In context: Apple has been at the center of a major controversy following the removal of Fortnite from the App Store (due to Epic’s attempt to circumvent Apple’s 30 percent revenue cut). Several developers have used the situation as an opportunity to express their frustration with the App Store’s locked-down nature and the inconsistent enforcement of the store’s rules.
Today, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg took to Twitter to describe his own brush with Apple’s strange business practices. The developer says WordPress’ iOS app has not received updates lately because it had been “locked by App Store” (sic).
According to the developer, the WordPress app cannot ship updates or bug fixes until Mullenweg and co. commit to supporting “in-app purchases for .com plans.” What makes this situation so unusual is that the WordPress for iOS app does not contain purchases in the first place — it’s completely free to use. It merely offers users a way to create and manage websites.
WordPress does separately sell .com domain names, which seems to be what Apple is attempting to gain revenue from. However, again, these sales do not take place through the WordPress iOS app. Why Apple feels it should be earning a cut of that income is a mystery to us, so we’ll be reaching out to the company for clarification.
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. I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions. Allow others IAP? New name?
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 21, 2020
Mullenweg, for his part, appears to be taking Apple’s demands in stride. “I am a big believer in the sanctity of licenses,” he wrote in a tweet. “We agreed to this license when we signed up for (and stayed in) the app store, so going to follow and abide by the rules. Not looking to skirt it, hence doing what they asked us to.”
Precisely how Mullenweg and his team will abide by the rules is a much trickier topic. The developer is still trying to figure out the best way to approach the situation and comply with Apple’s policies without inconveniencing its users. So far, he’s considered rebranding the app or allowing paid WordPress plugin makers to funnel sales through it, but neither option is set in stone yet, it seems.
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