updated 05:24 pm EDT, Mon May 28, 2012
Instacast forced to remove virtual 'tip jar'
A micro-payment service that was allowing in-app donations has been removed from one of its own patrons' apps, with Apple determining that the service, regardless of its good intentions, violates App Store rules. The service, Flattr, was trying to allow visitors to podcasts and websites to be able to "tip" the operators by simply clicking a Flattr button on the site they are visiting. Since it was a donation, Apple wouldn't collect its customary 30 percent.
It was that portion of the idea that failed to pass muster with the company, reports TechCruch. App Store guidelines say that any donation collection cannot be done via in-app "purchase," since that is legally a different sort of transaction. The rules require donation collecting to be done via a web site in Safari or via an SMS message, meaning users must temporarily be taken out of the app.
Even Apple, in a letter to Flattr explaining their final decision, admitted that "directing your user outside the app may not be the user experience you prefer to offer ... however, it is a common experience in a variety of iOS apps." The method was developed so that charitable and other organizations could request donations without having to use Apple's in-app purchase, which requires a 30 percent fee.
The service, Flattr, allowed users to deposit a set amount of money in an account, and then click a "Like" button if they saw something on the web (with the button) that they wanted to donate to. At the end of the month, the money is equally divided between all the sites the user "Flattr'd." So far the system has been used successfully with websites such as Dailymotion as a "virtual tip jar," but it was the Instacast integration into the podcast directory and player's iOS app where the problem began.
On the website, listeners can "flattr" podcast creators at the end of a show they've listened to, or "auto-flattr" them with a click as soon as the episode started playing. When Apple rejected the Instacast app because of its Flattr integration earlier this month, the company and Flattr both appealed the decision and tried to find ways of complying. Apple revisited the decision and again ruled that Flattr integration in-app was a violation, forcing Instacast to jettison the functionality in order to get bugfixes out.
Flattr says the story isn't over, but unless it can find a new way to integrate donating without violating Apple's rules, it is stuck with one of the suggested alternatives, or simply retreating from the iOS mobile space until a solution to the standoff is found. A future version of Instacast may implement Apple's suggested workaround with Flattr in order to restore the service, which made it easy to donate to sites and services users want to support.