Apple seems to be repeatedly making the headlines these days, and for all the wrong reasons. The notorious war with Epic Games had barely just seen the daylight when the Internet broke out with a supposed “Apple-WordPress” feud. However, in a surprisingly amicable manner, Apple has issued an apology stating that they have now resolved the matter between them.
Just a few days ago, WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg accused Apple of limiting updates on the app — unless it integrates the in-app purchases so Apple can get its 30% royalty. However, Apple has now released a statement saying that the updates will be allowed again. They have reached an agreement, according to it.
Background Story: How did the Feud Begin?
To understand the whole story, let’s look at WordPress and Apple individually.
WordPress: An Open Source Project
WordPress is an open-source project widely used by creators to create websites. It has been available on iOS as a free application. Additionally, this app on iOS doesn’t offer any purchasable services. Its facilities are limited to creating free websites and managing content on it. The 3GB storage and other creation utilities all come included with it.
The website, WordPress.com, offers several paid plans for hosting and other features like storage, support, and other parameters. The programs allow users to set up a custom domain, access email, build full websites, and more. However, the app is different. In the application, you can create these sites or add a self-hosted site, but there’s no option to access the paid features
Apple and its monetization policy
Apple is easily one of the wealthiest companies in the tech industry right now. But its earnings are not just from the devices and products. These (sometimes unnoticed) things, like their monetization policy, are one of the significant contributors.
Apple introduced the App Store more than a decade ago, just a short while after it released the phone. Along with the online marketplace came a peculiar other policy. For all the purchases made on the store, Apple would get 30%, and the developers 70%. A few protests were there, but nobody overthought it back then.
Jump to 2020, Apple is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and this 30% makes a huge difference. The developers are beginning to be hesitant and with good reason. Recently, this scheme has attracted antitrust scrutiny, fury from app makers, and lawsuits from big consumers and partners, including Epic Games for Fortnite.
WordPress Speaks Out
As mentioned earlier, WordPress is an open-source project without any paid services to them. So there is seemingly no correlation between the two. However, things turned overnight.
Some users of the app found a few loopholes to access the WordPress site from within the app. This way, they could also get a hold of the paid content like themes and utilities, and make purchases as well. The Internet took it upon itself to spread the word, and Apple listened.
On August 21, WordPress founder Mullenweg reached out to Twitter. According to him, the WordPress iOS App was “locked”. To get updates and bug fixes, the company would have to implement the in-app purchase feature in its iOS application. Here’s what he said:
Heads up on why @WordPressiOS updates have been absent… we were locked by App Store… To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans.
This controversy was not much after the Epic Games feud, and Apple received a lot of backlash for it.
As a significant eye-catching step, Apple issued an official apology. Mark Gurman told Twitter that they had reached an agreement. Here’s what he said:
We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved. 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.
Technically, WordPress was violating apple’s policy since any purchases would require a commission deduction as per the guidelines. But it’s not clear why Apple didn’t previously need WordPress purchases to be made available in the app.
However, they have resolved the conflict for now. Regarding the next WordPress update, it will remain to be a completely free app. It will offer no services, not even the hidden ones. And consequently, it will be exempt from the “in-app purchases” features, as well as the royalty.
The Future of These Feuds
As we’ve mentioned before, one cannot ignore the role of in-app purchases in Apple’s economy. Apple itself gave weight to these claims, saying it created $519 billion in commerce last year. Further, it also revealed that In-app advertising makes up another $45 billion.
However, the problem is not just about how it charges the developers anymore, but also how it forces the users. And it’s fair to say that the enforcement seems pretty unfair. That is the reason why you can’t sign up on Netflix on the app, or even buy a Kindle book on your iPhone. You cannot get away without every single Penny cut down.
However, the scenario of smaller and growing businesses is worse. In an infamous event considering an email app Hey, Apple said that it had to compulsorily make subscriptions a part of in-app purchases. There is a fine line between profit-sharing and monopoly, and Apple seems to be walking on a flimsy thread.
With Giants like Spotify and Fortnite speaking out, we expect more companies to raise their voices and jump on the bandwagon as well. There are several sides to it. Which team will win, only time knows.
What do you think?
We are glad that the companies have come to reasonable terms. But we do hope that some more significant action is implemented in the substantial royalties. The aim to make a safe and profitable space for all, including users, developers, and platform owners. We also hope that Apple reaches a similar agreement with Epic Games, for the sake of all Fornite fans.