3(b):
3.1.3(b) Multiplatform Services: Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase.
This notes that if your app is able to consume paid content you must offer that same content for sale via Apple’s in-app purchases. In short, pure reader apps are not allowed if they can consume premium content.
Apple appears to be under the impression that they deserve a large cut of the success of any company that has an app on its platform, even when the company has been making efforts to transact elsewhere, and it is ultimately the end-user which will pay the price.
Hopefully, the current antitrust action against the company in USA and Europe will result in effective action, up to and including breaking off the hardware and operating system side of the company from the service side of the company, which should once again allow for effective competition.
Update: Apple has caved – read more here.