iOS Users Will Miss Out on Facebook’s Latest App Feature

When thinking of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world, Facebook and Apple will undoubtedly spring to mind. For that reason alone, it is always somewhat interesting when these two industry giants end up butting heads, as has apparently happened in regards to Facebook’s latest addition, which will not be available to iOS users on launch.

The addition is question is Facebook’s planned content subscription service, which would give users access to premium content from trusted publishers such as the Washington Post, Hearst, and Tronc, all from within Facebook’s own app. Rather laudably they also plan to offer this service for free, taking nothing off the top and instead passing all generated revenue on to the publishers themselves. Apple, however, are refusing to bow to this demand.

Instead, Apple wants to take as much as 30% of all revenue generated via the subscription service. This is in accordance with their existing policies regarding apps uploaded to their platform; however to the average consumer this news will likely carry the stench of shameless money-grabbing practices on Apple’s part.

The tool - which will be integrated into Facebook’s existing ‘Instant Articles’ feature - will present publishers with two different paywall options: the first, dubbed the ‘metered’ version, will allow users to view up to 10 articles per month from an individual publication before they are asked to subscribe for continued access; the second, described as the ‘freemium’ system, will allow publishers to set up paywalls around specific articles.

While Facebook will in fact be directing users onto the publishers’ own websites in order to sign up to these subscriptions, the service still falls foul of Apple’s rules regarding in-app purchases as the transaction is initiated within the Facebook app itself; the fact that users are then redirected to an external site is, as far as Apple are concerned, entirely irrelevant. From a business point of view such policies make sense, as they prevent the developers of other major apps and platforms such as Spotify or Amazon from simply posting a message telling users to sign up via their own website, thereby bypassing the 30% fee administered by Apple.

Industry insiders assert that Google however have no such plans to take any kind of cut from the service on Android systems, and will allow the service to be offered on their own platform without expecting a monetary incentive.

Neither Apple nor Facebook have commented on the ongoing dispute; however Campbell Brown, the former journalist recruited by Facebook to work alongside news publishers in the creation of new content-orientated functionality, did offer the following clarification to Recode regarding the subscription service itself:

“We know subscriptions are an important business model for many in the news industry, that’s why we’ve been working hand-in-hand with publishers to create a product that will drive real value for them. We’re committed to this effort and optimistic that we’ll launch a test on all mobile platforms soon.”

Until such a time as the current disagreement is ironed out however, if such a time does come at all, iOS users will have simply have to do without the new service. Given how much of their market makes use of Apple devices however, Facebook are sure to want to bring the subscription model to iOS as soon as possible; we will try to keep you updated as news emerges.

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