In a move that antitrust watchdogs will surely have no problem with, Apple this week revised its App Store rules to limit NFTs, take a cut from paid “boosts” for social media posts and crack down on developers in a few other ways.
While covering quite a bit of ground, the most important updates to its guidelines center on Apple, which makes it very clear to software makers: if you sell things in your app and your app is distributed by the App Store, it’s best that those sales go through the system iGiant’s built-in payment system, which allows it to take a percentage of that revenue.
Apple also said that any app submitted for inclusion in the App Store must be fully accessible to its review team. By that, Apple means that if features are locked behind a login prompt or otherwise restricted, they better be accessible to Apple reviewers.
More like This is Apple’s Purchase
Apple is also cracking down on how App Store NFT apps are allowed to operate, with Cupertino reportedly worried about losing money to certain apps.
While Apple is fine with apps using its payment system to sell NFTs to people and perform other services such as transferring the tokens, it is not happy with the ownership of NFT unlocking features. or functionality of an application. Presumably Apple doesn’t want people to buy NFTs outside of its purchasing system and then use those tokens to activate things in apps – Apple would rather you pay for these in-app features through its purchasing system , so that Cupertino can take its cut, which can go up to 30%.
Additionally, Apple said that while NFT apps can be used to browse other people’s collections, the apps cannot include “calls to action that direct customers to purchase mechanisms other than ‘in-app purchase’,” Apple said. So no directing an NFT buyer to an outside market to make a purchase.
Beyond NFTs, Apple said apps cannot use their own mechanisms to unlock other forms of app content or functionality “such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes , cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency wallets, etc.” Again, it’s about stopping people from paying for things outside of Cupertino’s walled garden, things that are then used in apps in its App Store.
As for social media “boosts”, like someone paying to promote a post, Apple said these must be purchased through its payment system, so it can take its share of that revenue. .
Apple made a few more changes, including a chilling ban on apps that exploit terrorist attacks, epidemics, and other bad times for profit; a requirement that apps that support the Matter smart home standard use Apple’s own Matter framework; and a requirement that cryptocurrency exchange apps only operate in countries where they have the appropriate licenses.
Another seed for the trial orchard
Apple seems to have a strong appetite for expanding its in-app payment rules, no matter what regulators, developers, or the public think.
The Silicon Valley giant won widespread condemnation for its decision to not only cut in-app purchases by 30%, but also to remove Fortnite from the App Store after Epic attempted to allow players to purchase in-game currency on its website at a lower price to that of Cupertino. While Apple largely prevailed in the US case against Epic, the two companies are still going head-to-head in Australian courts.
Other lawsuits have arisen challenging Apple’s ability to restrict in-app purchases to its own back-end systems, such as in the Netherlands, where it was told it had to authorize third-party payments in dating apps; and another suit in California, where French publishers Upset with iGiant’s demands and not being allowed to set their own prices for certain items, they filed what they hope will become a class action lawsuit.
Whether the app review changes will trigger further litigation remains to be seen. What Apple is adding to its app review process, however, is hard to see as anything other than doubling down on a policy that has already drawn bad press and legal hassle. ®