Apple Will Let Streaming Apps Like Netflix Link to Their Own Websites to Sign Up Users
As of Wednesday, March 30, Apple fulfilled its promise to developers with the new update of App Store Review guideline 3.1.3(a). This allows developers of “reader” apps (Netflix, Kindle, Spotify, etc.) to request access to the External Link Account Entitlement, letting these iOS apps link to the companies’ own websites in order to allow users to create or manage their account outside of the app.
“Reader” apps provide one or more digital content types (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, or video) as the primary functionality.
Last year, Apple notified developers of “reader” apps that an update coming to the App Store in early 2022 would permit them to provide external links in their iOS apps. Before the announcement was made, Apple prohibited app developers from including any links to account sign-up pages.
For purchases made within the app, Apple required developers to use Apple’s in-app payment system where the company took a 30% commission on all subscription fees during the first year, which decreased to 15% every year thereafter.
To cut corners, Netflix removed the ability to sign-up directly in the app to avoid paying Apple a cut of their subscription revenue. This meant that if you wanted to begin a streaming subscription, you would have to pay for it in a browser link, then download the app and sign in using those credentials.
This was a nuisance for many iPhone and iPad users, so hopefully, this improves the historically bad user experience for these types of apps, and customers will be able to start a subscription within a freshly downloaded streaming app, or the app will automatically open a sign-up page in your browser.
However, there’s a catch. The update comes with a number of restrictions, including prohibiting app developers from including language along the lines of, “The price of items available on the website” in their iOS apps and to requires them to use “acceptable language” similar to, “Go to example.com to create or manage your account.”
Also, reader app developers must apply for permission to use the External Link Account Entitlement.
In September 2021, the tech giant made the change under a settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC). Apple will also be applying the change globally to all reader apps on the App Store.
“We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust,” Apple wrote in a blog post.
Separately, Apple announced that they would be eliminating the requirement that developers of dating apps in the Netherlands create two separate apps if they want to use a third-party payment system.
The company wrote, “To comply with an order from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), Apple allows developers distributing dating apps on the Netherlands App Store to choose to do one of the following: 1) continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system, 2) use a third-party payment system within the app, or 3) include an in-app link directing users to the developer’s website to complete a purchase.”
Apple will charge Dutch dating app developers a 27% commission regardless of which payment mechanism is used.