In yet another example of Apple’s increasingly-strained relationship with developers, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg tweeted that the free WordPress app on iOS hadn’t seen updates for a while because “we were locked by App Store.” According to his tweet, there was no way for the company to issue updates or bug fixes until it caved to a demand support in-app purchases (that Apple would receive a cut of) for its WordPress.com plans.
I am a big believer in the sanctity of licenses. (Open source relies on licenses and copyright.) We agreed to this license when we signed up for (and stayed in) the app store, so going to follow and abide by the rules. Not looking to skirt it, hence doing what they asked us to.— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 21, 2020
While the app doesn’t make purchasing those plans a feature he later said “There are a few convoluted ways you can get to our web app from within previews, documentation, etc. We offered to block based on user agent server-side, but that was not deemed sufficient.” It’s unclear why simply blocking this possibility wasn’t enough for Apple, but the company decided this falls under the payment section of its developer agreement.
Apple is facing a fight from Epic Games over the terms of that agreement, as well as growing scrutiny over its market dominance and how it exercises control over developers via its App Store. As such, it’s an interesting time to see that power flexed, especially when restricting fixes or updates could cause issues for the app developer and users.