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Apple won’t force WordPress app to offer in-app purchases

Apple has backed down from its beef with WordPress, in which it tried to force the free iOS app to offer in-app purchases of which it gets a 30% cut. As reported by The Verge, Apple decided it will allow the WordPress app to continue to be available on the App Store without making in-app purchases obligatory.

“We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved,” Apple said in a statement to Digital Trends. “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.”

The issue came to light this week when WordPress developer Matt Mullenweg tweeted that his app was locked out of the App Store until it allowed in-app purchases for domain registrations. The most recent version of the WordPress app was entirely free, and although WordPress does offer some paid services like domain registration through its desktop platform, these paid services were not available for purchase directly through the app.

An Apple spokesperson said the issue was that there was a payment plan section in the iOS app. And it is true that app users could technically get from the app’s help section to a webpage where they could purchase premium upgrades, but only by a fairly convoluted method. Mullenweg said he even offered to block access to the site from iOS devices, but Apple wouldn’t accept that.

Nevertheless, Mullenweg seems satisfied with the eventual outcome, writing on Twitter that, “I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS
and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app.”

I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app. Bad news travels faster than good, usually, so please consider sharing that they reversed course.

— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 23, 2020

It was a poor choice on Apple’s part to impose restrictions on a popular, free app which is commonly used by a large number of people and companies for managing their blogs, especially given the current focus on antitrust matters regarding Apple and whether it is acting fairly to third-party developers whose apps are available through its App Store.

Recently, the conflict over App Store apps boiled over when developer Epic Games announced that its hugely popular mobile game Fortnite was removed from the App Store and would no longer be available to download on iOS devices. The issue was that Epic allowed players to make purchases through the app but not through the official App Store in-app purchase system, sidestepping Apple’s cut of the payments. There is now legal action taking place between the two companies.

Update 23 August: Added statement from Apple and explanation of the payment plans section of the app.

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