Apple's 30% fee waiver is temporary, COVID-related, and not just for Facebook

A social media behemoth that profits from disinformation managed to paint Apple as an avaricious monolith and itself as altruistic.

From The Verge's "Apple will temporarily stop taking a 30 percent cut on Facebook event fees" posted Saturday:

Apple confirmed the news to The Verge and said that collecting a fee from apps offering services that take place outside the app itself is a long-held App Store policy. Since the pandemic hit and more businesses have started selling virtual events, the iPhone maker has had similar disagreements with other firms. Facebook is not the first company it’s waived fees for until the end of the year, and Apple says it’s also done the same with Airbnb and ClassPass. Apple said in the case of Facebook Gaming creators it would not waive fees because these individuals’ business model has been unaffected by the pandemic.

This is a sideshow compared to Apple’s larger war with Fortnite creator Epic, but it shares the same target (Apple’s platform fees) and shows how companies are increasingly able to win new ground in this old battle. In this case, Facebook’s success seems to be in part due to the fact it’s been able to frame its motivations as altruistic while painting Apple as an avaricious monolith. (Epic is trying to do the same with its #FreeFortnite campaign and satirical ads.) But, of course, Facebook also stands to benefit if Apple drops its platform fees on iOS and gives freer reign to third-party payment systems.

My take: I'll declare my bias. I've grown to despise Facebook and what it has done to public discourse, even in my hometown in Western Mass.


  1. Fred Stein said:
    Again, Apple is smart. W.r.t. this specific use case with Facebook (and similar), Apple sides with ‘the people’. W.r.t. the Epic dispute, Epic want to pay nothing for a lot that Apple provides.

    Games on iOS rely heavily on all the hardware and software in iOS device. Apple invests heavily to make iOS a desirable platform for games. Conferences work best by being platform agnostic.

    September 26, 2020
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Just read an analysis of Epic’s revenue stream yesterday, wherein the author pointed out that Epic’s revenue has been in decline since long before its dispute with Apple.

      The catalyst for that decline is two fold.
      #1. Players are becoming bored with the game, and
      #2. Compton. Epic was the first, and only, cross platform social game. Players did not have to all be on the same platform to compete directly against one another. A PS4 player could compete against a Mac/Windows desktop user and an iPad player in real time.

      That exclusivity has disappeared. There are multiple products that accomplish the same thing, and they are eating away at Epic’s user base.

      Picking a fight with Apple was incredibly stupid, as MacOS and iOS users make up about 30% of Epic’s user base.

      Even if Epic remained on the App Store, the number of iOS players of Fortnite are declining for the simple reason that the experience is so much better on desktops and consoles.

      Epic’s fight with Apple isn’t about the legality of Apple’s App Store fees, it’s about maximizing profits derived from a dying product, another classic case of a one trick pony failing to evolve.

      I wonder if Spotify, Facebook and Netflix are paying attention.

      September 26, 2020
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and [small businesses] will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue.”

    This is a typical issue apparently above one’s pay grade at Apple involved in the initial review process. It also is a sign of organizational bureaucracy.

    We expect staff to follow policy, but we also hope that staff will think logically and act proactively in specified situations that warrant scrutiny and deviation from policy, since policy cannot possibly address all possible scenarios.

    The initial reviewer should have discern the ramifications involved for Apple in holding Facebook adherent to the policy in this specific situation by moving the initial decision up the chain of command for secondary review. Every policy made by a company, an agency or organization is subject to exceptions in specified situations. The smaller the company the quicker these problems are resolved. The larger the company, especially the more bureaucratic, then the more these problems slip through to create a public relation issue.

    September 26, 2020
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    I’ve grown to despise Facebook

    What took you so long? I despised Facebook from day one.

    September 26, 2020
  4. Neil Shapiro said:
    Phil — I tried to post a long message that I will split up here. I simply cannot edit this to less than 1500 characters. Just delete the whole mess if you want!

    PART 1
    I too despise Facebook. I have come to almost regret the part that I played for 25+ years in the generation of the first, large social media groups — the MAUG Forums on CompuServe. What we created back then was the world’s first worldwide social community (and that is not a royal we but a reference to people like Bill Cook, Bill Steinberg, David Ramsey, Dennis Brothers, Shawn Goodin, Binky Melnick and dozens of others who worked as “sysops” or Forum Managers with me). I will never forget milestones such as the very first online and live coverage of a stockholder’s meeting (Apple’s of course), the first online marriage and how so many thousands of people simply became friends and felt like family. I miss it every day.

    September 26, 2020
  5. Neil Shapiro said:
    PART 2
    Why was MAUG so very different from FaceBook? There were two main reasons. The first was a requirement which I instituted at the very opening minute of the very first Forum (for the Apple II). Handles were already popular. But we would not accept a handle as a registered name and for membership on the Forum. From the very beginning I realized that if a person was talking with someone named Clownpants or some maybe-politically twisted name that would be very different from simply talking to and meeting a new person. It is hard enough in an online environment to make a friend and the first step is to know their name, their real name.

    September 26, 2020
  6. Neil Shapiro said:
    PART 3
    The second reason that we worked and FaceBook does not was constant, diligent and friendly moderation of the message base. While it was setup so that messages appeared right away, there was always a sysop in some time zone or other who within an hour would read or at least skim every message posted. If we saw something quite illegal, that was easy. If we saw something wildly insulting or obscene that was a little harder. We would send the person a very friendly explanation of why their message was removed and try to work with them so that they better understood that they were in a community. The hardest stuff to moderate was political discourse. Basically we would try to keep the message base on topic. So it was easy if someone posted an ad for a political candidate in a discussion of a memory map to move the message to an area clearly labeled as political discussion. Sure, it was harder if in the political area there was an offensive message or a lie or whatever. But, again, keep in mind the real name rule. I found that in itself probably helped clear out 99% of those people who were what we came to call trolls.

    September 26, 2020
  7. Neil Shapiro said:
    PART 4
    When the Internet developed I tried a few times to set up a real community again. There was a startup company by the old Outdoors Forum Manager Joe Reynolds called Forums America, then Dan Meeks tried to do the WeTalk Network, and then David Ramsey and I tried to simply restart MAUG. All were failures as it proved to be simply impossible to get enough publicity to attract a core group.

    But throughout all of this I have watched Zuckerberg in deep despair. What could have, should have and (quite doubtfully) might even yet become a binding force that strengthens the American People; that allows for people at all parts of the political spectrum to rediscover the common humanity of their fellow citizens; that becomes a reflection of the best of the USA — a community united in the desire to become a shining area of every type of Light — well, will that ever happen on the Net? It did once, it could happen again. But it will likely never be called FaceBook.

    September 26, 2020
    • Gregg Thurman said:

      In today’s environment it will take an entity that makes its profit in other ways, certainly not by selling ad space, to make this happen.

      I can see Apple doing it, calling it a Service, and bundling it with Apple TV+, Fitness+, Apple Music+, Health, etc. Apple’s reputation for privacy would insure the Social Service’s success.

      We can hope.

      September 26, 2020
    • John Butt said:
      That’s interesting, I remember your name, but not the association it was such a long time ago. At the time I had hired a solo mother as my assistant and had to pressure her very hard to keep her focussed – the first time I experienced a person addicted to social media.

      September 26, 2020

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