Twitter CEO Elon Musk challenges App Store charges. But if Musk goes ahead with his plan to welcome banned Twitter users back, Apple might just remove Twitter from the App Store.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Twitter owner Elon Musk has chosen another fight, and this time it’s with Apple. Musk is taking on the tech giant as concerns grow that it could remove Twitter from its App Store. This would prove devastating to Twitter’s business.
For more, we’re joined by NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn. And note that Apple is one of the financial supporters of NPR. Hi, Bobby.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Tell me more about what exactly Elon Musk says about Apple.
ALLYN: Yeah. I mean, we now know that Musk likes to tweet inside company news, and he did. Musk wrote yesterday that Apple has threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store, but Apple won’t tell him why. Musk then declared via a meme that he intended to go to war with Apple. He’s since deleted that tweet, but the sentiment still holds true, right? – that Musk is opposing Apple here. And yes, in this fight, Musk has everything to lose.
KELLY: That’s interesting. Why? Why does Apple control Twitter so much?
ALLYN: Yeah. That’s because Twitter relies so heavily on people scrolling on their phones. Twitter is primarily a telephone experience. And to be downloaded from the Apple App Store, there is a long list of rules to follow. There are rules against violent content and on – you know, rules against threats to personal safety. There are rules against bullying. Pornography is not allowed in the App Store.
And remember, the social media app Parler, once popular with Trump supporters, that app, Parler, was, you know, kicked out of the App Store for breaking Apple’s rules. And it completely messed up the app. So this is an extremely consequential fight, as no one else can verify Musk’s decisions on Twitter.
KELLY: What does Apple say? Have they confirmed that they are indeed considering removing Twitter from the App Store?
ALLYN: Not so far. But, you know, Apple is a notoriously protected company. And they really, as a matter of principle, never give hints about their decisions regarding the App Store.
KELY: I see. So, Bobby, I’m trying to figure out how Musk views a possible App Store ban. What else did he actually say?
ALLYN: Yeah. He said if, you know, Twitter was banned by Apple, he would make his own smartphone. This, of course, made a lot of headlines. And look; yes, Musk is a successful businessman. He runs Tesla and SpaceX. But he’s also known for his fanciful ideas that never come to fruition. And at this point, I think it’s safe to say that a Musk smartphone can be added to his dream list.
But he also used the battle with Apple as an opportunity to draw attention to something else and that’s the 30% commission Apple slaps on apps that required paid subscriptions and in-app purchases. Musk tweeted, in quotes, “Did you know that Apple is imposing a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through its App Store?” Now let me say, Mary Louise, in tech policy circles, it couldn’t be any less secretive. The so-called 30% Apple tax has been hotly debated for many, many years.
KELLY: If this has been hotly debated for many years, why is Musk getting all fired up and attacking this 30% tax now?
ALLYN: It’s because part of his plan to redesign Twitter is to find ways other than advertising to make money. Its #1 plan so far is a subscription service, being able to pay $8 per month for a blue check. Now Apple is about to take about 30% of all those purchases, which, you know, has always been every time you buy something from the Apple App Store. But Musk seems to realize that now.
It’s important to point out here that Musk is not alone in criticizing the 30% commission. I mean, developers big and small, lawmakers on both sides, regulators, even a federal judge, all called it unfair. But Apple says it’s necessary to pay staff to keep the company’s app review process in place.
KELLY: NPR’s Bobby Allyn. Thanks.
ALLYN: Thank you, Marie-Louise.
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