'Reader' Apps Can Now Add Links for Account Signups Outside of the App Store

Apple today informed developers of "reader" apps that they are able to sign up for access to an "External Link Account Entitlement" that will allow the app to offer a link to a website so users can create or manage an account outside of the App Store.

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Reader apps are able to link to a website that is owned or maintained by the developer for account signups. So, for example, an app like Netflix can provide an in-app link that goes directly to the Netflix website for account signups, something that was not allowed before the change. Apple updated its App Store guidelines to reflect the change.

Apps may allow a user to access previously purchased content or content subscriptions (specifically: magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video). Reader apps may offer account creation for free tiers, and account management functionality for existing customers. Reader app developers may apply for the External Link Account Entitlement to provide an informational link in their app to a web site the developer owns or maintains responsibility for in order to create or manage an account. Learn more about the External Link Account Entitlement.

Apple considers reader apps to be those that provide digital content that includes magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, or video as the primary functionality of the app. Apple made this change to reader apps in order to settle an investigation launched by the Japanese Fair Trade Commission.

According to Apple, reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase and are primarily aimed at allowing users to browse previously purchased content or content subscriptions, which is why Apple agreed to allow apps share a single link for account management purposes.

Apps that use the External Link Account Entitlement must provide reader content, must not offer in-app purchases, and must not offer real-time, person-to-person services. Apps that allow people to access digital content like music or video, but not as the primary functionality, such a social networking apps, are not considered reader apps.

When announcing the change in September, Apple said that it would update its ‌App Store‌ guidelines and review process to "make sure users of reader apps continue to have a safe experience on the ‌‌App Store‌‌." Apple plans to help developers of reader apps "protect users when they link to an external website to make purchases."

The reader app change will affect many of Apple's biggest competitors, including Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, and more, with the change applicable to all reader apps globally.

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Top Rated Comments

Apple Knowledge Navigator Avatar
30 months ago
Makes me laugh how Apple portrays such moves as a gesture of goodwill, when it takes the risk of fines and government intervention to actually force the move ?‍♂️
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thejadedmonkey Avatar
30 months ago

Why should apple provide hosting of the apps as well as update delivery for free? If that's your stance, get ready for hosting fees and metered delivery.
Because storage and bandwidth are dirt cheap, and Apple already sells their app distribution service to developers for $99/year, which is more than enough to cover costs for 99% of apps.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jameslmoser Avatar
30 months ago

Why should apple provide hosting of the apps as well as update delivery for free? If that's your stance, get ready for hosting fees and metered delivery.
How about they should provide it for free because they force you to use them to do it? If Apple doesn't want to provide the service "for free" but still wants App Developers to support their platform, they could always just let them host their own apps and let their users install it from other places.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
neuropsychguy Avatar
30 months ago
This is a positive step. Apple can still get a commission for apps that must have iOS to function (e.g., a game) but allow other companies that just stream to benefit from iOS without having to pay Apple's commission. Maybe Apple will compensate by increasing the developer fees for these developers (I know, don't give Apple any ideas).
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jlc1978 Avatar
30 months ago

This is a positive step. Apple can still get a commission for apps that must have iOS to function (e.g., a game) but allow other companies that just stream to benefit from iOS without having to pay Apple's commission. Maybe Apple will compensate by increasing the developer fees for these developers (I know, don't give Apple any ideas).
I could see them charge host and or d/l fees for such apps at some point.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Abazigal Avatar
30 months ago


You can clearly see the problem. Apple is allowed to charge 30% for its InApp payment service, no problem. But at the same time Apple closes the gates to its platform for a competing e.g. PayPal InApp payment service that would only charge 3%. But this is an anti competitive behaviour and calls the EU for regulation.
I don’t see the issue, as payment services like PayPal can afford to charge only 3% precisely because they don’t have to deal with the costs of running and maintaining an App Store.

I am not against allowing other payment options in the App Store, but I do feel that Apple should still be entitled to a cut or the revenue nonetheless (like what they are proposing with the Netherlands dating app lawsuit).

But of course this will introduce its own moral hazard, as Apple has no way of tracking sales taking place outside of the App Store. Which in turn will entail auditing their books, which is more work both all parties entailed.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how iTunes remains the most streamlined and convenient payment option for all parties involved.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)