Apple wants a cut in post ‘boosts’ in social media apps • The Register
In a move antitrust watchdogs will surely have no problem with at all, Apple this week revised its App Store rules to limit NFTs, take a cut of paid “boosts” for social media posts and strike down on developers in some other ways.
Although they cover some ground, the most important updates to the guidelines are centered on Apple, making it very clear to software makers: if you sell things in your app, and your app is distributed by the App Store, you better go through these sales into Giant’s in-app payment system so it can take a percentage of that revenue.
Apple also said that any app submitted for inclusion in the App Store must be fully accessible to the review team. By that, Apple means that if some features are locked behind a login message or otherwise restricted, they should be available to Apple’s reviewers.
More like It’s Apple’s purchase
Apple is also cracking down on how NFT apps in the App Store are allowed to operate, with Cupertino apparently concerned that it is losing money on some apps.
While Apple is fine with apps using its payment system to sell NFTs to people, and perform other services such as transferring tokens, it is not happy with ownership of NFTs unlocking features or functionality of an app. Presumably, Apple doesn’t want people to buy NFTs away from the in-app purchase system, and then use those tokens to activate things in apps — Apple would rather you pay for those in-app features through the in-app purchase system, so Cupertino can take a cut, which could be as much as 30 percent.
Furthermore, Apple said that while NFT apps can be used to browse other people’s collections, the apps cannot include any “calls to action that direct customers to purchase mechanisms other than in-app purchases,” Apple said. So no recourse for an NFT buyer to an external market to make a purchase.
Beyond NFTs, Apple said apps cannot use their own mechanisms to unlock other forms of content or app functionality “such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency wallets, etc.” Again, this is to prevent people from paying for things outside of Cupertino’s walled garden, things that are then used in apps from the App Store.
As for social media “boosts,” such as someone paying to promote a post to a wider audience, Apple said they must be purchased through the payment system so they can take their share of the revenue.
Apple made some additional changes, including an eyebrow-raising ban on apps that exploit terrorist attacks, epidemics and other bad times for profit; a requirement that apps supporting the Matter smart home standard use Apple’s own Matter framework; and a requirement that cryptocurrency exchange apps only operate in countries where they have appropriate licenses.
Another seed for the litigation garden
Apple seems to have a good appetite for expanding its in-app payment rules, regardless of what regulators, developers or the public think.
The Silicon Valley giant drew widespread condemnation for its decision to not only take 30 percent of in-app purchases, but also to remove Fortnite from the App Store after Epic tried to let players buy in-game currency on its website for a lower price. price than through Cupertino. While Apple largely prevailed in the US case against Epic, the two companies are still duking it out in Australian courts.
Other lawsuits have emerged to challenge Apple’s ability to limit in-app purchases to its own backend systems, such as in the Netherlands, where it was told it had to allow third-party payments in dating apps; and another case in California, where French publishers upset by iGiant’s demands and not being allowed to set their own prices for certain items, have filed what they hope will be a class action.
It remains to be seen whether the changes to the app rating will trigger more lawsuits. However, what Apple is adding to its app review process is hard to see as anything other than doubling down on a policy that has already attracted bad press and legal trouble. ®