Apple Will Not Force In-App Purchases on WordPress

Posted on August 23, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Cloud, Mobile, iOS with 9 Comments

In a rare move, Apple has apologized to WordPress for threatening it unnecessarily and will no longer force it to offer in-app purchases. The bad news? Its apology references an issue that wasn’t at the heart of its original complaint.

“We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved,” an Apple statement reads. “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.”

Unfortunately, the bit about WordPress “removing the display of their service payment options from the app” is incorrect: Yes, WordPress had at one time had the temerity to put a link in its app to a support document on the web that mentioned that the service actually has paid options. But that link was removed “several weeks” ago, and long before Apple took tried to extort WordPress.

As you may recall, WordPress’s Matt Mullenweg explained that Apple had halted updates to the WordPress app on iOS and had just threatened his firm because it offered both free and paid service plans and demanded that its app advertise that fact and make it possible for users to upgrade in the app. Apple would, of course, receive a 30 percent fee on those upgrades. But now, Apple has reversed course and claims that the issue is one WordPress fixed long ago.

“Apple re-reviewed [WordPress on iOS] and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app,” he tweeted in the wake of the Apple apology. “I did not expect the previous tweet to get attention outside the [WordPress] community. My understanding was the previous decision was final, and we had already made many of the arguments people suggested privately over the several weeks the app was locked.”

The “very grateful” Mullenweg continues to do an embarrassing job of bowing to his Apple overlords despite the fact that Apple’s apology literally blames him and his company for doing something it had fixed several weeks earlier. He says that WordPress “will continue to …. do [its] best to be within both the spirit and letter of the app store rules, including closing any webview loopholes that pop up.”

But as others have pointed out, Apple hasn’t reversed course, let alone apologized, to smaller, less high-profile app makers for which it has made similarly unfair demands.

“This exact thing happened with CoughDrop, but it’s small enough that nobody cares,” CoughDrop founder Brian Whitmer tweeted about this episode. “Free app for four years (they knew we had an external subscription), suddenly our bug fixes were held hostage until I scrambled to add [in-app payments].”

In other words, the issue here isn’t that WordPress was somewhere linking to information about paid plans—regardless of whether one feels that it should be allowed to do so—but that Apple was extorting the firm to offer in-app payments so that it could collect its 30 percent fee. And that Apple is engaging in this practice with other firms in an effort to shore up its services revenues and milk its developer ecosystem harder than ever.

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Comments (9)

9 responses to “Apple Will Not Force In-App Purchases on WordPress”

  1. Chris_Kez

    Even when they’re apologizing Apple can’t help but make themselves look bad. I enjoy their products and respect their need to protect their business, but good lord they seem incapable of demonstrating humility.

  2. toukale

    In this world of instant gratification we have folks making accusations without even having all the details. And in Apple's case, everyone loves to beat them up, its the cool thing to do. Google is basically doing the same thing Apple is doing with slightly less bite/burn but no one seems to care, Google is the one also the one with the 80% market share in mobile. Strange world we live in, when the company with 80% market shares in mobile is getting a pass for doing most of what Apple is doing. I get it, Apple stories sells and bring ton of clicks/engagements and people wonder why Apple thinks they are the center of the universe. Stop feeding the beasts.

    Google somehow is not getting any attention when in fact what they are doing is even worse in my view. Google is painting this picture of open, when in reality that is not the case. You would think all those reporters would put their investigative hats on to look into this. No one seems too bother by any of it, instead, lets focus on the company who only controls 15% of the market and want control of their devices on their platform, it is very strange.

    It also does not help that the users with the most buying power seems to resides on Apples platforms, which is why everyone are falling over themselves to get a piece of the iOS action. "Don't hate the player, hate the game." Governments intervention is not going to solve whatever issues some seems to have with Apple. They will get fine but consumer behaviors won't change (see Facebook, etc...). Don't get mad at Apple, get mad at the other companies for failings to challenge and out innovate them.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Google isn't getting a pass. Of the five Big Tech firms, Google is involved in more antitrust cases and investigations than any of the others.
  3. brettscoast

    Another good post Paul highlighting Apple's absurd lust for power and control over smaller companies, developers just trying to compete equally. The 30% fee on all the apps in it's store produced by said small businesses & developer's is clearly unfair. Apple is not a good corporate citizen.

  4. brettscoast

    My earlier reply veered slightly off your original post which was about Apple at least showing some contrition in regard to WordPress. Otherwise my earlier reply still stands that Apple is charging excessive fees for app developers and it's basically unfair. I know I know it's their store!!

  5. spiderman2

    what a surprise /s

    classic apple

  6. chaad_losan

    Apple has become what it sought to fight. An opportunistic monopolist.