Brian Armstrong, the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, has accused Apple of engaging in behavior similar to Microsoft’s anti-trust moves in the 90s.
Detailing how Apple is preventing Coinbase from listing decentralized finance (defi) dapps within its own app, Armstrong says and we quote fully:
“In the wake of other companies struggling with Apple’s App Store restrictions, I want to share a bit about Coinbase’s own struggle here.
Many companies are reluctant to speak out on these topics for fear of retaliation, but I feel like we need to continue the dialog in the open.
We’ve tried discussing this through regular channels with Apple, and I reached out directly to leadership to request a dialog, but we seem to be at a dead end.
Here is the issue. Apple has told us we cannot add the following functionality in our iOS apps: (1) the ability to earn money using cryptocurrency and (2) the ability to access decentralized finance apps (sometimes called DeFi apps or Dapps).
Why would Apple want to prevent people from earning money during a recession? They seem to not be ok with it, if it uses cryptocurrency. I’m not sure why. This is what our Coinbase Earn product does.
We sometimes end up in bizarre negotiations with them, modifying the product, and asking users to jump through hoops (do a task on mobile, then move to the web to claim your reward!) to comply with their guidelines. This creates a worse experience for Apple and Coinbase customers.
In addition to earning, they have told us that we cannot provide a list of decentralized apps (which are really just websites) to users on iOS.
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.
There are many unbanked and underbanked people in the world who have no ability to get a loan to buy a home, or start a business, so this kind of technology has enormous potential to improve the world over time, even if it is still early days.
So why is Apple making it more difficult for iOS customers to use Defi apps? They’ve told us “Your app offers cryptocurrency transactions in non-embedded software within the app, which is not appropriate for the App Store.”
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.
I feel like Apple customers should be made aware: the crypto apps you use on iOS are not missing some features you want because the teams haven’t gotten to them, those features are being censored by Apple.
I greatly admire Apple as a company, and think they build amazing products, but their restrictions on the app store, in particular around cryptocurrency, are not defensible in my view, and they are holding back progress in the world.
Apple also has a conflict of interest in applying these app store restrictions. While they are ostensibly designed to protect customers, it increasingly looks like they are also protecting Apple from competition.
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.
Apple, it’s time to stop stifling innovation in cryptocurrency. We would like to work with you productively on this. Some day, cryptocurrency could even be integrated into IAP to give people in emerging markets better access to the financial system globally.
Remember that small group of enthusiasts and misfits at the homebrew computer club who saw a glimpse of the future in the Apple II? Big ideas sometimes start off looking like toys.
That is exactly where Bitcoin was just a few short years ago, and a major transformation in financial services is now underway.
Recently Apple announced a way for developers to suggest updates to the App Store policies. Our team is planning to submit a formal request for Apple to allow its users to earn crypto and see a list of decentralized finance apps. We’ll keep you updated on what we hear back.”
Coinbase earn is a scheme where they give you a small amount, usually $20 but sometime as much as $100, to learn about a specific crypto and only after you pass a test.
The payment is made in the specific crypto you learn about with this being a way for Coinbase to educate the public and of course to potentially gain some customers.
As the payment is made in crypto rather than through Apple systems, the latter can’t get a cut, providing here an obvious conflict of interest.
For defi dapps it’s a bit more complex because in a way these are their own app store or perhaps better said, Coinbase is trying to create a dapp store within the app.
Status came up with that idea of having a dapp store, with Coinbase then kind of copying it. Apple now presumably finds that a bit of a threat because presumably they want people to use their app store rather than these dapp stores.
Hence specific dapp apps are listed, but apparently if you bundle them all into one app as Coinbase wants, then you get the Apple gestapo.
Unless we’re mistaken the app store is the only venue for iOS users, so Apple has total domination and control, which could potentially open them to anti-competitive investigations.
Europe in particular has been keen to do so, but the current US administration seems to consider that more a political matter than a matter of enforcing their own American laws which prohibit anti-competitive practices.
The $2 trillion Apple therefore now seems to be brazen about yielding their power at the expense of companies like Coinbase and their millions of users.