Apple just forced WordPress to charge fees so it can take a cut

The iPhone maker barred updates unless in-app purchases were added.

Waraporn Wattanakul / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress and CEO of’s parent company Automattic, took to Twitter on Friday to do some explaining. Though the iOS version of the WordPress app is usually updated every week or two, the latest update arrives after a nearly four-week gap.

Mullenweg told The Verge that Apple essentially held the updates hostage unless the app added in-app purchases and he has acquiesced to this demand. Within the next 30 days, the app will include purchase options for domain names and Apple will take a chunk of the proceeds.

The cost of a walled garden — Apple takes 30 percent of the revenue made from in-app purchases so the apps have the privilege of placement in the App Store (for recurring subscriptions, the rate falls to 15% from the second year onwards). Whenever possible, companies try to get around this by externally linking to their paid products on their websites.

Founder of the Fig iOS app Mo Kurabi on in-app purchase (IAP) pressure from Apple.@mkurabi/Twitter

Though Mullenweg is playing ball, many companies are growing resentful of Apple’s stranglehold on their iOS income. Apple put similar pressure on the Hey email client, infuriating its developer Basecamp, and its currently at war with Epic Games over Fortnite. News publishers are also losing their patience, starting with The New York Times leaving Apple News, and now it — along with other heavy-hitters — are trying to get Amazon’s sweeter deal of only losing a 15 percent cut from the outset.

Though Google operates using similar principles for its Play Store, Android users have other options when it comes to accessing apps. If a company wants to reach iOS device owners, however, it has to work with Apple.

$2 trillion reasons why — As the most valuable company in the world, it would look bad if Apple was nickel-and-diming app developers, but 30 percent of properties like Fortnite or even WordPress domains is well out of the chump-change range. Apple has managed sneak by for years, riding outbursts of outrage here and there. It largely leaves this business model unchanged and continues to lock non-App Store developers out of the 900 million iPhones in the world. Because that's the system it designed. At least it's sticking to its guns.

This walled garden was originally meant to be a way to protect the users in it while making it easy for developers to earn revenue from their labor without having to contend with the complexities of accepting payments... but now it's all about making sure everyone inside is kicking money up to Apple.