On Friday, the internet broke in a small way to learn that Apple had successfully forced WordPress to monetize its free app – and forced it to sell premium plans and custom domain names, apparently just to make Apple its traditional 30 percent cut.
But one afternoon and evening of surprise and indignation, Apple pulls back. The company rarely apologizes on record, saying that now that all is said and done, WordPress doesn't need to add in-app purchases.
Here is Apple's full statement:
We believe the problem with the WordPress app has been fixed. Since the developer has removed the display of its service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app that does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and we apologize for the confusion we have caused.
You'll find Apple positioning this as a developer – WordPress – who did the right thing and "removed the display of their service payment options from the app", and to my knowledge is technically true. But as far as I know, that didn't happen today: it happened weeks or months ago.
While the WordPress app didn't sell anything yesterday and didn't even mention a paid "Wordpress.com" plan unless you followed an unlikely workaround, I was able to track down a coworker that weekend who had a much older version of the app , one with a dedicated Plans tab that listed some of the different plans available to Premium customers:
It was already a "free stand-alone app", no?
However, my source told me that there is no way to buy one of these plans – and I can confirm that the entire "Plans" section was already removed when WordPress developer Matt Mullenwag told us that Apple had successfully forced it To add Apple -App Purchases (IAP). (He had originally said Apple banned him from updating the app unless he added Apple IAP within 30 days.)
Additionally, Mullenwag shared with us that he had previously offered to remove other mentions of the paid plans from the app (even workarounds when a user previews their own WordPress website and then navigates to WordPress.com), just for the sake of this to have rejected these proposals from Apple.
So to the best of my knowledge, this is no longer a WordPress cave. Apple just seems to have decided that trying to extract its cut from a free app – by forcing in-app purchases – isn't a hill worth dying on today.