ProtonMail CEO says Apple strong-armed adoption of in-app purchases

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2020
ProtonMail's chief executive officer said Apple forced the email service to introduce in-app purchases in a move he likened to "mafia extortion."

Credit: ProtonMail
Credit: ProtonMail


The encrypted and privacy-focused email service launched on the App Store in 2016. Although it offered a premium tier on its website, there wasn't an option to purchase it within the app.

In 2016, Apple told the email service "out of the blue" that it had to add an in-app purchase option to remain on the App Store, ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen said in an interview with The Verge.

"For the first two years we were in the App Store, that was fine, no issues there," Yen said. "But a common practice we see ... as you start getting significant uptake in uploads and downloads, they start looking at your situation more carefully, and then as any good mafia extortion goes, they come to shake you down for some money."

He added that Apple blocked app updates for a month and threatened to remove the app entirely until ProtonMail complied with the guidelines. The email service eventually did, but also raised in-app subscription prices by 26% in an effort to make up the 30% commission that Apple takes.

ProtonMail is free to download that, prior to the addition of in-app purchases, offered a premium subscription through the company's website. Apple "stumbled" onto language in the app that mentioned the premium tier and demanded it be added to the app as and IAP, according to Yen.

"They are judge, jury, and executioner on their platform, and you can take it or leave it. You can't get any sort of fair hearing to determine whether it's justifiable or not justifiable, anything they say goes," Yen added.

The situation was characterized as being similar to those faced by Basecamp-created email service Hey and WordPress earlier in 2020.

Apple in September tweaked its App Store guidelines to allow for free apps that are meant to complement premium web-based services. It also introduced a new process that allows developers to not only appeal App Store decisions, but also guidelines. In the wake of those updated rules, Yen said that ProtonMail plans to remove its in-app premium purchasing option.

Yen added that he believes Apple's 30% cut of in-app purchases is particularly hurtful to ProtonMail, since it isn't free like ad-supported rivals, such as Gmail.

ProtonMail is one of the founding members of the Coalition for App Fairness, a nonprofit organization that also includes other companies that have had run-ins with Apple's app guidelines -- including Epic Games, Basecamp, and Spotify.

The group advocates for a set of "App Store Principles" that it believes companies like Apple should adopt, including allowing for rival app stores and reducing its commission on in-app purchases.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    I'm not claiming to speak for the millions of iOS device owners, but I personally buy Apple devices for the sand-boxed and curated App Store. I don't want any alternate app stores.

    If you want alternate, and willy nilly then go buy an Android device, and sell your wares on those platforms. Leave our walled infrastructure alone. If you don't like it, then leave...
    Japheyomar moralesBeatsviclauyycmaltzStrangeDaysmcdaveDancingMonkeysmagman1979Dogperson
  • Reply 2 of 71
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,517member
    I’m embarrassed to be associated with these entitled crybabies.  If you don’t like the way Apple runs its exclusive platform, leave.


    mac_dogmark fearingomar moralesBeatsviclauyycStrangeDayslightvox88AlexMorellomike1magman1979
  • Reply 3 of 71
    ednlednl Posts: 56member
    Yeah yeah. How about you stop auto-playing, auto-moving-into-focus videos on your website, Appleinsider?
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 71
    Can you imagine what a mess will be created if this kind of argument gains the favor of the courts? What business has any control to curate anything? Why do some stores only take Visa? Why can't Walmart except my payment system? Why should Target mark-up my goods they buy wholesale? They best be carful because it seems all this is a house of cards if they truly attack a business setting up and painting rules for purchase. I'd guess this will cause havoc for many companies. They don't have to offer their service on iPhones, right? Is Apple forcing them to offer it? ugh. 

    BeatsStrangeDaysmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 71
    Yup, this is the Apple I know as a developer. They are like the mafia. Time they get in serious trouble with the EU and get forced to clean house.
    Oferkestralwilliamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 71
    Sadly putting your company in with likes of Spotify and Epic doesn't do your position any favors…
    omar moralesBeatstmayDancingMonkeyslightvox88williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 71
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,529member
    Sounds kind of like a drama queen to me.  

    I didn’t know that mafia crime syndicates even offered in-app purchase options as a payment option. Wonder if they support Apple Pay? Live and learn. But I still think the CEO is being hyperbolic. Show me the severed horse head in his bed and/or crushed kneecaps and yeah, I’ll change my mind. 

    Executioner? Really? 
    edited October 2020 omar moralesBeatsStrangeDaysGG1mike1magman1979williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 71
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,630member
    I don't know how anyone defends this behaviour from Apple as to the benefit of anyone but Apple.  And if that's the case then they're just like any other shitty big company.  I thought Apple aspired to be better than that.  The "best products" and all that.

