WordPress for iOS is a free app that connects to the company's free, open source content management system that millions of websites on the internet use for part of their structure. WordPress also sells domain names and a range of personal, business, and corporate web hosting plans. Unfortunately, Apple seems to have mixed up the two over the weekend, briefly forcing WordPress to add in-app purchases it wouldn't otherwise have so there could be a cut.
"Find out more about why @ WordPressiOS updates weren't there … we were banned from the App Store," said WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg in a series of tweets on Friday. "In order to be able to send 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."
As reported by The Verge, WordPress took the path of least resistance and agreed to include paths in the iOS app to allow users to purchase premium offerings including domain names. Due to the agreements developers are making with Apple to approve their apps for the App Store, 30 percent of all purchases made through the WordPress app would have gone to Apple after this functionality was added.
"I am aware that there are other apps with functionality similar to @WordPressiOS that do not offer in-app purchase in the same market," added Mullenweg. "I expect you will get similar feedback soon, so I encourage you to make plans for in-app purchase."
However, over the weekend, Apple seemed to realize that it had messed up and reversed its decision. "We believe the problem with the WordPress app has been fixed," Apple said in a statement. "Since the developer has removed the display of their 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 apologized for any confusion we may have caused . "
However, the app has always been a free, standalone app. "I'm very grateful that the Apple staff @WordPressiOS checked again and told us that we don't need to implement in-app purchases in order to keep updating the app," Mullenweg wrote in another series of tweets. He added:
My understanding was that the previous decision was final, and we had already advanced many of the arguments that people privately suggested over the several weeks the app was locked. We will continue to respond and do our best to adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the App Store rules, including closing any Webview loopholes that come up. This also made me appreciate the freedom of the open and independent web. My life's work and the purpose of WordPress is to increase the freedom of the internet. I hope that in addition to native apps, people continue to build websites and web apps that provide accessibility, autonomy, and freedom to the broadest audience. Future generations deserve it.
It seems Apple is feeling a bit besieged about terms on the App Store right now, as the 30 percent cut in purchases – and the fact that some very large companies can negotiate better terms – is the focus of international attention.
Less than two weeks ago, Fortnite developer Epic Games deliberately disregarded Apple's in-app purchase rule to persuade Apple to ban it from the platform. Immediately after Apple did so, Epic filed a civil antitrust lawsuit accusing Apple of harming competitors through anti-competitive conditions.
In the past few days, the case has only escalated: Apple threatened to remove not only Epic's games, but also the Unreal Engine from iOS and Mac, which led Microsoft to join the legal battle on Epic's side.
Competition regulators around the world have also been scrutinizing Apple's App Store terms. The European Union has launched a formal investigation into Apple's pricing strategies following a complaint from the music streaming service Spotify in 2019. Messaging app Telegram also filed a complaint with the EU last month.
In addition to Google, Amazon and Facebook, the US supervisory authorities have also examined Apple for potentially anti-competitive behavior. Although Apple claims it is applying its App Store policies equally to all developers, documents released during a July hearing revealed that some developers, including Amazon Prime Video, were able to negotiate significant discounts.