Apple has been at the centre of various controversies regarding its aggressive monetisation plans. WordPress seems to be another victim after Epic Games but thankfully it hasn’t been hit hard. WordPress is an inherently free platform with options to pay and enhance certain plans. These plans are however only accessible through the official WordPress website and not through the app itself which only provides an edit, read and publish interface with respect to a specific purchase plan.
On Friday Apple informed WordPress that it had thirty days to add the “In-app-purchases” tag to its app on the App Store and it would face consequences if it failed on doing so. This move would enable users to buy plans through the app itself, giving Apple a 30% cut. Logic dictates that in order to avoid this and to bypass Apple’s heavy tax, WordPress deliberately has reserved its payment interface for the website. Epic Games made a similar move with its V-bucks discount purchase when it came to Fortnite and did not allow this option on the App Store. This led to Fortnite being banned instantly on the App Store.
In other words, Apple won: the richest company in the world just successfully forced an app developer to monetise an app so it could make more money. It’s just the latest example of Apple’s attempts to maximise its cashflow by earning a staggering thirty percent commission over every in-app-purchase. This contradicts Apple’s ethos (real or imagined) of putting the customer experience ahead of all else.
WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg on Saturday refuted Apple’s characterization, saying that the company’s recently submitted update didn’t add any new purchasing functionality. Instead, he said Apple rejected the app for web views that allowed purchases in the app “for a decade.” He also shared release notes for the rejected update, which didn’t mention any new purchasing abilities.
This caused outrage on the internet and caused multiple people to react and oppose Apple’s policies. One afternoon later, Apple reversed its decision and decided to back out in a rare apology. The apology comes as a surprise since Apple held its ground firmly after the EpicGames scandal even after epic games launched a “Free Fortnite” campaign on Twitter.
“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.”
Apple added that it reviews 100,000 apps per week and intends to help developers keep their apps on the App Store which means that some reviews might be subjected to an error in judgement. Apple also said that WordPress no longer violates the rule as it will no longer advertise the plans. The latest decision on WordPress could calm tensions with developers, some of which have sided with Epic Games in a battle over the fees Apple charges developers. Apple will hopefully change its aggressive policies at least when it comes to productivity-related applications.