Back in August as Facebook rolled out its latest online service for creators, teachers, and small businesses to host virtual events, the company announced it would be waving fees. Google also agreed to waive its 30% commission on Android, however, Apple at the time did not. Now Facebook says Apple has revisited that decision and will stop charging its 30% fee temporarily.
Update 10:30 am PT: CNBC notes that the 30% commission is also being waived for Airbnb and ClassPass. And news just crossing the wire via Walter Bloomberg makes it appear that the pause on fees for online events by Apple is happening for all developers, which should eliminate criticism about Apple not treating all devs equally, at least in this instance.
Apple also shared a statement on the matter with CNBC:
An Apple spokesperson told CNBC it reversed its decision on the Facebook event fees due to the pressures businesses are facing from the pandemic, and that Apple wants to give those businesses more time to adapt to digital business models. The spokesperson also said its App Store rule that requires the 30% cut to Apple does not apply to ticketing real-world events, only digital events, and Facebook has until the end of the year to implement in-app payments for real-world events. Airbnb and ClassPass also have until the end of the year to add the in-app payments for events, Apple said.
“The App Store provides a great business opportunity for all developers, who use it to reach half a billion visitors each week across 175 countries,” Apple said in a statement. “To ensure every developer can create and grow a successful business, Apple maintains a clear, consistent set of guidelines that apply equally to everyone.”
Facebook used the situation to put pressure on Apple by arguing it was hurting small businesses and creators when they need revenue the most during the pandemic. And it even if Apple was sticking with a long-held App Store rule for events held outside of an app as incurring the 30% commission, it was a bad look as Google and Facebook both waived fees for the foreseeable future to help out small businesses.
Today, Apple has changed its tune as Facebook says Facebook Pay is an option to pay for online events on iPhone and iPad, skipping the 30% iOS commission (via The Verge).
Facebook’s framing of this policy as Apple vs the little guy seems to have worked, and the social network now says Apple will let it process payments for online events using Facebook Pay. That means no 30 percent fee for Apple and more money for businesses, at least in the short term. Facebook says all businesses are eligible except Facebook Gaming creators and that the policy will also only last until the end of 2020.
This seems like a win-win-win as Apple can save a bit of face, Facebook gets what it wants, and small businesses get to keep all their revenue during tough times. However, while Apple will end the pause on its fees come 2021, it sounds like Facebook and Google will continue that until at least the middle of next year. Even though Apple is offering an olive branch to small businesses, Facebook still had harsh words (via CNBC):
“This is a difficult time for small businesses and creators, which is why we are not collecting any fees from paid online events while communities remain closed for the pandemic,” Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said in a statement. “Apple has agreed to provide a brief, three-month respite after which struggling businesses will have to, yet again, pay Apple the full 30% App Store tax.”
This squabble marks the third battle Apple has seen from Facebook recently. Back in August we saw the social media giant publicly criticize Apple over the new iOS 14 privacy ad tracking feature and just today, Facebook made an argument that Apple should let it be the default messenger on iPhone and iPad.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for App Fairness that launched yesterday with members including Spotify, Epic Games, and Tile shared a comment on this situation:
“Today’s announcement is a distraction from the real issues in the App Store ecosystem. We are glad that Apple has reversed its decision to use its App Store to profit from the COVID pandemic. However, it further demonstrates why the Coalition’s App Store principles are a necessary framework to drive real reform and fairness. No developers within the App Store should be required to pay this unfair, unreasonable, and discriminatory 30% App Tax, full stop,” said spokeswoman Sarah Maxwell.
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