Apple blocked WordPress for iOS updates until it agreed to in-app purchases [u]

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2020
Apple reportedly blocked updates for the WordPress for iOS app until it agreed to implement in-app purchases for .com plans.

Credit: WordPress.com
Credit: WordPress.com


In a tweet on Friday, WordPress for iOS developer Mat Mullenweg said that the lack of app updates over the prior few weeks was due to the app being "locked" on the App Store.

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)


The WordPress for iOS app was updated on Aug. 21 after three weeks of absence, suggesting that the team has agreed to implement an in-app purchase plan or some other remedy. On the other hand, Mullenweg called the requirement "problematic" and said that the team was open to suggestions -- including allowing other in-app purchases or changing the name of the app.

Currently, the WordPress for iOS app allows users to set up custom domains, build websites, and access domain-based email. It, however, has not offered the ability to make direct payments toward paid features.

Further, the .com creation feature is free and assigns users a WordPress domain, not a unique web domain. Apple could potentially be seeking a cut of WordPress owner Automattic's domain name sales as offered through WordPress.com, Stratechery's Ben Thompson noted in a tweet.

It also appears that the app stood in violation of Apple's restrictions on directing users to a website for payment.

Hey Matt,

When I open the Help Center from the app, I can get guidance about upgrading to one of your paid plans. If I tap on "Plans" as seen the screenshot, the app opens Safari and shows the plans. This is a violation according to App Store Review Guidelines. pic.twitter.com/peTcdn5DZo

— Mysk (@mysk_co)


It's worth noting that the WordPress for iOS app is a project of WordPress.com. It's a hosting service built on the WordPress backbone but technically separate from the open-source platform at wordpress.org.

The update blocking comes in the midst of a dustup between Epic Games and Apple over the latter company's 30% App Store commissions, as well as broader antitrust scrutiny from regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

Update: Mullenweg confirmed in-app purchases will be implemented within 30 days.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Some devs never seem to learn.
    mcdavewatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 22
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,471member
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    dysamoriacaladanian
  • Reply 3 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    You know, those conversations are supposed to be strictly between the developer and Apple. I don’t know how anyone is allowed to even bring these to the attention of the media. Such leaks are in violation of their NDA.
    edited August 2020 n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 22
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    I came to the comments to ask this very question.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    Yeah, it’s curious. The listing on the App Store shows it was updated 23 hours ago but it does not list any in-app purchases. I don’t know if every app that offers IAP has them listed in the App Store but I know I’ve seen some that do.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 22
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,330member
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    You know, those conversations are supposed to be strictly between the developer and Apple. I don’t know how anyone is allowed to even bring these to the attention of the media. Such leaks are in violation of their NDA.
    There is no NDA covering discussions between Apple and developers as far as I am aware of.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    elijahg said:
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    You know, those conversations are supposed to be strictly between the developer and Apple. I don’t know how anyone is allowed to even bring these to the attention of the media. Such leaks are in violation of their NDA.
    There is no NDA covering discussions between Apple and developers as far as I am aware of.
    You don’t think so, huh? There are broad restrictions against divulging information to anyone outside the legal agreement between a developer and Apple, including things which have not been disclosed to the general public:

    https://developer.apple.com/terms/apple-developer-agreement/Apple-Developer-Agreement-English.pdf

    This particular developer’s disclosure of the requirement violated the confidentiality clause in the NDA.
    edited August 2020 n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    I have the app and it’s a dog’s breakfast: one of those cross-platform hacks that’s basically a web page running inside a frame. It can handle post creation and maintenance internally, but for site administration it opens a web page, asks you to log in and then presents you with the same setup again, except it now offers stuff like buying domains and links to their plugin market. I suspect that’s the problem. 

    I’d be surprised if they can fix that mess in 30 days. If they do, then I also suspect they’ve had something at least partly implemented for some time. 

    The app crashes a lot, loses its connection and your work. I tend to just ignore it and work directly through the website, even if I’m in the iPad. 


    caladaniandysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    elijahg said:
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    You know, those conversations are supposed to be strictly between the developer and Apple. I don’t know how anyone is allowed to even bring these to the attention of the media. Such leaks are in violation of their NDA.
    There is no NDA covering discussions between Apple and developers as far as I am aware of.
    You don’t think so, huh? There are broad restrictions against divulging information to anyone outside the legal agreement between a developer and Apple, including things which have not been disclosed to the general public:

    https://developer.apple.com/terms/apple-developer-agreement/Apple-Developer-Agreement-English.pdf

    This particular developer’s disclosure of the requirement violated the confidentiality clause in the NDA.
    Just read through it, and I can’t see anything that prevents the agreement from being discussed, which is not surprising since everyone has the same agreement and the agreement is in the public domain. 