    I've been a subscriber to ProtonMail since before they had an app.  I like my Mac and my iPhone, but screw Apple and their rent seeking; if there's an option to pay outside of IAP then I'll be taking it at this point.  I was thinking about subscribing to Apple One, but to hell with that.
    edited October 2020 BeatsOfermuthuk_vanalingamkestraltokyojimuednlwilliamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 71
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,517member
    Yup, this is the Apple I know as a developer. They are like the mafia. Time they get in serious trouble with the EU and get forced to clean house.
    You're that rude guest that enters someone else's house, and then whine about how the owner runs it.

    I you want the wild-west and anything-goes mentality, then stick to developing on Android.  The reason iOS is so popular and profitable is for those exact reasons you hate it.

    As a developer myself, I remember the days of boxed software and self-marketing and particularly all the overhead.  Folks like you have zero clue how hard it was to make any money as a developer back then.  Apple has developed a successful ecosystem that it poured a huge amount of resources into making, and continuously works at keeping that loyal pool of paying users coming back.  Apple gives us developers cheap tools for $99/yr. and access to millions of customers and a storefront and takes care of all the overhead of running it...

    and then there's squatters like you that feel that all that should be free for you.  If you demand that of Apple, you should be demanding the same of Microsoft's Xbox, Sony Playstation, Walmart, Costco, etc... 

    Take a hike.
    edited October 2020 BeatsviclauyycStrangeDaysmontrosemacsGG1Rayz2016lightvox88mike1magman1979Dogperson
  • Reply 10 of 71
    I am so tired of this whining entitled developers. And news site amplifying a vocal minority. I had stopped supporting any of this devs and even reduced how much I spend on apps as they are giving all iOS devs a bad name. I purchase an iPhone first an apps later I would had purchased an iPhone anyway without any of this app. They aren’t that essential. 
    BeatsviclauyycStrangeDaysmagman1979williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 71
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,126member
    Yup, this is the Apple I know as a developer. They are like the mafia. Time they get in serious trouble with the EU and get forced to clean house.
    So when these companies don’t get support because the store is unprofitable they will whine like the gaming industry has for decades. Apple will only focus on what makes money for them. THEY ARE A BUSINESS!  They have done a lot to build whole industries and saved several from dying single handedly. Gaming it self was a niche market for geeks, but Apple made it mainstream via the App Store and the main whiner’s CEO now has a net worth that is 4 times that of the CEO that made Apple the first trillion dollar company. This is about greed. 
    BeatstmayviclauyycStrangeDaysmontrosemacsmagman1979Dogpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 71
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,126member
    These selfish idiots will force Apple to change focus and it will effect the quality we get as product owners. 
    Beatsomar moralesviclauyycmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 71
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,084member
    Comparing a company to the mafia when you're staying in their house is ridiculous.

    My landlord is the mafia because he told me to mow the lawn and doesn't pay my electric bill !!!!

    Yup, this is the Apple I know as a developer. They are like the mafia. Time they get in serious trouble with the EU and get forced to clean house.

    Why don't you join Spotify and the other shi*ty developers. Or LEAVE Apple's ecosystem and all your problems are gone.

    Can you imagine being so entitled that you think you can run the companies that give you the platform? Can you imagine Disney getting upset at AMC for not allowing them to distribute their films for free or crying that they won't let them set up a 3rd party theater on their property FREE OF CHARGE?!

    crowley said:
    I don't know how anyone defends this behaviour from Apple as to the benefit of anyone but Apple.  And if that's the case then they're just like any other shitty big company.  I thought Apple aspired to be better than that.  The "best products" and all that.

    I've been a subscriber to ProtonMail since before they had an app.  I like my Mac and my iPhone, but screw Apple and their rent seeking; if there's an option to pay outside of IAP then I'll be taking it at this point.  I was thinking about subscribing to Apple One, but to hell with that.

    Apple is better than that. Go buy knockoff devices and be happy that way.
    viclauyycmontrosemacsRayz2016applguymagman1979Dogpersonwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 71
    I'm not claiming to speak for the millions of iOS device owners, but I personally buy Apple devices for the sand-boxed and curated App Store. I don't want any alternate app stores.

