Although Apple Protonmail has been free for many years, it did add in-app purchases

On Tuesday, Congress revealed Do you think Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are sitting on monopolies. In some cases, the answer is yes.

But an application developer revealed it to Congress – Like WordPress – Largely forced to monetize Free Processor. The developer testified that even though Apple had approved their use of the app two years ago, Apple had requested an application purchase (IAP) – and when Dave dared to send customers an email announcing the change, Apple threatened to delete them and block all updates.

The developer had some fiery words from Apple in an interview with Proton Mail and CEO Andy Yen, the makers of an encrypted email application. On the edge This week.

We have known WordPress for months And hey Not alone in having a strong weapon The most valuable company in the world, Always StrategyReported to be Ben Thompson 21 different app developers quietly told him They will be forced to rejoin the IAP in the wake of those two controversies. But until now, we have never heard so many devs admit it publicly. They were scared.

They are still scared, Yen says. Apple though Changed its rules on September 11th To exclude “free apps that support stand-alone payment for a web-based tool” from the IAP requirement – Apple has explicitly stated that it exempts email applications – Proton Mail has not yet removed its own in-app purchases because it fears retaliation from Apple, he says.

He says other developers feel the same way: “There’s a lot of fear in space right now; People are absolutely terrified to say anything. “

He may have known. Proton Mail is one of its corporate partners Coalition for Application Justice, A team that includes Epic Games, Spotify, Tile, Match and others, has fought against Apple after using the rules. This is a team that has tried to bring together as many developers as possible to form a united front, but some are not prepared to risk Apple’s wrath.

It’s not clear to Yen, though – in our interview, he compares Apple’s tricks to a mafia security scam.

“For the first two years we were in the App Store, it was great, no problem,” he says. (They were launched on iOS in 2016.) “But one common practice we see … when you start to make significant improvements in uploads and downloads, they start to look at your situation very carefully, and then when any good mafia extort money, they do it for a little money They are coming to shake you. ”

“We do not offer a paid version in the App Store, it’s free to download … It’s not like the epic you had an alternative payment option, you can not pay,” he notes.

Yen says Apple’s demand in 2018 came suddenly. “From the blue, one day they said they had to add in-app purchases to stay in the App Store,” he says. “They stumbled upon the app that mentioned that there were tariff plans. They went to the website and found that there was a subscription that you could buy, and then back, we asked to add IAP.”

“It simply came to our notice then. They are the judge, arbitrator and executioner on their platform, you can take it or leave it. You can’t get any fair trial to determine if this is fair or not and anything they say will go away. ”

“We simply agreed to save our business,” he adds.

Yen tells me that even for security reasons, Proton Mail had a month of not being able to renew its usage, and Apple threatened to remove the app if its company continued to delay. So, in order to meet Apple’s needs, Proton Mail decided to raise the price of its entire service on iOS by about 26 percent, eating up the rest.

“When Apple charges 30 percent extra … we don’t have a 30 percent margin!” Finding a business with a 30 percent profit margin is very different, ”he explains. “We had to raise prices and they could not even contact our customers so that they could get cheaper prices from our website.”

And when Apple is increasingly transforming itself into a privacy company, Yen argues that Apple’s 30 percent cut actually affects privacy-centric applications – because it’s harder to compete with Gmail when you have to charge for your service, you Further Taxed. He explains:

Google does this by selling your data to third-party advertisers to subsidize the services you receive for free, but this is very bad for user privacy because companies are inciting you to abuse your privacy as much as possible. Alternatively the subscription model … we have a certain percentage of customers paying, which is what keeps us going. This will hit us a 30 percent fee, but ad-based models don’t have to pay, and it encourages pro-privacy business models.

He also considers it difficult to compete with Apple’s own apps when you have to pay 30 percent of your revenue to a direct competitor.

The elephant in the room is that Apple changed its rules in September, allowing free add-ons Email clients, avoid IAP requirement. Shouldn’t some of these points be less today, at least for applications like he? But Yen says Proton Mail has not yet tried to remove IAP because written rules will prevent it from telling its customers that there is even an update.

It surprised me because on September 11th, Apple made that clear to us The app does not prohibit developers from communicating with their customers outside the App Store, and to make it more clear it will look to change the language of its rules. But of course, almost a month later, App Store Guidance 3.1.3 (f) Still bans “calls for in-app purchasing activities”.

Today, Apple has confirmed to us that the interpretation is even more correct: “Free apps that support standalone web-based tools” do not need to use IAP The applications themselves Do not offer purchases, as long as there are The applications themselves Do not ask users to make purchases outside the application. The company claims that developers can advertise different prices on the web, TV, billboards or anywhere else outside the App Store On the edge.

Upon hearing this, Yen says that Proton Mail will actually try to eliminate Apple’s application payment system – but he is still skeptical that he plans to test the theory with the company’s next application, Proton Drive, to stay safe. He did not want to endanger Proton Mail.

Yen says it’s strange that Apple’s actual written rules aren’t as clearly defined as I tell him, and that he generally doesn’t trust the rules: Apple justified blocking the app in the first place because of the vague rule that apps should be banned. “Include irrelevant information,” he says, and he believes the results of the utility review are often pre-determined: “They made a decision and then just pointed out the relevant paragraphs of the rules to justify the decision they had already made.”

He is not the only one who believes that Apple’s decisions are arbitrary. We are again and again Written Philip Schumacher, Apple’s own utility review leader from 2009 to 2016, also spoke to Congress about the company’s random implementation, but also for its bomb blast report. He testified that Apple’s senior executives will find excuses to remove apps from the store; Apps that compete against Apple’s own services often have problems getting the review process; Apple’s new guidelines that are said to allow cloud gaming in the App Store may have been written “specifically to exclude Google Stadia” and are “completely arbitrary”. (I came Same decision about Stadia, Too.)

You may be wondering what Apple thinks about this, so we asked. Apple says On the edge There is no uncertainty as to whether it will retaliate against the developers – it works with them to get their applications in store, and says it makes fair use of the rules. Apple points out that there are many ways for developers to communicate and appeal to Apple’s results, Including the ability to appeal to full rules, And it will no longer stop bug fixes for violations unless there are legal issues with the application.

Following my conversation with Protonmail’s CEO, another developer who was forced to abruptly add utility purchases told me that he still did not want the risk of removing the IAP, partly because the rules were not clear enough, and partly because of the arbitrary nature of Apple’s review.

“Even if it is approved, there is no guarantee that in the future another reviewer will not reject the application by interpreting the rules differently, and will again force IAP to reactivate,” says co-developer Belly Cooper of the application. “We do not really fear retaliation. We do not want to continue living in fear that they will suddenly reject us and force us to do a full job based on their terms (more than we already did). It was a very stressful experience last time, and threw a spanner into our plans for use, it We are worried it could happen again. ”

Cooper says she tried to challenge Apple in September 2017 when the company forced her to add an app purchase – two years after the app was first approved – but she’s not far off:

We argued that it was a “reader” application, and they said no. I argued that other applications work just like us, pointed to some examples, and said that other applications could not be discussed. When I spoke to them on the phone and promised to do what they asked, they allowed one or two important bug fixes that prevent them.

I wonder how many more developers have stories like this. Maybe share them now? (My D.M..) Feels like some people are already coming bold: Here is one Couple Examples I was sent while researching this story.

I wonder if Apple will follow the advice of developer Marco Armand, because He points out the fun, Apple’s rules around in-app purchases are now as clear as mud.

Maggie Benson

"Bacon trailblazer. Certified coffee maven. Zombie lover. Tv specialist. Freelance communicator."

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