Apple will let apps for media content link to their own websites for users to set up and manage accounts, including subscription payments, the tech giant said Wednesday.
The stark change in Apple’s previous rules that barred developers from linking to alternative payment options within the app will close the Japan Fair Trade Commission's (JFTC) investigation into the Silicon Valley giant, but the update will be applied globally and go into effect early next year, according to Apple’s blog post.
The change will apply to developers of “reader” apps, which Apple defends as providing subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video.
“Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account,” Apple said in the post.
Apple had barred developers from linking to their own websites within the app to offer payment options outside of the app, and within the app developers were subject to up to 30 percent commission fees to Apple.
The policy was widely criticized by app developers of varying sizes and drew scrutiny from federal lawmakers in both parties who proposed bills to try to hold the tech giant accountable for its market power in the app industry.
The latest update builds off Apple’s announcement last week of a series of App Store changes as part of a settlement agreement with app developers. The tech giant last week said it would allow developers to communicate with customers to share information about payment methods outside of the in-app system.
The updates, however, are not appeasing Apple's critics.
The Coalition for App Fairness, an industry group that names streaming service Spotify among its members, has said the updates don’t go far enough.
“Apple’s latest announcement seems to be another attempt to protect their App Store monopoly by dividing developers into winners and losers,” the coalition said in a statement. “Apple must end its anti-competitive practices and provide a fair digital marketplace for all.”
.@Apple's latest announcement seems to be another attempt to protect their App Store monopoly by dividing developers into winners and losers. Apple must end its anti-competitive practices and provide a fair digital marketplace for all. https://t.co/98zrNkPpSj— Coalition for App Fairness (@appfairness) September 2, 2021
Apple is also awaiting a decision by a federal judge in a key antitrust case brought against the company by Fortnite developer Epic Games. The developer’s case is largely based around Apple’s commission fees and requirement for developers to use its app payment system.
Apple has defended its policy, stating it helps promote a safe and secure experience for users.