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Apple now allows “reader” apps to link to their own sites

A hot potato: Apple is finally implementing a policy announced to the courts last October. The rule change involves what Apple calls “reader apps.” These are applications whose specific purpose is to provide subscribed content to mobile users. This mainly affects apps like Netflix, Spotify, Kindle or even Amazon’s Comixology.

Previous App Store guidelines prevented playback apps from linking to their website counterparts. Presumably, this was to entice developers to use its payment system in their apps so the App Store could take a 30% cut. However, this only prompted these players to add pop-up notices stating that they could not transact in the app.

Last September, Apple agreed to start allowing certain apps to connect to their corresponding websites to end an antitrust investigation in Japan. A month later, a ruling in the Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit required the Cupertino giant to allow apps to direct customers to their subscription and account pages. Apple and Epic were unhappy with the judgment, but for different reasons.

Apple didn’t care about the judge’s ruling, as it immediately shut down all avenues for the App Store to cut subscriptions to external services. He eventually asked the judge to stay the ruling until December, citing that he would be exposing his users to fraud for enforcing it so quickly. Presumably, the stay would also have allowed Apple’s legal team to block judgment in legal proceedings potentially for years. Obviously, that didn’t set him back nearly that long.

Epic was unhappy as the decision excluded secondary app stores and payment methods. His whole deal was based on Apple’s tight control over how games could distribute in-game content and currency, allowing him to collect a 30% royalty for content that Apple didn’t help maintain. .

“Apple’s special offer for ‘reading apps’ like Amazon Video, Netflix and Kindle is even more special!” tweeted a disgruntled Tim Sweeney. “Starting in 2022, they can connect directly to the web to sign up and ‘manage’ accounts (presumably meaning: buying things with non-Apple payment methods).”

Epic’s CEO and founder considered it a prime deal for apps that weren’t much different from Fortnite’s in-game store. He particularly took issue with the fact that Roblox sees itself as an “experience” rather than a game and Apple uses this as justification for labeling it as a reading app.

For at least a few apps, the user experience should improve, but it’s not as simple as developers just add a link to their website and call it a day. Apple has a few stipulations on its developer support pages describing how to do it.

First, the developer must ask Apple for a “right” to include the link. Then, when they click on the link, users should be presented with a blurb informing them of the “risks” of giving their personal information to third-party developers outside of Apple’s ecosystem.

Additionally, the website must open in a browser and cannot use the in-app webview API. Nor can the link convey any additional information to the website. So no direct link to the user’s account page. Finally, the app can’t discuss pricing in any way – basically no promotion of discounts or what you get in the app.