    elijahg
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    Yeah, it’s curious. The listing on the App Store shows it was updated 23 hours ago but it does not list any in-app purchases. I don’t know if every app that offers IAP has them listed in the App Store but I know I’ve seen some that do.
    No, it doesn’t have in-app purchases, but it has external links to your wordpress site’s admin section where you can access the marketplace for domains and plugins. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 22
    I don't really understand why tech blogs are trying to associate this with antitrust issues. Apple isn't trying to prevent sales outside of the App Store. They just want their customers who use the App Store to have an opportunity to purchase in the app. That's not an unusual business practice. Amazon doesn't allow sellers to use Amazon's site to direct customers to an external purchase.
    n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 22
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,330member
    elijahg said:
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    You know, those conversations are supposed to be strictly between the developer and Apple. I don’t know how anyone is allowed to even bring these to the attention of the media. Such leaks are in violation of their NDA.
    There is no NDA covering discussions between Apple and developers as far as I am aware of.
    You don’t think so, huh? There are broad restrictions against divulging information to anyone outside the legal agreement between a developer and Apple, including things which have not been disclosed to the general public:

    https://developer.apple.com/terms/apple-developer-agreement/Apple-Developer-Agreement-English.pdf

    This particular developer’s disclosure of the requirement violated the confidentiality clause in the NDA.
    Apple Confidential Information is the only part covered by NDA, and there is nothing that claims conversations between Apple and a developer are Apple Confidential Information. If they were, Apple would be going after devs who disclose these conversations for breaking NDA. As Rayz2016 said, the agreement is in the public domain anyway, so discussions around the rules are obviously not covered.
    edited August 2020 dysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 22
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,330member

    I don't really understand why tech blogs are trying to associate this with antitrust issues. Apple isn't trying to prevent sales outside of the App Store. They just want their customers who use the App Store to have an opportunity to purchase in the app. That's not an unusual business practice. Amazon doesn't allow sellers to use Amazon's site to direct customers to an external purchase.
    The antitrust part is two-pronged, Apple disallowing developers from mentioning purchases being available somewhere other than the App Store (i.e. the dev's website), and especially Apple forcing developers to sell the same product for the same price via the App Store as they do on their own site. They aren't allowed to charge 30% more via the App Store to offset the Apple commission. If someone wants to sell something through their app, they are forced to give Apple 30% or they aren't allowed to mention that the purchase is possible at all. 
  • Reply 14 of 22
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,740member
    FTA:
    It's worth noting that the WordPress for iOS app is a project of WordPress.com. It's a hosting service built on the WordPress backbone but technically separate from the open-source platform at wordpress.org.
    From the Automattic article on Wikipedia:
    Automattic Inc. is an American global distributed company which was founded in August 2005 and is most notable for WordPress.com (a freemium blogging service), as well as its contributions to WordPress (an open source blogging software). 
    ...
    Automattic raised US$617.3 million in six funding rounds. In the last round, in September 2019, the company was valued at US$3 billion.
    The WordPress for iOS app has?/had? webviews inside the app which offered paid plans from WordPress.com; and the reason that was "problematic" would appear to be because that would be an end-run around App Store rules about IAP. In that case, the "change" would be that the webview to the freemium plans had to either be removed or replaced to use IAP instead. Surely Automattic had to know this, despite the tweet. My guess after a quick trip around the updated app is that the webview might have been removed.

    I'm wondering whether Mr. Mullenweg is relying on the fact that most people don't know the difference between WordPress.org (the open source project) and WordPress.com/WordPress for iOS app (owned by the privately-held, for-profit Automattic, valued in 2019 at ~$3 billion)

    Gotta get on the manufactured outrage train when it comes by, it seems.

