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Coinbase CEO says App Store policies stifle innovation in cryptocurrency

Brian Armstrong, CEO of digital currency exchange Coinbase, on Friday made an argument that Apple's App Store regulations stifle innovation in the cryptocurrency space.

Detailed in a Twitter thread, Armstrong's assessment of current App Store policy targets Apple's numerous and specific restrictions on digital currency handling.

As it pertains to Coinbase, which markets an iOS app, the rules disallow the company from earning money using cryptocurrency and accessing decentralized finance apps. The latter limitation is of particular interest to the wider cryptocurrency segment, according to Armstrong.

"DeFi and Dapps are a major area of innovation in financial services that has seen rapid growth lately. They let people get access to a global credit market to get a loan or earn interest, for instance," Armstrong said in a tweet. "Dapps or DeFi apps are fundamentally just websites that you can access through any browser. So Apple is essentially saying you can't provide users with a list of websites they can visit through an app."

He goes on to note the potential impact Dapps and DeFi apps have on emerging markets and, more pointedly, underserved communities. The technology can, for example, provide an alternative source of funding and loans in parts of the world where banks are not available or otherwise inaccessible.

For Armstrong, Apple's rules on cryptocurrency smack of anticompetitive strategies Microsoft employed — pushing Windows users to Internet Explorer — more than 20 years ago. Those tactics led to government scrutiny and an antitrust case that initially sought to break up the software monolith.

"Forcing users to use the App Store instead of Dapps (websites), or IAP instead of crypto payments, reminds me of what Microsoft did back in the day (forcing users to use IE if you were on Windows) which led to all their antitrust issues," Armstrongs says.

Armstrong points out that many cryptocurrency apps are missing features because they are being "censored" by Apple.

The Coinbase CEO plans to submit a formal challenge to Apple's App Store guidelines under a new review process the tech giant announced in June.

Today's Twitter thread on App Store cryptocurrency restrictions arrives amid heated debate over Apple's handling of third-party apps. A number of developers have openly criticized the company over its revenue sharing policies. In August, Epic Games filed a private antitrust suit against Apple over App Store fees and restrictions barring third-party app stores, while an ongoing U.S. congressional investigation seeks to determine whether the tech giant breached antitrust laws.