WordPress on the App Store

Friday, September 18, 2020

Have you been keeping up to date with the latest Apple news? There have been some developments around the usage of the app store this year, particularly around the requirements Apple has for companies running their apps through it.

One of the biggest headlines around this subject has been the dispute between Epic Games and Apple on the use of the In-App Purchases system. It seemed that the WordPress App available on the app store looked to also become collateral from this dispute, until recent changes.

For those that aren’t aware about the disagreement between Apple and Epic games, here’s a quick run down. Fortnite is the flagship product of Epic Games and it is one of the biggest media items in the world at the moment. Last month, in August, Fortnite was taken down from the App Store because it broke a key rule of Apple’s that must be followed to be able to distribute through the App Store. Essentially, Epic Games included a way for players to make direct payments instead of using the in-app purchasing system that Apple requires.

In response to being removed from the App Store, Epic Games very quickly filed a lawsuit against Apple. The case then got more complicated when Epic Games announced that Apple is terminating its App store account. On this subject, Apple released an official statement:

The App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place for users and a great business opportunity for all developers. Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multibillion dollar business that reaches millions of iOS customers around the world. We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem that Epic has created for itself is one that can be easily remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.

But where does WordPress fit into all this?

Also in August, Apple initially asked Wordpress to add native payment options into its application on the App Store. Since then, the two companies have decided to keep the app on the App store, without including In-App Purchases. 

It seems that there was almost another disagreement around the use of the app store service. However, the dispute between WordPress and Apple turned out differently than between Epic Games and Apple for one key reason. 

WordPress is a free, open source platform that is used by millions of people around the world to build and run their websites. However, even though the platform is free, there are elements within the ecosystem that people can pay for. This includes extra storage as well as types of technical support. This is what caused Apple to block the WordPress iOS app. Despite Wordpress not technically selling products, they were still accessible through their platform. Developers had included a link within the app that let users upgrade their plans on the WordPress website. By taking users to the WordPress website instead of remaining within the app, they had broken Apple’s terms of service.

The below section in the App Store Review Guidelines says this on the subject:

Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase.

The situation was rectified a lot quicker than what has occurred between Epic Games and Apple. After WordPress agreed to update their app to not mention its paid services. This meant that they were allowed back onto the App Store. A resolution between Epic Games and Apple is still to be found.