Apple announced on Wednesday evening that beginning in early 2022, developers of “reader” apps will be able to include an in-app link to their website for users to set up or manage accounts. According to Apple, “Reader” apps like Netflix, Spotify, and the Amazon Kindle app allow users to access previously purchased or subscription-based content for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video.
Following Apple’s announcement, some developers have stated that the company’s decision is insufficient.
For starters, some have chastised Apple for allowing developers to share only “a single link” to their website in order to assist users in setting up and managing their accounts. According to The Irish Independent’s Adrian Weckler, Apple is still considering the types of wording it will allow developers to use for these links, but some developers are skeptical that Apple will allow them to 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
Given that Apple’s in-app link allowance will be limited to “now have to subsidise all these big publishers” apps, many of which are owned by large corporations, Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad expressed disappointment that smaller developers “reader” Apple’s 15 percent to 30 percent commission on in-app purchases of digital goods, as well as developers’ inability to offer their own payment methods through the App Store, are at the heart of the complaints.
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.
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 ends an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission into possible antitrust violations, though the change will be implemented globally.
Apple’s announcement about “reader” apps came less than a week after the company reached a $100 million settlement with US developers in a class-action lawsuit alleging that Apple has a monopoly on the distribution of iOS apps and in-app purchases, which is still pending court approval. As part of the settlement, Apple said it would make a few App Store changes, such as allowing developers to email customers about payment options outside of their iOS app, but some developers were not pleased with the concessions.