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Although more and more criticism is received by the commission framework for Apple’s app store, Google seems to be going up the wind. The company confirmed that next week it would issue new guidelines, stressing that developers must use the in-app purchasing framework and subscription features of its app store.
In the new guidelines, Google explicitly needs most applications for in-app content purchases, game upgrades and subscriptions to use Google’s paid services. This scheme helps the company to earn commissions of 30 percent from in-app purchases on Android.
While this requirement has existed for many years, the system has been bypassed by many developers, including Netflix, Spotify, Match Party, and Epic Games. Instead of their app store accounts, the Netflix and Spotify apps prompt users to pay with credit cards, bypassing the Google commission. A similar payment mechanism was also introduced by Match Group’s dating app Tinder last year.
Recently, through direct payment, Epic Games started to allow players to buy in-game upgrades for their video game “Fortnite.” In retaliation, both Google and Apple pulled Fortnite from their app stores, and an antitrust lawsuit against the two technology companies was subsequently filed by Epic Games.
According to individuals familiar with the matter, developers who currently do not meet the criteria will have time to upgrade their applications when Google’s new standards are introduced and are unlikely to be withdrawn immediately.
In a quote, a Google spokesperson said: “As an open platform, Android enables many app stores to run.” In reality, most Android devices have at least two pre-loaded app stores, and other stores can be loaded by users. For developers who distribute applications on the internet, our policy has always allowed them to use the Google billing system for in-app purchases for their option of using the Google App Store. We have been working with partners to explain these policies and ensure fair and realistic enforcement of these policies.
For Google and Apple, app store commissions produce billions of dollars in revenue per year, but many developers argue that this is an unfair and wasteful fee. The specifications of the Apple App Store for in-app purchases and billing are the same as those of Google, but the regulations are stricter than those of Google. Apple does not let developers guide users to subscribe to external websites, but Google does.
But several app developers declared earlier this week the creation of the “App Fair Alliance” to encourage a fairer approach for app stores. Apple recently relaxed some app store guidelines after being criticised by developers and politicians, and Google expects to make other changes to its rules soon.