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Apple changes App Store rules to allow tips via in-app purchases, block custom review prompts

WeChat, which has some 938 million active accounts.

Addressing a recent controversy, Apple this week updated App Store rules to allow tipping functions — albeit with the company's usual 30 percent take from in-app transactions. Review pop-ups, meanwhile, must now make use of an official Apple API.

"Apps may use in-app purchase currencies to enable customers to 'tip' digital content providers in the app," the company's new guidelines read. Developers will have to decide whether to pass on the remaining 70 percent of the money or claim some of it for themselves.

Last month Apple began a crackdown on Chinese social networking apps like WeChat and Yinke, which were letting people send tips to streamers and others by way of external wallets. The company demanded that apps either switch to an in-app purchase model or disable tipping entirely.

The move drew criticism from some of the affected firms, in part because Apple doesn't provide any special service in tipping transactions, and because Chinese developers reportedly view tipping as different from sales, simply an act of appreciation for something already delivered.

The new policy could potentially make streaming more lucrative in some cases by removing gray areas and encouraging wider adoption of tipping. Host platforms, meanwhile, may try and use it as a new source of revenue.

A downside is that streamers could see their income cut by almost a third, unless they're able to convince viewers to spend extra on tips. "Star" streamers can sometimes earn hundreds or thousands of dollars every time they go on the air.


In another section of the guidelines, 1.1.7, Apple states that it's ending support for custom review prompts in favor of its standard API — introduced in iOS 10.3 — which lets people enter a rating and review without switching to the App Store.

Critically, the standardized pop-ups are limited to appearing three times per year, and won't show up again for at least a year if a rating is submitted. In iOS 11 people will in fact be able to turn off review prompts entirely, through a new "In-App Ratings & Reviews" option in the iTunes and App Store section of the iOS Settings app.

Developers often count on ratings and reviews to raise their profile in the App Store. Until now however some apps have been especially aggressive, triggering pop-ups several times a month or more.