Apple Will Not Force In-App Purchases on WordPress

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