Friday, August 21, 2020

WordPress Bug Fixes Blocked Over IAP

Matt Mullenweg:

Heads up on why @WordPressiOS updates have been absent… we were locked by App Store. To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans. I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions.

WordPress has been in the App Store for a long time. Recall that Tim Cook told Congress that Apple was not changing the rules to make more apps subject to fees but had instead “exempted additional categories of apps.” And that in June Apple said that “bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations.”

Ben Thompson:

I am admittedly puzzled as to why Apple is denying me updates to the open source app for my open source web site because one user of that app happens to sell domains.

Also, I thought Apple wasn’t going to hold bug updates hostage anymore?

WordPress (and the app) are GPL, and App Store TOS and DRM violate GPL. Thus only the copyright holder can submit an app for all of WordPress, both self-hosted and

Apple is thus holding millions of websites hostage for 30% of Automattic domain sales 🤷‍♂️

To be clear, the app doesn’t sell anything, and why would it? It’s an open source project. Apple is requiring the addition of functionality that has no plausible reason to exist.

Fernando Bunn:

I just had a bug fix release rejected by Apple because of an issue that’s there since always and never caused a rejection before. (Basically, if you try to SIWA without internet connection we display a generic error)

I sent a new build, asked for an Expedited Review, they accepted the request and it’s “In Review” for more than 24h…


They rejected the expedited Review (after 2 days), saying that you can’t create an account using the app. I’m working with B2B apps for more than 9 years and it’s the first time I see this as a reason for rejection.

Meanwhile my critical bug fix release is still not approved.

And this specific app has the exact same login flow since ~5 years ago.

Maynard Handley:

To add to Ben’s point, there is a more generic problem here of a faction within Apple that have prioritized today’s rents over customer delight.

You may not care about App Store in-fighting but you see it elsewhere as well.

For example: Why is Apple being such a prick about audiobooks on Apple Watch? Clearly this is something people have wanted since day 1. But Apple DEMANDS that the only books allowed are those bought through Apple. Any 3rd party solution is clumsy and sucks bcs is fighting the OS


Update (2020-08-25): Sean Hollister (also: MacRumors):

While Mullenweg says there technically was a roundabout way for an iOS to find out that WordPress has paid tiers (they could find it buried in support pages, or by navigating to WordPress’s site from a preview of their own webpage), he says that Apple rejected his offer to block iOS users from seeing the offending pages.

Tom Bridge:

It was pretty convoluted to get there. Like, six or eight clicks deep in the help. They offered to restrict that page by referrer and user agent and were told to just do IAP instead.

Brent Simmons:

Will I be asked to add IAP to NetNewsWire for purchasing Feedbin and Feedly accounts? It doesn’t sound like that much of a stretch right now.


Related question: how is the PR hit to Apple worth it for the money they’ll make through these WordPress IAP sales? And: how is developer fear a good thing for the platform?

John Gruber:

How is WordPress’s app different from Hey other than that WordPress’s app already includes very useful free functionality? I really don’t get how this free app that doesn’t sell anything or require a paid account for a service violates any App Store guidelines.


This serves literally no one, not even Apple.

Anil Dash:

And the weird thing is, even if they walk this back, Apple is just contributing to the sense that they’re openly shaking down 3rd party devs now.

Chuq Von Rospach:

It’s almost as if Apple doesn’t understand its own policies any more, much less how they impact their reputation, good will and all of us.

Tyler Sonnemaker:

An Apple spokesperson told Business Insider that, per App Store policies, apps — including WordPress — operating across multiple platforms can let users access a service on their iOS app that they paid for on a different platform (such as a website), but the developers then have to offer the ability to purchase that service in the app, too.


Mullenweg told The Verge that WordPress has already agreed to comply with Apple’s demands and within 30 days will add in-app purchase options for the paid services offered by

Steven Hoober:

WordPress is 17 years old.

Is by far the most popular CMS, 60% market share.

Making it run A Third of all websites.

This giant of the internet cannot conceivably stand up to the second most popular desktop and mobile maker.

Matt Mullenweg:

I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app.


We believe 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.

So, basically, Apple tried to shake down WordPress. Perhaps the reviewer made a mistake, and the appeals process didn’t work. But Apple doesn’t want to admit that, so they insinuate that WordPress was trying to sneak through external payments. We know that wasn’t the real issue because Apple had previously said that removing the help links wasn’t sufficient. WordPress asked for weeks what they could do to get the app approved and was told that that the only option was to add IAP.

Dieter Bohn:

Don’t miss the attempt to redefine the clear and common meanings of words in this Apple statement.

