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[Updated X2] Apple Cut off WordPress App Updates Because It Wants a Cut of Domain Sales

WordPress on the iOS story on an iPhone
Postmodern Studio/Shutterstock

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.

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

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »