Apple tweaks App Store rules for reader apps to allow external links and payments

The changes comes as Apple continues to prevent game developers from using third-party payments over security concerns.

Apple has tweaked its rules for reader apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in response to an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission.

To bring the investigation to a close, Apple has agreed to let developers of reader apps around the world link to an external website that can be used to create or manage an account.

The change will come into effect next year, and according to Apple is only possible because "developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase." That said, it seems like reader app developers will be allowed to facilitate external purchases in some instances.

"The update will allow developers of 'reader' apps to include an in-app link to their website for users to set up or manage an account. While the agreement was made with the JFTC, Apple will apply this change globally to all reader apps on the store. Reader apps provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video," wrote Apple in a press release

"While in-app purchases through the App Store commerce system remain the safest and most trusted payment methods for users, Apple will also help developers of reader apps protect users when they link them to an external website to make purchases."

It's an interesting pivot given Apple continues to prevent game developers from using third-party payment systems, which would result in them avoiding certain platform fees, over apparent security concerns.

Reacting to the news, Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney, whose company is embroiled in a legal battle with Apple over its refusal to support alternative payment methods, said Apple continues to offer non-game developers "special" treatment.

"Apple's special deal for 'reader apps' like Amazon video, Netflix, and Kindle just got more special. Starting in 2022, they can link directly to the web to signup and "manage" accounts (presumably meaning: buying stuff with non-Apple payment methods)," said Sweeney on Twitter.

"In Apple's carefully-worded statement on safety, it's hard to discern the rationale that this is safe while Fortnite accepting direct payments remains unsafe. Even more so if Apple deems Roblox, a game from 2006-2021 that became 'an experience' mid-trial, a reader app."

The latest App Store changes come shortly after a new bill was passed in South Korea to force major players like Apple and Google to allow third-party payments on their respective mobile app stores.

It also follows another recent guideline change by Apple that will let App Store devs email customers about alternate payment options, but stops short of letting them integrate third-party payments into apps themselves.

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