Apple’s row with WordPress over in-app purchases is over almost as soon as it began. Wordpress creator Matt Mullenweg has revealed that Apple “re-reviewed” the WordPress iOS app and determined that it doesn’t need to incorporate in-app purchases. Mullenweg vowed that his team would do its best to honor the “spirit and letter” of App Store rules, including the elimination of any potential “loopholes” in the WordPress app.
While Mullenweg didn’t explain what prompted the change of heart, Apple said in a statement that it believed the concern had been “resolved” after the developer reportedly pulled mention of payment options. It’s now a “free stand-alone app” and doesn’t have to use Apple’s in-app purchasing system, the company said, adding that it “apologize[s] for any confusion that we have caused.”
As The Verge pointed out, though, the removal of any paid plan mentions may have happened well before Apple froze updates for the app. You couldn’t buy those plans, either, and any references to them were gone before Apple convinced Mullenweg to add in-app purchases. He added that Apple had dismissed earlier offers to pull other discussions of paid plans. In other words, Apple may have reexamined the app after the public backlash.
Whatever the motivations, the incident further intensifies scrutiny of Apple’s App Store policies. Epic Games has already been pushing Apple to rethink its requirements in hopes of collecting more revenue from Fortnite, while Microsoft drew attention to policies that effectively ban cloud gaming services. That’s on top of antitrust investigations and a growing coalition of non-gaming companies demanding changes. Simply put, this dust-up happened at the worst possible time for Apple — a resolution helps WordPress and its users, but won’t put the broader dispute to rest.
I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app. Bad news travels faster than good, usually, so please consider sharing that they reversed course.— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 23, 2020