It’s a victory for the developers. Apple announces new concessions for “reading” applications like Netflix and Spotify. They will be able to redirect their customers out of the iOS application, to an external page. If this is a setback for Apple, it is also in its best interests.
This is a very important new turn that Apple has just taken in its management of the App Store. In a statement published on September 1 on its website, the American brand announces new concessions for its application store, which come in addition to those that had been exhibited at the end of August. This easing, which is slated for implementation in 2022, will affect some of the most popular apps on the iPhone and iPad, like Netflix or Spotify.
What is it about ? The Cupertino company announces in fact that within a few months, all the so-called “reading” applications will be able to include a link inside, which points to their website so that people can create and / or manage their account (i.e. i.e. external, excluding Apple). What is meant by a “reading” app does not cover only solutions for reading electronic books, but software that allows you to read content, whether written, music or of the video.
Today the situation can be summed up with a screenshot, from a tweet by journalist Mark Gurman.
For anyone who wants to register on Netflix via the iPhone, it comes across this kind of screen, which is absolutely not user-friendly and in line with what it is possible today to do technically to be connect to a platform. Netflix’s message invites Internet users to register on Netflix, outside of the application, then to come back afterwards. It was Netflix that removed this feature in 2018, all for money reasons, as the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) giant rejects Apple’s economic policy.
This is what you get when trying to sign up for Netflix on the iPhone today. In early 2022, it’ll be a button that points you to Netflix’s website to sign up and pay there. This is a major, structural change that will save Apple a lot of scrutiny. pic.twitter.com/8iWDUTceZK
– Mark Gurman (@markgurman) September 2, 2021
Japanese regulator pressure
” Reading apps provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and videos Apple explains in its press release. This shift, the American company did not necessarily want to take, but pressure from the Japanese regulator JFTC (Japan Fair Trade Commission) led it to reconsider its position. This change will be applied worldwide.
In principle, Apple explains, “ App Store guidelines require developers to sell digital services and subscriptions using Apple’s in-app payment system “, Because, adds the company,” in-app purchases through the App Store shopping system remain the safest and most reliable payment methods for users “. But what about apps that don’t actually offer in-app purchases? The announcement aims to respond to this scenario.
” Since developers of reading apps do not offer purchases of digital goods and services in the app, Apple has agreed with the JFTC to allow developers of these apps to share a single link to their website for help users set up and manage their account », Continues the American company. But that said, nothing prevents developers from designing a payment solution directly on the site, outside the App Store.
Apple loosens its control a bit
For Apple, this development will likely have repercussions on its revenues, the extent of which remains to be measured, because part of its power comes from its commission which is levied on purchases or subscriptions occurring in its ecosystem (in-app). This is 30% of the value of the expenditure the first year, then 15% thereafter. This levy has seen its scope reduced in recent years, especially for startups with relatively low turnover.
But if this will cause turmoil in his business, it may be the price to “buy” his peace of mind in the field of regulation. The JFTC investigation is just one of the more recent signs: the company is in the sights of many regulatory authorities, but also various lawmakers around the world. This has also been seen in South Korea, with a law that prohibits Apple and Google (for Google Play and Android) from forcing developers to use their payment systems.
What questions remain unanswered?
In the United States and in Europe too, the pressure is mounting. On the other side of the Atlantic, elected officials have led legislative initiatives to regulate stores like the App Store and Google Play in a different way. In Brussels, investigations were launched on the App Store, Apple Pay, Apple Music and Apple Books, suspected of anti-competitive practices ” Apple sets the rules for distributing apps to iPhone and iPad users. », Noted the Commission by launching its investigations.
It remains to be seen whether the devil is going to hide in the details, as there are many questions unanswered with this blanket announcement from Apple: How do you define a reading app? What are the limits ? What can or not be done with this external link? What are the freedoms given to developers to talk about purchases and subscriptions? Why is there a difference in treatment between these apps and others?
Many of these questions should be answered in the updated rules that will arrive before this new policy comes into effect. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to satisfy developers, which is not certain – some might consider this development still too modest and ask for more. For Apple, however, the central purpose of this movement is to appease regulators and lawmakers, to avoid future problems.