Apple apologizes to WordPress for trying to force in-app purchases on them

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Last updated on April 17th, 2023 at 12:48 am

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There are ways and ways to earn money online with mobile apps. According to Bloomberg News, Apple makes a large portion of its $50 billion per year services business with the AppleStore. Where does this fortune come from? Largely from the 30% cut that Apple requires from apps that include in-app purchases. Let’s say, for example, that you want to enjoy the benefits of a Caesars Casino bonus code directly on your iPhone. There is a dedicated app for that that you can download from the AppleStore. You will not get charged anything for downloading. In case you buy anything from within the app, Apple will get a 30% commission on your purchase from the app’s developer.

Business is business, but in the case of WordPress a line was crossed. On August 21st, Matt Mullenwag, the founder of WordPress, broke the news from his Twitter account: “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.”

Apple wanted its 30% cut to unlock the WordPress app. Little problem: the app itself has always been free. And had never included any in-app purchases before. Technically speaking, neither did it when the whole case exploded. Yet, Apple made a move to push WordPress to implement in-app purchases and did it by applying considerable pressure. Blocking the updates was no joke, and it came with a 30-day ultimatum requesting WordPress to add in-app purchases to its app.

Why did Apple behave this way? The fact is that WordPress was seeking an update of the app, where the Help Center offered guidance about upgrading to one of  WordPress’ paid plans. Tapping on “Plans” from that screen resulted in the app opening Safari and showing the plans. The line followed by Apple was that this represented a violation according to the App Store Review Guidelines.

Mullenweg had a different view. In his opinion, WordPress had not added a purchasing functionality with their update. But he added that Apple rejected the app for a decade for web views that allowed purchases. The point is that the advertising of the paid plans sends potential buyers on WordPress’s website. In this way, the purchase would happen outside the AppleStore and Apple could not earn its 30% cut on the transaction.

In the end, WordPress had to remove all reference to the paid plans from the app to regain access to the updates.

“We will continue to be responsive and do our best to be within both the spirit and letter of the App Store rules, including closing any webview loopholes that pop up,” Mullenweg tweeted, the day after the incident. “I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app. Bad news travels faster than good, usually, so please consider sharing that they reversed course.”

Confirmation that the controversy has been settled came from an Apple spokesman: “We believe the issue with WordPress app has been resolved. Since the developer removed the display of their service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and apologize for any confusion that we have caused.”

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