    Edit: Grammar is hard.
    edited August 2020 aderutterRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 22
    Okay. 
    This app is for manipulating digital content (web-sites) within the app itself. 
    Purchasing things from this app to use in this app (domains etc) is no different to buying virtual currency in a game.
    If you buy a new domain to create a new website in this app, that is no different to buying bricks and building a house in a game.
    So IAP are necessary. This is obvious and clearly spelled out in the developer agreement.
    Sounds like the developers of this app wanted to link to outside the app (like Epic did) for digital product purchases.
    They may have been doing it for a while without being noticed, maybe not.
    The developer needs to either stop selling digital content from within the app or adhere to the rules like everyone else.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    aderutter said:
    Okay. 
    This app is for manipulating digital content (web-sites) within the app itself. 
    Purchasing things from this app to use in this app (domains etc) is no different to buying virtual currency in a game.
    If you buy a new domain to create a new website in this app, that is no different to buying bricks and building a house in a game.
    So IAP are necessary. This is obvious and clearly spelled out in the developer agreement.
    Sounds like the developers of this app wanted to link to outside the app (like Epic did) for digital product purchases.
    They may have been doing it for a while without being noticed, maybe not.
    The developer needs to either stop selling digital content from within the app or adhere to the rules like everyone else.
    They could’ve done this as a PWA and left it out the App Store. The reason that these hacked web apps end up in the App Store is because they know that folk trust Apple, and the App Store makes apps easier to discover. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    john.b said:
    FTA:
    It's worth noting that the WordPress for iOS app is a project of WordPress.com. It's a hosting service built on the WordPress backbone but technically separate from the open-source platform at wordpress.org.
    From the Automattic article on Wikipedia:
    Automattic Inc. is an American global distributed company which was founded in August 2005 and is most notable for WordPress.com (a freemium blogging service), as well as its contributions to WordPress (an open source blogging software). 
    ...
    Automattic raised US$617.3 million in six funding rounds. In the last round, in September 2019, the company was valued at US$3 billion.
    The WordPress for iOS app has?/had? webviews inside the app which offered paid plans from WordPress.com; and the reason that was "problematic" would appear to be because that would be an end-run around App Store rules about IAP. In that case, the "change" would be that the webview to the freemium plans had to either be removed or replaced to use IAP instead. Surely Automattic had to know this, despite the tweet. My guess after a quick trip around the updated app is that the webview might have been removed.

    I'm wondering whether Mr. Mullenweg is relying on the fact that most people don't know the difference between WordPress.org (the open source project) and WordPress.com/WordPress for iOS app (owned by the privately-held, for-profit Automattic, valued in 2019 at ~$3 billion)

    Gotta get on the manufactured outrage train when it comes by, it seems.

    Edit: Grammar is hard.
    You’re right. On the App Store, the developer is listed as Automattic. 
    edited August 2020 aderutterwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 22
    elijahg said: The antitrust part is two-pronged, Apple disallowing developers from mentioning purchases being available somewhere other than the App Store (i.e. the dev's website), and especially Apple forcing developers to sell the same product for the same price via the App Store as they do on their own site. They aren't allowed to charge 30% more via the App Store to offset the Apple commission. If someone wants to sell something through their app, they are forced to give Apple 30% or they aren't allowed to mention that the purchase is possible at all. 
    Like I previously mentioned, not allowing sellers to advertise or provide links to outside points of purchase is a standard practice with internet/digital commerce. It's not an antitrust issue. All kinds of internet and digital stores use those same restrictions and have been for decades, like my prior Amazon example. Why should a store owner be required to allow advertisements  or access to another store within their own store? That really doesn't make sense in terms of antitrust.

    As for the 30% and wanting the same price, is that really different than how it works on console stores? Are the games available for purchase on those stores priced 30% higher than for a retail copy? I haven't seen it. Console users expect the price to be the same. 
    edited August 2020 aderuttern2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Rayz2016 said:
    chadbag said:
    I am interested to know what part of the developer agreement they are in violation of.   

    They are not offering anything for sale in the app and are not, from the description, directly telling people to circumvent the system by going directly to the website to pay.  I don’t have the app so I can’t verify that.  
    I have the app and it’s a dog’s breakfast: one of those cross-platform hacks that’s basically a web page running inside a frame. It can handle post creation and maintenance internally, but for site administration it opens a web page, asks you to log in and then presents you with the same setup again, except it now offers stuff like buying domains and links to their plugin market. I suspect that’s the problem. 

    I’d be surprised if they can fix that mess in 30 days. If they do, then I also suspect they’ve had something at least partly implemented for some time. 

    The app crashes a lot, loses its connection and your work. I tend to just ignore it and work directly through the website, even if I’m in the iPad. 


    Oh I DESPISE lazy garbage like that.

    actually, this reminds me: every single iOS app I’ve used (and this one might be one of them) that is intended to be a blogging platform editor ... SUCKS. Abysmal garbage.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,392member
    Just a quick addition: Automattic also makes the excellent note app SimpleNote, which is totally free across iOS/iPadOS/MacOS.

    Good of you guys to clarify that Wordpress.com is a distinct entity offering easy ways to set up Wordpress sites if you don't want to host yourself (or use another host). I've been happy with my experience with Wordpress.com, but I agree with those that say the iOS is just a lazy port of the website. I'm kinda hoping that this dustup will force Automattic to create a genuine, proper WP.com app for iOS. I don't see any problem with charging whatever they charge plus 30 percent if you upgrade your plan via the app (several apps do this). Users who care will quickly learn that they can save 30 percent by going to the website instead for their purchase needs.

    There's also no reason why Epic couldn't do the same simple thing, except that they're idiots.
    watto_cobra
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