Apple again accused of being anti-competitive as it changes NFT rules | apple
Apple is facing fresh accusations of anti-competitive behavior after changing its rules for non-fungible token-powered apps and adding more paid promotions to the company’s App Store.
Apple introduced the changes as part of a series of updates to the rules it requires app developers to follow to publish software for iPhones and iPads.
The biggest change is apparently a softening of rules around non-fungible tokens (NFT). Apps can now sell them directly, Apple says, provided they use in-app purchases to do so, from which Apple takes a 15-30% cut. “Apps may use in-app purchases to sell and sell services related to non-fungible tokens, such as minting, listing and transfer,” the new rules state, and “apps may allow users to view their own NFTs.”
But the use of the technology is strictly limited: apps can only support NFTs “provided that NFT ownership does not unlock features or functionality within the app. Apps can allow users to browse collections of NFTs owned by others, provided that the apps do not include buttons, external links or other calls to action that lead customers to purchase mechanisms other than in-app purchases.”
It undermines one of the main theoretical uses of the technology, which is to sell tradable tokens that unlock access to exclusive features. Reddit’s “collectible avatars”, for example, trade for roughly 2ETH (£2,500) and, according to the company’s help pages, “give owners unique benefits on the Reddit platform”. However, apps may offer NFTs that unlock features provided those NFTs are available for purchase with in-app purchases.
Other attempts to make money on social networks fare no better. Many apps sell “boosts,” such as Tumblr’s Blaze service or a promoted post on Twitter, which allow users to pay to put their content directly in front of other users. Now Apple has explicitly warned developers that these features must be offered through in-app purchases, with a corresponding 15-30% cut. “Digital purchases for content experienced or consumed in an app, including the purchase of ads to appear in the same app (such as the sale of ‘boosts’ for posts in a social media app) must use in-app purchases,” the company said.
In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said: “For many years now, App Store policies have been clear that in-app sales of digital goods and services must use in-app purchases. Boosting, which allows a person or organization to pay to boost the reach of a post or profile, is a digital service – so of course in-app purchases are required. This has always been the case, and there are many examples of apps that do it successfully.”
Alongside the changes to the App Store rules, Apple is also changing the store itself, offering new slots for advertising on the home page. “With a Today tab ad, your app can appear prominently on the front page of the App Store — making it some of the first content users see when they begin their App Store visit,” the company told developers.
The moves will intensify the conflict between Apple and some of its biggest competitors, including Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, and the mid-sized companies that support the Coalition for App Fairness. They argue that the strict rules governing how the App Store operates limit its ability to compete with Apple, as users have no other way to install software on their devices.
On Tuesday, the Financial Times reported that the UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority is launching an investigation into Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta’s attempts to offer financial services to retail customers, including payments and insurance.