Apple has reversed its decision to force WordPress’ iOS app from mandatorily adding in-app purchase features, the company’s founder Matt Mullenweg said in a tweet on August 23. Last week, Mullwenweg had taken to Twitter revealing that the WordPress app on iOS hadn’t received updates in a while because Apple had locked them out of the App Store, for not supporting Apple’s mandated in-app purchases mechanism. Apple had blocked updates to the app for over three weeks.

The issue, seemingly, was that the app allowed users to know that WordPress has paid tiers (support pages, or by navigating to WordPress’s site from a preview of their own webpage). However, there was still no way of purchasing those premium offerings from within the app. Incidentally, Mullenweg had offered Apple to remove any mentions of WordPress paid tiers so that the update could be rolled out, however, Apple had rejected the offer.

Apple also offered a rare public apology. In a statement to the Verge, it said that “the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved. Since the developer removed the display of their service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and apologize for any confusion that we have caused”.

Apple’s decision also came as a surprise to Mullenweg himself, as he thought that Apple’s decision to force WordPress to add an in-app purchase system in its iOS app was “final”, and that the company had made many of the arguments that people suggested “privately” to Apple “over the several weeks the app was locked”. “We will continue to be responsive and do our best to be within both the spirit and letter of the app store rules, including closing any webview loopholes that pop up. This also made me appreciate the freedom of the open and independent web,” Mullenweg said in a tweet.

Microsoft supports Epic in its battle against Apple and Google

Apple’s course reversal came on the heels of Microsoft filing a statement in support of Epic Games, which is currently locked in a legal battle with Apple and Google. After Apple had removed Epic’s popular app Fortnite for introducing a payment method with bypassed Apple’s in-app purchase system, Epic had filed a lawsuit against the company, calling its behaviour monopolistic. In retaliation, Apple threatened Epic with termination of all of its developer accounts — which includes Unreal Engine — and to cut Epic from iOS and Mac development tools by August 28.

“Epic’s Unreal Engine is one of the most popular third-party game engines available to game creators, and in Microsoft’s view there are very few other options available for creators to license with as many features and as much functionality as Unreal Engine across multiple platforms, including iOS,” Microsoft said in the statement. “Microsoft has an enterprise-wide, multi-year Unreal Engine license agreement and has invested significant resources and engineer time working with and customizing Unreal Engine for its own games on PC, Xbox consoles, and mobile devices (including iOS devices),” it added. Forza Street, a racing game developed by Microsoft and available on iOS is based on the Unreal Engine platform.

Microsoft said that if Apple were to cut of Unreal Engine’s access, it will impact developers of all shapes and sizes. “Even uncertainty about the Unreal Engine’s ability to continue supporting iOS and macOS will make it less likely for Microsoft (and, I believe, other game creators) to select Unreal Engine for their projects. When game creators are planning development projects, which can last for years, it is important to have confidence that the chosen engine will continue to be available on and support all platforms on which the game creators plan to distribute their games,” it said.

Apple vs developers

Epic is just one example of a developer seemingly unhappy with the 30% commission Apple charges on most in-app purchases while prohibiting developers from even linking users out of the app to a separate web page to purchase in-app items or subscriptions. Just last week, Digital Content Next — an association that includes New York Times and Washington Post — asked Apple how member news publishers can “qualify for the arrangement Amazon is receiving for its Amazon Prime Video app in the Apple App Store”, after it was revealed in the US Congressional antitrust hearings that Apple was allowing Amazon to keep 85% of the revenue from subscriptions on Amazon Prime on iOS.

Before that, Microsoft, subscription email service Hey, and Match Group, the parent of dating app Tinder, have all criticised the 30% commission Apple charges over in-app purchases. Complaints by Spotify and Rakuten over these issues also resulted in antitrust scrutiny against Apple in the EU, which is currently underway.

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