[Update: Apple has officially announced it is making developer memberships free for qualifying groups, institutions, and government entities.]

Apple dropped some new App Store review guidelines yesterday that detailed the latest policies and rules developers must abide by to see their apps approved. For template-generated apps, Apple will require that all apps published to the store must be submitted by the true owner of the app, with their own developer account. This adds some financial burden to charities and nonprofits that didn’t exist before, but Apple has announced a solution …

Via TechCrunch, Apple will make the Apple Developer Program free for governments and nonprofits in early 2018, starting with institutions in the United States.

This means charities will be able to submit apps without having to pay the $99 per year fee to be a member. The fee will still apply for commercial businesses and individual app entrepreneurs. Nonprofits can already collect donations using free-to-download App Store apps and avoid the 30% In-App Purchase fee which is usually mandatory for application developers.

This change is tightly linked to the new wording regarding bulk template app generators. Previously, a single company could publish 50 apps for 50 different nonprofits under its own developer account. These services can mass produce apps very cheaply as they largely rely on the same appearance and behaviors, with minor whitelabeling tweaks such as using the specific client’s logo and calendar info.

With the new rules, the service will no longer be allowed to submit all of the apps it makes under its own name. They will have to be published under unique developer accounts owned by the client companies and charities. Today, these nonprofits would have to pay Apple at least $99/year in order to own a developer account.

By making it free for charities and governments, Apple sidesteps the moral question of demanding money from nonprofit organizations even if the $99/year fee is a trivial expense for most groups.

It is not clear if Apple will allow charities and governments to become Apple Developer Enterprise Program members for free. This has some important team management features that the normal $99/year Apple Developer Program Individual tier does not have. The Enterprise Program costs $300 per year.

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Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.