Some Developers Say Apple Letting Apps Like Netflix and Spotify Share a Link to Web for Account Sign-Up Isn't Enough
Apple on Wednesday evening announced that, starting in early 2022, it will allow developers of "reader" apps to include an in-app link to their website for users to set up or manage an account. "Reader" apps allow a user to access previously purchased content or subscription-based content for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video, according to Apple, such as Netflix, Spotify, and the Amazon Kindle app.
Following the announcement, some developers have said Apple's decision is not good enough.
For starters, some have criticized Apple's plan to let developers share only "a single link" to their website to help users set up and manage their account. Apple is still considering the types of wording it will let developers use for these links, according to The Irish Independent's Adrian Weckler, but some developers doubt that Apple will let them mention that customers can save money by signing up outside of the app.
Apple’s press release does make the bold assumption that no further changes to its steering practices are going to be mandated over the remaining months of the year 😅 Restricting it to ‘Reader’ apps, and a single in-app link, is just not enough — Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 2, 2021
Sure, your “reader” app can include one (1) approved link to your website…but will you be allowed to have any text near that link explaining why someone might want to tap on it, or is that still forbidden? This is where we are, mentally, when considering App Store rules in 2021. — John Siracusa (@siracusa) September 2, 2021
Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad expressed disappointment that smaller developers "now have to subsidize all these big publishers" given that Apple's in-app link allowance will be limited to "reader" apps, many of which are owned by large companies.
Yeah I’m bitter our App Store commission is supposed to help pay for iOS/SDK development and App Store hosting + review. Feels like a kick in the balls to now have to subsidize all these big publishers. Doing it for the multi billion $ ad based apps was already bad enough. — Paul Haddad (@tapbot_paul) September 2, 2021
Other developers and critics have expressed that Apple is doing the "minimum" possible to address longstanding App Store antitrust concerns. At the center of the concerns is Apple's 15% to 30% commission on in-app purchases of digital goods and the inability for developers to offer their own payment methods through the App Store.
2/ It really is that small of a change to a rule that was customer and developer hostile to begin with. It is a big deal, but also not. As with the settlement last week, Apple is very deftly giving the absolute minimum possible. But they are giving. — David Barnard (@drbarnard) September 2, 2021
Yeah, that’s a fair read. Using these settlements to do the bare minimum while *appearing* to be yielding (which they are here a bit, but they could give on so much more, per your point!). — M.G. Siegler (@mgsiegler) September 2, 2021
Apple said its decision to allow "reader" apps to include an in-app link to their website for account management closes an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission over suspected violation of Japan's Antimonopoly Act, although Apple said the change will apply globally.
Apple's announcement about "reader" apps came less than a week after the company reached a $100 million settlement that, pending court approval, will resolve a class action lawsuit from U.S. developers who alleged that Apple has a monopoly on the distribution of iOS apps and in-app purchases. Apple said it will be making a few App Store changes as part of that settlement, such as letting developers email customers about payment options outside of their iOS app, but some developers were likewise not impressed with the concessions.