Last night Apple took one
fixed tiny step to allow developers to include links to their websites in the apps – but that only applies to “reader” apps.
However, this is not a surprise. The company announced this change last year to complete the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) investigation into Apple’s antimonopoly practices.
The Cupertino-based company considers any app that provides digital content as a reading app. Think magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music or videos. So Netflixs and Spotifys of the world will finally be able to link to their website to create and manage accounts.
However, there are many layers and conditions for it. One of the most important is that apps still can’t inform customers about their payment plans and offers. So your link can’t say “Sign up for our service for only $5.99”.
The new change is significant for some apps – Netflix in particular. Previously, the streaming company couldn’t redirect you to its website to create an account if you didn’t already have one. But you can’t pay for the plans in the app.
In contrast, Spotify already allows creating an account through the app and offers an ad-supported layer to its services.
There are also other conditions you need to meet like opening the link in an external browser and passing additional parameters that compromise user privacy. You can read all about it here.
As a developer, first fill out a form to get permission for the external link account.
Once approved, you must follow Apple’s design guidelines as shown in the image below to include links to your website. Of course, final approval still rests with the company when you submit the app.
All in all, Apple isn’t making much headway when it comes to giving developers the freedom to let users sign up for their services. While it’s signing up for some Accounts, a little bit simpler, most things are still unchanged.
While scrutiny of its App Store policy has increased from lawmakers around the world, the company has been conservative in improving its practices.
Last August allowed developers to send emails to customers informing them about various offers and alternative payment methods. It also allowed dating apps in the Netherlands to include third-party billing methods for in-app payments – but still charges a 27% cut instead of 30%.
It’s pretty clear that Apple isn’t going to make any massive changes to the way it runs the App Store without squirming its arm.