Apple finally lets 'reader' apps like Netflix and Spotify link to their own sites

Apple finally lets ‘reader’ apps like Netflix and Spotify link to their own sites

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Apple lets reader apps link to their own sites
It's a start.
Image: Apple

Apple on Wednesday confirmed a significant change to its App Store policy that finally allows “reader” apps like Netflix and Spotify to link to their own websites for things like creating and managing accounts.

Until now, including an external link for this kind of purpose was prohibited, and would have resulted in App Store expulsion. That meant a poor user experience for a whole bunch of popular services on iPhone and iPad.

That’s finally changing, but of course, Apple plans to make it as complicated as possible for developers to enjoy it.

Apple relaxes rules for ‘reader’ apps

Apple faces growing criticism over its App Store policies, which developers, regulators, and lawmakers believe are unfair and unnecessarily strict. It is also being sued for supposedly exploiting App Store customers.

Every time a new threat to its existing App Store rules surfaces, Cupertino has fought hard to crush it without being forced into any changes. But it may be starting to accept (finally!) that App Store policy changes are needed.

Apple on Wednesday confirmed a significant change that will greatly improve the user experience inside countless “reader” apps. But in true Apple fashion, it is not making it easy for developers to take advantage of it.

‘External Link Account Entitlement’

Developers are not authorized to start implementing their own website links as they see fit. That would be too simple. Instead, they must apply for what Apple calls “External Link Account Entitlement.”

“This entitlement lets reader apps link to a website that is owned or maintained by the developer, so that users can create or manage their account outside of the app,” Apple explains. In other words, developers need approval in advance.

In addition, developers will also have to display a warning to users that explains they are being directed to an external site, and “will no longer be transacting with Apple.” They must also link to an Apple page that lays out the risks.

As for the external links themselves, they must open in a browser — not an in-app web view. And developers cannot include any text that mentions pricing.

It’s a start

Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction for the App Store. And it should — providing Apple’s approval process isn’t arbitrarily strict — make it a lot easier to manage accounts inside apps like Audible, Kindle, and many more.

Until now, users had to create accounts and purchase subscriptions for these services before downloading the native app on iPhone and iPad and signing in. Now they’ll be able to download the app first and get started from there.

Whether or not this change will make any difference to the likes of the EU, which is fighting for much bigger changes through its Digital Markets Act, remains to be seen.