updated 12:30 am EST, Fri December 2, 2011
Tried to bypass in-app purchasing system
Online dating and matchmaker service Match.com found its iOS app pulled from the App Store due to a violation of the store's rules, specifically a direct subscription link in the app that allowed users to pay for the service without going through Apple's mandatory in-app purchasing system, which gives Apple a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases, TechCrunch reports. The company began dropping apps that violated the policy late in summer.
Following a February unveiling that met with strong resistance, Apple revised its App Store guidelines to simply disallow buttons or external links that made it possible for users to purchase additional content or subscriptions directly, and warned developers that it would begin enforcing the policy over the summer. The pulling of the app from the App Store does not affect existing subscribers in any way, but prohibits the company from attracting any new iOS users -- a problem for the service, as dating sites like Match.com rely heavily on new clients (presuming they are successful).
After a very slow start with much resistance, Apple has slowly won over many publishers and other companies that were initially reluctant to give up the 30 percent cut. Most are reporting now that the exposure and ease of purchasing more than makes up for the cost, and in the case of publishers, many of them had been paying distributors a similar or higher percentage, meaning the "Apple tax" actually represents an operational savings. A service like Match.com, which did not have to pay as much to third parties in order to attract subscriptions, would see less benefit from Apple's take.
The dating site could opt to create a web version of their application, a legitimate way to avoid the Apple surtax that complies with the company's rules and with which Apple has said it doesn't have an issue. The UK newspaper Financial Times went this route to great success, though it was mainly motivated by wanting to retain access to subscriber data without having to request users to opt-in to providing it, another Apple rule. The site also has the option of simply removing the direct external subscription link from the app, as Audible did in order to comply with App Store rules.
Otherwise, Match.com may find that the 30 percent is worth the investment to keep a native app -- much preferred by users generally compared to web apps -- in front of the App Store audience, the dominant platform for paid apps. [via TechCrunch]