    If you want alternate, and willy nilly then go buy an Android device, and sell your wares on those platforms. Leave our walled infrastructure alone. If you don't like it, then leave...
    I understand ... but that is not what this article is about at all. This has nothing to do with Epic Games wanting alternate app stores or others wanting the ability to side load. Proton has no problem with being required to be in the App Store. Their problem is Apple's governance of said store. So what you are doing here is responding to someone who says:

    "Pork is bad" 

    with

    "I like chocolate"

    Your liking chocolate - while fascinating on its own merits - has nothing to do with the health effects of eating pork or the ethics of raising animals for the purpose of slaughtering them. Likewise your desire for a single method to install apps on iOS has nothing to do with the way that Apple chooses to manage that method. ProtonMail isn't saying that he wants an alternative app store for the purpose of not having to offer IAPs. He is saying that he didn't want to be forced to offer IAPs on the App Store that he is already in.
    BeatsgatorguyGG1Oferapplguymuthuk_vanalingamkestralcroprtokyojimuednl
  • Reply 15 of 71
    sflocal said:
    I’m embarrassed to be associated with these entitled crybabies.  If you don’t like the way Apple runs its exclusive platform, leave.
    That is, er, not the law. The law requires that marketplaces have clear rules that are evenly enforced as opposed to vague rules that are arbitrarily enforced, and particularly rules that are vague for the express purpose of favoring some entities - such as yourself - over others during enforcement. So while your sentiments are legitimate, they are in fact very illegal.
    Ofermuthuk_vanalingamkestraltokyojimuwilliamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 71
    Can you imagine what a mess will be created if this kind of argument gains the favor of the courts? What business has any control to curate anything? Why do some stores only take Visa? Why can't Walmart except my payment system? Why should Target mark-up my goods they buy wholesale? They best be carful because it seems all this is a house of cards if they truly attack a business setting up and painting rules for purchase. I'd guess this will cause havoc for many companies. They don't have to offer their service on iPhones, right? Is Apple forcing them to offer it? ugh. 

    Another person who for some reason is ignoring the actual issues at stake here.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 71
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,084member
    cloudguy said:
    Can you imagine what a mess will be created if this kind of argument gains the favor of the courts? What business has any control to curate anything? Why do some stores only take Visa? Why can't Walmart except my payment system? Why should Target mark-up my goods they buy wholesale? They best be carful because it seems all this is a house of cards if they truly attack a business setting up and painting rules for purchase. I'd guess this will cause havoc for many companies. They don't have to offer their service on iPhones, right? Is Apple forcing them to offer it? ugh. 

    Another person who for some reason is ignoring the actual issues at stake here.

    You may have missed the news about Proton teaming up with the other scumbags who want what these users are against. That's the connection.
    lightvox88magman1979Dogpersonwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 71
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,153member
    cloudguy said:
    sflocal said:
    I’m embarrassed to be associated with these entitled crybabies.  If you don’t like the way Apple runs its exclusive platform, leave.
    That is, er, not the law. The law requires that marketplaces have clear rules that are evenly enforced as opposed to vague rules that are arbitrarily enforced, and particularly rules that are vague for the express purpose of favoring some entities - such as yourself - over others during enforcement. So while your sentiments are legitimate, they are in fact very illegal.
    Nah. Retailers have favored their internal brands and entire departments (bakeries, etc) for as long as we know. They don’t charge themselves slotting fees but do charge third-party vendors. Is it fair? Define fair, this is a business, of course they favor their in-house products. 

    And of course Apple goes after apps bigger fish not following their rules, it’s better business to enforce the rules first against bigger fish than a million small fish with no market share. It’s just good business. 

    The rules are the same tho...if it’s not the “reader app” category (ebook readers, video streamers, etc) you cant *only* offer out-of-store subscriptions, you have to offer in-app too. This is the rule Apple developed long ago to make using Apple devices simpler. Don’t like it, don’t sell within it. 
    edited October 2020 montrosemacsRayz2016mike1magman1979williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 71
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,630member
    genovelle said:
    These selfish idiots will force Apple to change focus and it will effect the quality we get as product owners. 
    Changing the focus away from services revenue and towards better user experiences sounds good to me.
    OferWarrenBuffduckhednlwilliamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 71
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,630member
    Beats said:
    crowley said:
    I don't know how anyone defends this behaviour from Apple as to the benefit of anyone but Apple.  And if that's the case then they're just like any other shitty big company.  I thought Apple aspired to be better than that.  The "best products" and all that.

    I've been a subscriber to ProtonMail since before they had an app.  I like my Mac and my iPhone, but screw Apple and their rent seeking; if there's an option to pay outside of IAP then I'll be taking it at this point.  I was thinking about subscribing to Apple One, but to hell with that.

    Apple is better than that. Go buy knockoff devices and be happy that way.
    Not even attempting to address the issue.  You might be happy with suffering a susbstandard user experience for the sake of filling Apple's coffers, but I'm not.
    Ofermuthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
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