Twitter again delayed the launch of its Twitter Blue subscription service—which allows users to pay $8 per month for a verified badge—in an effort to find a way to circumvent Apple’s 30% fee on all in-app purchases, the Platformer reported on Tuesday, as CEO Elon Musk engages in a public feud with the iPhone maker after it purportedly withdrew its advertising from the social media platform.
According to the Platformer, Twitter will no longer offer Blue subscriptions as an in-app purchase on the Twitter iPhone app when it relaunches.
An internal message shared by a product manager on Tuesday said the launch has been delayed to “make some tweaks,” the report added.
The changes being made to Blue include raising its price from $7.99 to $8 and requiring phone number authentication among other things.
Musk had initially intended to relaunch Twitter Blue—the rollout of which was suspended after it allowed the creation of a wave of impersonator accounts—on Tuesday, but this was delayed to a tentative date of December 2, last week.
With this latest delay, the date for Twitter Blue’s launch remains unclear.
What To Watch For
By not offering Twitter Blue as an in-app purchase, Twitter will no longer have to pay Apple a 30% cut of all subscriptions. This would likely mean the subscription will be accessible on Twitter’s website itself, opening the service to Twitter users on all platforms. Before its rollout was paused, Twitter Blue was exclusively available to iPhone or iPad users. Apple’s App Store policies allow app makers to offer subscriptions and services outside the app. However, the iPhone maker has strict rules in place on how apps can guide users to make external purchases, something that has come under criticism from other app makers.
The Platformer report also notes that Apple is continuing to bleed ad revenue as earnings from Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region are down 15% compared to the previous year while weekly ad bookings are down 49%. The company is reportedly anticipating a $12 million revenue loss from the U.K.—its largest market in the region. Several major brands have backed off from advertising on Twitter due to concerns about the platform’s failure to moderate hateful content.
Musk began openly feuding with Apple on Monday after the iPhone maker reportedly suspended advertising on the platform. The loss of Apple’s advertising dollars is likely a big blow for Twitter as the company was the biggest advertiser on Twitter in the first quarter with a spend of $48 million, according to the Washington Post. Musk attacked Apple for pulling its ads, accusing the company of “hating free speech.” The Twitter CEO eventually claimed that Apple had threatened to boot its app from the App Store and “won’t tell us why.” While Apple has not officially commented, Musk’s looser approach to moderation and his recent moves to reinstate several controversial accounts which were previously banned by the platform may run afoul of the iPhone maker’s app store policies. Apple requires all App makers to follow its stringent guidelines on content which require the removal of anything that is “offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste or just plain creepy.” Apple’s strict rules had previously led to right-wing Twitter-clone, Parler, being kicked off the App Store for failing to moderate “dangerous and harmful content.”
After Musk’s claims about Apple’s threat, several top Republican leaders criticized the iPhone maker and warned it could face Congressional action if it removed Twitter from its App Store. Florida Governor Ron Desantis said removing Twitter would be a “huge, huge mistake and a really raw exercise of monopolistic power,” and would invite a congressional response. DeSantis then speculated that Apple’s purported threat was due to Musk’s decision to reinstate accounts that were “unfairly and illegally suspended for putting out accurate information about Covid.” Since last week, Twitter has stopped enforcing its policy on harmful misinformation about Covid-19.
Last year, Apple was engaged in a high-profile court battle with video games publisher Epic after the iPhone maker booted the popular game Fortnite from its App Store for trying to circumvent its rules on in-app payments. In September, a federal judge ruled that Apple must provide app makers with a way to make in-app payments beyond its own system which charges 30% from developers. The court, however, also ruled that Apple was not “an antitrust monopolist in the submarket for mobile gaming transactions.”
Twitter’s advertising losses are piling up (Platformer)