Apple was being sneaky by purchasing Google ads for high-profile subscription apps on the App Store in order to direct web searchers away from the developers’ websites, where users could purchase commission-free subscriptions, which would reduce Apple’s cut of App Store revenue. Some companies accused Apple of placing the ads without their consent and said Google wouldn’t allow them to be deleted.
Apple, which doesn’t typically respond to reports of this nature, this time came out swinging against these complaints.
The company said it does not buy these ads in secret, but rather has been placing ads for over five years and communicates with developers about those ads. In addition, Apple said there’s nothing nefarious about its doing so. The company explained that retailers generally do buy ads for products they sell.
That is, when you search for something like a winter jacket on Google, you’ll find ads from a variety of retailers selling the coat, in addition to (or instead of) ads placed by the jacket’s manufacturer. This is how online retail works, and Apple doesn’t think its ads are any different. Apple said it currently runs ads to promote more than 100 top third-party apps across ad platforms on Google, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter.
Forbes’ report said impacted applications included Babbel, Bumble, HBO, MasterClass, Plenty of Fish and Tinder.
The report may have mischaracterized the situation, but it’s an incredible example of how bad the relationship has become between Apple and its developer community. In previous years, developers would have welcomed free advertising that drove new customers to their apps — now even that is considered a threat by some. Apple, however, contended the situation represented by the Forbes piece is not how most developers feel.