WordPress was ALWAYS a “free standalone app” regardless of whether it happened to mention the mere existence of commerce outside the App Store or not.

Jason Snell:

Also troubling: Mullenweg only went public with Apple’s rejection because Apple had, weeks before, told WordPress that Apple’s decision was final and that they’d need to alter their app to add in-app purchases in order to stay in the App Store. It was only after Mullenweg’s original tweet went viral that Apple re-examined the decision, backed down, and apologized.

This shows that the old (Steve Jobs? Phil Schiller?) guideline that “going to the press never helps” may be the most hilariously false thing Apple has ever produced.

But let’s consider the larger issues. What is wrong with the App Store approval system that a major vendor like WordPress would apparently be rejected in a way that would have been entirely final without the intervention of higher-ups?

Ed Bott:

The fact that Apple FORBIDS legit service providers from helping their customers get to their payment pages just torpedoes Apple’s argument that they are all about user experience.

Ben Thompson:

I have sat on these anecdotes for several months now, in part because this is all I can say: none of the developers were willing to go on the record for fear of angering Apple. What I think the WordPress and Hey episodes show, though, is that these are the exact sort of apps where Apple is getting things wrong, at least as far as popular opinion is concerned.

See also: Hacker News.


8 Comments RSS · Twitter

Old Unix Geek

Oh Apple, Greed is thy middle name!

This is just sad. There are more mounting evidence everyday that Apple cares about making more money than better experience.

I know mjtsai dont cover non-software news much. But Apple recently extended their AppleCare+ purchase from 60 days to One Year. You might have thought this is good news for consumers?

At the same time Apple Retail store Employees, especially Genius has had their KPI % changed to a higher number for Apple Care sold. Which means now they have an high incentive to push customers to buy AppleCare when you are fixing their Mac.

I wouldn't be surprised if the AppleCare change was due to some government regulation somewhere (California? EU?) that forced them to do it. Cook Apple has never been very altruistic. I mean damn they're still only giving 5GB iCloud space when you buy a device, and they haven't upgraded the other iCloud storage options in years AFAIK (either reduced price, or include more space).

Seriously it’s time to learn how to be “deadbeat customers. If I can’t install the apps I want on *my* machines without interference from Apple then Tim Apple doesn’t need my money or “help Apple find bugs” time.

Apple has become as obnoxious as credit card companies who entice you into debt. If you don’t go into debt they call you a “deadbeat customer.”

When Christmas rolls around, maybe save your money and “stay away” from Apple. Instead of buying your kids a new Tim Apple device just hand one down.

Just make do. What’s the point of awarding Apple for bad actor behavior? Everything Apple does should have consequences. Sun thought they were “invulnerable” too.

Apple’s “infighting” is not our problem. I don’t buy the “infighting factions” story, it’s a fundamental failure of corporate discipline that reflects the values of the CEO and *that* is the problem.

If you’re a developer consider pivoting to or refactoring your app for Android. If Apple gets too insane your users may thank you.

A couple of my go-to apps for Chinese and Japanese study have done this.

It would be lovely to see apologies from everyone who got butthurt when honest people were criticizing Tim+ years ago for being a soulless beancounter and SJ's greatest mistake. None of this is a surprise to people who could see past the stock price.

they haven’t upgraded the other iCloud storage options in years AFAIK (either reduced price, or include more space).

The price drops I could find:

2011: 5 GB free, 15 GB $20/yr (~$1.70/mo), 25 GB $40/yr (~$3.33/mo), 55 GB $100/yr (~$8.33/mo).

After that, they switched to monthly pricing.

2014: 5 GB free, 20 GB $1/mo, 200 GB $4/mo, 500 GB $10/mo, 1TB $20/mo.

2016: 5 GB free, 50 GB $1/mo, 200 GB $3/mo, 1 TB $10/mo, 2 TB $20/mo.

Since 2017: 5 GB free, 50 GB $1/mo, 200 GB $3/mo, 2 TB $10/mo.

So, it’s been about the longest time that we haven’t seen a change.

The “not enough storage” error on those with free iCloud accounts is probably one of the most widespread ways in which revenue over user experience affects users directly. (Personally, I pay for the $1/mo plan.)

Update, they’re back:

Seems they had a link to the upgrade webpage from a help view or something.

This policy is nuts and always has been. Every time I buy a book from kindle or audible I remember back to when Jobs first did this, and how disappointing it was at the time.

This policy is so unbelievably consumer hostile. They care way more about their "principles" than their customers.

There is no reason that I should have to go to a browser to sign up. It should be in the app. The only reason it is like that is because Apple forces them.

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