Facebook Finds New Way to Avoid Apple's In-App Purchases With Creator Subscription Links
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced changes to Facebook's "Subscriptions" tool, which will see Facebook testing Apple's App Store guidelines in an effort to secure more money for content creators.
With Subscriptions, content creators can allow their fans to sign up to pay them a monthly subscription fee, similar to Patreon. Going forward, Facebook is implementing a "promotional link" in the Facebook app for iOS that will allow Facebook users to subscribe to content creators without using Apple's in-app purchase system.
Zuckerberg said that Facebook wants to unlock "opportunities for creators to make more money" as it builds for the metaverse, and "the 30% fees that Apple takes on transactions make it harder to do that."
Facebook plans to offer the "promotional link" alongside in-app purchase options for subscriptions, and when people subscribe to creators using the Facebook link, creators are able to keep all of the money they earn without providing a 30 percent cut to Apple. From a blog post explaining the feature:
Earlier this year, as part of our commitment to supporting creators, we shared that Facebook would not collect any fees from creators on Subscriptions purchases until 2023, at the earliest. Creators, however, must still forfeit 15-30% of their earnings to companies like Apple whenever people purchase Subscriptions within the Facebook app on mobile devices. For recurring payments like subscriptions, this adds up quickly since that fee is paid every single month.
Starting today, we're offering creators the ability to direct people to a website to complete their Subscriptions purchase using Facebook Pay. When people purchase Subscriptions from this website on web or mobile, creators will be able to keep 100% of the money they earn, excluding taxes. Creators can find their personalized promotional link in Creator Studio, which they can share with their audiences, including over email or text.
It is unclear if Facebook's new Subscriptions payment alternative is entirely in line with Apple's App Store guidelines, but a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that Facebook believes the approach that it's offering has "always been allowed on iOS."
Apple does not allow apps to offer alternative payment options for digital goods at the time, but Facebook is skirting this rule because creators are having people pay via the web, not Facebook, so it's a something of a gray area.
Facebook is also launching a bonus program to pay creators for each new subscriber added through the custom web link to encourage creators to sign up, and it is providing tools that will show creators how much of their earnings are going to fees from Apple and Google.
Apple recently made changes to its App Store rules that will see "reader" apps allowed to offer links for account signups outside of the App Store and that will allow developers to use communication methods like email to tell customers about alternative payment options. Apple may also be forced to implement further changes that would allow all developers to offer alternate payment links as a result of a ruling in the ongoing Epic v. Apple legal battle.