Bulletins

Apple will let developers email users about payments outside iOS

Apple's limits on developers' communications with users had been at the heart of many developers' complaints about the App Store.

iPhone apps
Photo: Getty Images

Apple announced a slew of changes to the App Store on Thursday that it hopes will help settle a class action suit by developers. Among those changes, the company said it will let app developers email users about payment options outside of the iOS system, which would allow those developers to circumvent Apple's fees.


Apple captures a fee on several kinds of in-app transactions, and developers have often complained that they can't steer users to other outside payment methods.

The would-be shift was proposed after negotiation with developers in the Cameron et al v. Apple suit, which is before federal District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. She will now decide whether to approve it.

The announcements come, however, as Apple also awaits a verdict from Gonzalez Rogers in a separate lawsuit brought by Epic Games. During the trial in that lawsuit earlier this year, Gonzalez Rogers repeatedly questioned the logic behind stopping apps from communicating with their own customers, and Apple told reporters on Thursday evening that her statements had influenced what it was willing to accept.

"We would like to thank the developers who worked with us to reach these agreements in support of the goals of the App Store and to the benefit of all of our users," Apple's Phil Schiller, who oversees the App Store, said in a statement.

Users will have to opt in to receive outside messages from apps.

In addition to the communication changes, the proposed settlement also includes a $100 million fund for small developers, which will grant them between $250 and $30,000. The fund will be available to those apps that are earning less than $1 million annually.

"This hard-won settlement will bring meaningful improvements to U.S. iOS developers who distribute their digital wares through the App Store," Steve Berman, a lawyer for the developers, said in a statement.

The settlement also proposes that Apple will increase the number of possible prices for an app, from less than 100 potential price points to more than 500. Apple also said that it had agreed to keep its app search results "based on objective characteristics like downloads, star ratings, text relevance, and user behavior signals" for at least three years, and to try to help apps better understand the appeal process for rejected apps.

The settlement would also see Apple put in place a new transparency report that will include information about "the number of apps rejected for different reasons, the number of customer and developer accounts deactivated," and other data like app removals.

Donald Cameron, the developer of a baby-naming app who was one of the named plaintiffs in the suit, said the changes would help ensure "that good apps have a better chance of being discovered."

For big developers like Epic, Apple's cut of in-app digital transactions is 30%, although smaller developers that are the focus of some provisions of the settlement have been paying 15%.

In addition to lawsuits, several states have looked into bills that would regulate app stores over fee concerns. Apple and Google have largely beaten them back. Yet a bipartisan bill introduced earlier in August in the Senate would also completely upend app stores, letting apps communicate with users about prices, protect sideloading and allow third-party app stores.

The EU is cracking down too: In April, the European Commission filed antitrust charges claiming Apple abuses its position in the market for music apps, after years of investigating a complaint by Spotify, which competes with Apple Music.

Protocol | Enterprise

How Cloudflare thinks it can become ‘the fourth major public cloud’

With its new low-cost R2 cloud storage service, Cloudflare is jumping into direct competition with the AWS service that launched the cloud computing revolution.

Cloudflare will not charge data-egress fees for customers using R2, taking direct aim at the fees AWS charges developers to move data out of its widely popular S3 storage service.

Photo: Martina Albertazzi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cloudflare is ready to launch a new cloud object storage service that promises to be cheaper than the established alternatives, a step the company believes will catapult it into direct competition with AWS and other cloud providers.

The service will be called R2 — "one less than S3," quipped Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince in an interview with Protocol ahead of Cloudflare's announcement Tuesday morning. Cloudflare will not charge data-egress fees for customers using R2, taking direct aim at the fees AWS charges developers to move data out of its widely popular S3 storage service.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is Protocol's enterprise editor, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire, and served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure.

The pandemic won't be over until the economy recovers. While cities, states and regions across the U.S. are grappling with new variants, shifting mask policies and other factors that directly impact businesses large and small, it is nevertheless time for brands and enterprises to jumpstart COVID-19 recovery strategies.

Data will undoubtedly be critical to such strategies, but there is one type of data in particular that is poised to yield greater impact than ever in the COVID-19 Recovery Era: location data.

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Michele Morelli, Foursquare
As SVP of Marketing, Michele is responsible for overseeing the brand strategy, communications, and product and performance marketing of Foursquare’s apps and enterprise products. Prior to joining Foursquare, Michele held several senior leadership positions with wide-ranging responsibilities at AOL, Toluna, Citibank and Yahoo!.
Power

VR pioneer The Void is plotting a comeback

Assets of the location-based VR startup have been acquired by a former investor, who plans a relaunch with key former team members.

The Void's New York outpost closed during the pandemic. Now, the company is planning a comeback under new ownership.

Photo: The Void

Location-based VR pioneer The Void may rise from the ashes next year: A former investor has acquired key assets of the defunct startup and is now looking to relaunch it with key team members, Protocol has learned. The company is said to be actively fundraising, and is getting ready to start hiring additional talent soon.

The Void's patents and trademarks were recently acquired by Hyper Reality Partners, a company headed by former OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel, who also used to be an investor in and board member of The Void. Hyper Reality Partners is actively fundraising for a relaunch of the VR startup, and is said to have raised as much as $20 million already, according to an industry insider.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Protocol | Workplace

A new McKinsey study shows that women do more emotional labor at work

The 2021 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey found that women are far more likely than men to help their teams manage time and work-life balance and provide emotional support.

Senior leaders who identify as women were 60% more likely to provide emotional support to their teams and 26% more likely to help team members navigate work/life challenges, according to the report.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty Images

Over the last year, emotional support, time management skills and work-life balance have become drastically more important and difficult in the workplace — and women leaders were far more likely than men to step in and do that work for their teams, according to the latest iteration of McKinsey and LeanIn.org's annual Women in the Workplace report.

Senior leaders who identify as women were 60% more likely to provide emotional support to their teams, 24% more likely to ensure their teams' workload is manageable and 26% more likely to help team members navigate work/life challenges, according to the report. In addition, about one in five women senior leaders spend a substantial amount of time on DEI work that is not central to their job, compared to less than one in 10 male senior leaders.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Amazon needs New World’s launch to be a success

New World arrives Tuesday. Whether it flops could determine the future of Amazon Games.

New World launches on Tuesday, after four delays. It could be Amazon's first big hit.

Image: Amazon

Amazon's New World launches on Tuesday, marking the end of a long and bumpy road to release day for the company's most pivotal video game release to date. There's a lot riding on New World, a massively multiplayer online game in the vein of iconic successes like Blizzard's long-running World of Warcraft and Square Enix's immensely popular Final Fantasy XIV.

If the game succeeds, New World will mark a rare success for a technology company in the gaming space. With the exception of Microsoft, which entered the console game industry nearly two decades ago, tech firms have tried time and again to use their engineering talent and resources to crack the code behind making successful video games. Almost every attempt has failed, but Amazon is the closest to having a hit on its hands. If it flops, we could see Amazon's gaming ambitions go the way of Google's.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
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