According to Mullenweg, WordPress’s app hasn’t been updated because the App Store locked it due to a lack of in-app purchases (IAP) for WordPress.com plans. “To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to supporting in-app purchases for .com plans,” he said. He even asked for suggestions on how to proceed with this odd situation in which Apple seemed to be demanding that in-app purchases be added to a free app.
Apple responded to Mullenweg (and to public concerns) late on Saturday. In a statement shared by The Verge, the company acknowledged that WordPress “is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases.” All it took was Mullenweg removing “the display of their service payment options from the app,” a change that The Verge points out happened “weeks or months ago.”
Apple also used the statement as a space to apologize. Better late than never? Or a response to the backlash that’s not so far removed from an ongoing legal struggle with Epic Games?
The original issue with WordPress on iOS stemmed from its current structure apparently going against the payment section of Apple’s developer agreement. And while it’s not exactly the same as what’s happening with Epic, which is pushing back against Apple’s walled garden approach to the App Store (notably including its 30 percent cut of all sales), the WordPress issue fits into the picture Epic has painted of the iOS gatekeeper’s monopolistic level of control over its platform.
Epic recently introduced a new way to pay for V-Bucks (in-game currency) via “Epic direct payment,” which offers players a 20 percent discount. If players bought V-Bucks via Apple or Android, they’d have to pay full price, due to the hefty cut each platform holder takes out of all sales through their official app stores.
Apple and Google both subsequently removed the game from their respective stores, citing direct payment as being against developer guidelines. Epic Games released a statement and called the move “retaliation.”
Epic Games has since filed lawsuits against both Apple and Google. It’s unclear if WordPress will take the same litigious route – Mullenweg indicated that’s not his plan right now – but it may be a sign of more developer battles to come.
UPDATE: Aug. 23, 2020, 11:21 a.m. EDT Added Apple’s response.