According to Coinbase, Apple would block the new version of its wallet to impose a 30% commission on gas fees paid on NFT exchanges. One more sign of Apple’s double game in the field of Web3?
Apple allows the sale of NFT in iOS apps … but under its conditions
The Cupertino giant likes to play cryptophiles. But he is still just as greedy. On October 24, we had proof of this with the new guidelines for app developers for the AppStore. To summarize an important point about Web3, Apple allows NFT sales in apps, but only in-app sales.
Clearly, no links to an external platform (OpenSea type, Immutable X). No “locked” content, those exclusive accesses that developers usually reserve for NFT buyers. And above all, obligation to return a 30% commission on in-app purchases.
Coinbase’s tweet published yesterday is therefore anything but a surprise. The American platform announces that it has been forced to deactivate an NFT transfer function, so that Apple will allow it to update its popular Coinbase Wallet wallet for iOS.
You might have noticed you can’t send NFTs on Coinbase Wallet iOS anymore. This is because Apple blocked our last app release until we disabled the feature. 🧵
— Coinbase Wallet (@CoinbaseWallet) December 1, 2022
“Apple’s claim is that the gas fees required to trade NFTs must be paid through their in-app purchase system, so they can collect 30% of the gas fees (…) It comes down to Apple trying to reduce charges for each email sent via open internet protocols.”
A bureaucratic misunderstanding about gas charges?
At first, Coinbase seemed to play appeasement hoping that it was just a mistake by bureaucrats in the App Store team, who would not have understood the nature of the gas costs related to cryptos and NFTs. Brian Armstrong’s team has therefore confirmed that it wants to find common ground with Apple, despite its finicky guidelines. Or not.
Because the CEO quickly complained to him App Store methods worthy of a “monopoly” and “absurd” conversations held between the Coinbase and Apple teams. Faced with the intransigence of the Cupertino giant, Coinbase is currently trying to circumvent the problem by asking its users to download the Coinbase Wallet extension for Chrome.
As we know, Apple takes a commission of 15 to 30% on digital products purchased in iOS apps. However, gas charges are not in-app purchases. Gas charges are blockchain-specific charges, much like the cost of electricity paid for using your computer to work or watch TV. Just as you pay a monthly utility bill to keep the lights on, you pay a gas fee to have your transactions inducted into blocks by Ethereum blockchain validators.
“For anyone who understands how NFTs and blockchains work, this is clearly not possible. Apple’s proprietary in-app purchase system doesn’t support cryptography, so we couldn’t comply with it even if we tried.”
Apple’s double game on Web3 annoys
The Apple-Coinbase bickering is just the latest in a long list of friction between app developers and App Store team. Several recent situations illustrate how Apple is showing its teeth in the face of projects wishing to integrate cryptocurrencies or decentralized payments:
- Elon Musk recently complained about Apple’s 30% tax and said that Apple had threatened to withdraw the Twitter application from the App Store,
- Epic Software, publisher of the hit game Fortnite, has meanwhile embarked on a long legal battle with Apple since 2020, regarding in-app purchase fees.
- Gnosis Safe, which offered the purchase of NFT through its secure Ethereum wallet, saw its blocked updates by Apple in September 2021, before the company finally agreed to retire the feature altogether,
- Trust Wallet, which was planning in June 2021 to finally introduce a dApps browser on its iOS version, had to backtrack to avoid being banned from the App Store…
The hostility of the App Store creates misunderstanding and real annoyance in and out of the community. Sometimes cryptophile, Apple is partnering with Coinbase to allow buying Bitcoin with Apple Pay. Sometimes defensive, wishing to maintain its grip on the enormous financial windfall generated by the Web3 operations of iPhone owners. The final word goes to Mark Zuckerberg, interviewed on the sidelines of the Dealbook conference organized by the New York Times :
“I think Apple has kind of distinguished itself as the only company that tries to control, unilaterally, the apps that are on the device, and I don’t think that’s sustainable or good”
And on the Google Play side? We saw the same hostility to Web3 in the summer of 2020, with the withdrawal of wallet MetaMask of the platform. But Google seems to have changed its tune since, by multiplying partnerships with the ecosystem. The latest was tied with … Coinbase pour set up crypto payments on the Cloud.