WordPress’s founder tweeted out a shocking accusation earlier today: Apple blocked WordPress iOS apps because it wants a cut of WordPress.com domain sales. Currently, the WordPress app doesn’t contain any in-app purchases at all, so it’s not something anyone saw coming.
Update, 8/24/2020: In a shocking twist, Apple backed down and even apologized for its actions here. The company won’t require Automattic to add In-App Purchases after all, and updates are going through again.
Update, 8/22/2020: In a statement to The Verge, WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg explains that he has already acquiesced to Apple’s demands. The WordPress App will add in-app purchases for Automattic’s paid tiers sometime in the next 30 days. With that promise, Apple unblocked updates for the WordPress app. To be clear, the WordPress app contained no in-app purchases before, nor were they necessary to use the app. But now it will—-Apple won, and strongarmed a free app into collecting revenue.
The original report is left intact below.
As Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress explains it, Apple blocked WordPress iOS updates until it commits to support in-app purchases of WordPress.com plans. But here’s the thing, the WordPress app and WordPress.com are two different things.
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. Allow others IAP? New name?
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 21, 2020
The WordPress app doesn’t have any in-app purchases at all right now, nor does it need to have any. The entire purpose of the app is to build and maintain your WordPress site. You can use it without ever handing a cent over to anyone affiliated with WordPress.
WordPress.com, however, is a site that just so happens to sell domain names. It’s an entirely optional thing, and plenty of people with WordPress powered sites never use it. The WordPress app doesn’t take advantage of that. Instead, if you want to build a site from scratch, it assigns you a free WordPress domain with 3 GBs of storage.
So from the look of things, Apple seems to be trying to get money out of Automattic, the owner of WordPress, for its utterly separate domain sales. This could be a giant misunderstanding, but given the protracted battle, Apple is currently facing with Epic over in-app payments, it’s not a good look.
For its part, WordPress is looking into alternative solutions, like renaming the app or support in-app purchases through third-parties that make WordPress plugins. Then Apple would get a cut of sales, and Automattic would pass the rest of the revenue to plugin developers.
We’ll keep an eye on the situation and update this post if Apple comments on the matter.
Source: Matt Mullenweg