Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Apple Denied Anti-Steering Stay

Adi Robertson (PDF, tweet, Hacker News, MacRumors):

Epic v. Apple judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers says Apple must comply with an order to let developers add links and buttons to external payment options, denying the company’s motion for a stay. “Apple’s motion is based on a selective reading of this Court’s findings and ignores all of the findings which supported the injunction,” her new order reads.


“This will be the first time Apple has ever allowed live links in an app for digital content. It’s going to take months to figure out the engineering, economic, business, and other issues,” said Apple attorney Mark Perry.


Epic framed Apple’s request as a delay tactic made without any real commitment to change. “Apple does nothing unless it is forced to do it,” said Epic attorney Gary Bornstein.


Tuesday evening, [the judge] accused Apple of wanting “an open-ended stay with no requirement that it make any effort to comply,” and suggested that “Apple has provided no credible reason for the Court to believe that the injunction would cause the professed devastation”[…]

Leah Nylen:

So next step is for Apple to ask the Ninth Circuit to stay the ruling. If they don’t, Apple could ask SCOTUS. It’s a high bar to get a stay pending appeal if the trial court judge doesn’t give one, but has happened before (see Qualcomm)

Tim Sweeney:

Well technically it’s a win for all developers except Epic, because Apple decided to block Fortnite from the app store throughout the entire appeals process, which may last many years.

Apple argued, amusingly, that Epic had no standing regarding external links because Apple had already decided it wouldn’t allow Fortnite back into the App Store, anyway.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

This very much enables alternate in-app purchase systems, via a web view, alongside IAP. Apple’s IAP has to compete on merit, not just win by default. Apple is worse off having clarified this.

My understanding of the injunction against Apple is that:

1) Apps can tell users about alt payment options alongside Apple IAP
2) Apps can let users click a button/link to be taken to an alt payment option (via Safari)
3) Alt payment options may undercut IAP pricing if they wish

As widely reported, there is nothing preventing Apple from imposing other rules & restrictions on top of the above — so links can be reviewed by App Review, and Apple may come up with a system to monetize such (but good luck implementing that before December)

Nilay Patel:

A button labeled “buy for 30 percent less” that opens a webview checkout page prepopulated with your account and billing info is Apple’s nightmare and I don’t think this order prohibits that at all

Apple contended in the hearing that allowing buttons and links would require significant engineering resources and I am pretty sure what they meant was figuring out ways to nerf the in-app browser so you can’t use it to pay for things all the time


Update (2021-11-12): Florian Mueller:

The “realistic best-case scenario” for developers is that Apple will collect its usual commission (possibly with a minor deduction, such as 2%) on revenues generated by means of such external links. There is nothing in the court order barring Apple from doing so. Much to the contrary, the judgment recognized Apple’s right to seek compensation for its IP.


The worst-case scenario for developers, however, would place developers like Epic in an even worse position on the bottom line than if the injunction had never come down. Two months ago I already discussed the possibility of Apple disallowing cross-walled and cross-purchases. In that case, the Epic v. Apple injunction would allow outbound links (including links in the form of a button, but still just external links) to information on alternatives. But any purchases of digital goods (such as Fortnite V-Bucks) made outside an iOS app would no longer be available for consumption in the iOS app.


Apple had two fundamentally different options for how to interpret the injunction in its motion for a stay (and the reply brief in support of that motion). Apple could have taken the position that the narrow scope of the injunction had been clear all along. That would have meant to optimize for a hypothetical contempt proceeding--instead, Apple chose to place a strategic bet on obviating the need for such contempt proceedings in the first place. In order to avoid facing any contempt motion, Apple needs to get the injunction stayed and then prevail on appeal. With that strategic priority in mind, Apple determined that what would serve it best was to make the strongest possible case for irreparable harm (to Apple from enforcement). A narrow injunction doesn’t hurt as much as one that someone may blow out of proportion.

Florian Mueller:

Nilay Patel’s proposed approach would simply read out the word “external” from the court’s clarifying statement by suggesting that developers could bring up a WebView control--meaning a browser rectangle within an app using the same browser engine as Apple’s Safari browser--and automatically fill in the user’s account data (such as a user ID). A control (i.e., user interface element) within an app is, however, not external.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

"Apple argued, amusingly, that Epic had no standing regarding external links because Apple had already decided it wouldn’t allow Fortnite back into the App Store, anyway."

Well dang, that's convenient. "Judge, I can't be convicted for stealing the victim's belongings, because I've already murdered him."

Apple never delivered the App store they promised - scam apps are still plentiful, it's hard to find legitimate apps, and dangerous apps still manage to routinely slip through. It's beyond time for Apple to open up and allow other app stores or other ways to load apps on iOS. Maybe with some competition they will not only deliver what they promised but actually provide a better user experience than their competitors. Until they do iOS is nothing but a curiosity to me at this point.

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