Apple Inc. has released new guidance for its App Store rules alongside software updates for iOS 16.1, iPad OS 16.1 and MacOS Ventura that tightens how cryptocurrency exchanges can operate on its store and nonfungible tokens can be used in its apps.
According to the new guidelines, Apple has clarified that apps may use nonfungible tokens, but they may not be used to unlock extra functions.
Nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, are a type of blockchain-based cryptographic asset that provide provable ownership of digital assets such as digital art, files, music, tickets, video game items and other virtual ephemera. Using blockchain technology, it is possible to create, store, buy and sell NFTs for cryptocurrency, which in turn can be traded for real money and as a result show ownership of the underlying digital asset.
According to Apple’s new guidelines, apps may buy and sell NFTs, such as minting, listing and transferring and viewing, but ownership may not unlock extra features.
“Apps may use in-app purchase to sell and sell services related to nonfungible tokens, such as minting, listing, and transferring,” the guidelines state. “Apps may allow users to view their own NFTs, provided that NFT ownership does not unlock features or functionality within the app.”
Further, the apps are permitted to allow users to view NFT collections as long as they do not include buttons or external links that “direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other in-app purchases.”
The objective is to keep users inside the App Store so that NFT trading services use Apple’s in-app payment services, which take up to a 30% cut from in-app purchases. This large cut of in-app purchases was central to a lawsuit by Epic Games against Apple over the removal of the popular video game “Fortnite” from the App Store.
Although this move doesn’t ban in-apps use of NFTs, which are widely used in a number of different types of Web3 applications that use blockchain technology to create peer-to-peer token-based economies, it does greatly curtail their ability to provide opportunities to users.
That’s because NFTs are often sometimes by app makers in order to control or “gate” functionality based on ownership of the tokens. For example, if a user holds or owns a particular NFT it might unlock special discounts within a store, or exclusive merchandise available only to certain token holders.
One example of an app that would run afoul of Apple’s new guidelines would be Shopify, which launched “tokengated commerce” that allows exactly that. Using it, store owners can give members with NFTs give early access to exclusive limited-edition merchandise, experiences and more. These functions will no longer be possible for developers to take advantage of within Shopify in the App Store.
This would also completely remove communities such as Moonbirds NFTs and Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, which not only offer collectible art experiences but also offer exclusive access to chat rooms, exclusive merchandise and other incentives to NFT holders.
The new rules also change how apps unlock content and functions, not just for NFTs, but they cannot use their own mechanisms such as Quick Response codes, license keys, augmented reality markers, cryptocurrencies, crypto wallets or anything else.
Furthering Apple’s clarification on rules regarding cryptocurrencies, the rules also stated that apps may facilitate cryptocurrency transactions and transmissions on approved exchanges, but only those in approved countries where the app was licensed and had permission to provide exchange services.
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