John Gruber wrote a commentary on a WSJ article about the effect of apps on the web.
Take that most essential of activities for e-commerce: accepting credit cards. When Amazon.com made its debut on the Web, it had to pay a few percentage points in transaction fees. But Apple takes 30% of every transaction conducted within an app sold through its app store, and “very few businesses in the world can withstand that haircut,” says Chris Dixon, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz.
As Gruber pointed out, this is a misconception that confuses in-app purchases with transactions made in the app.
That’s patently false. Even with Mims’s own example, Amazon. Just a few minutes before sitting down to write this piece, I used Amazon’s iPhone app — the one distributed through Apple’s App Store — to buy some stuff. I added items to my cart, signed in with my getting-close-to-two-decades-old Amazon account, and I was done. Apple won’t see one penny of that transaction. Not one.
If Amazon started using Apple Pay in their app, Apple would have gotten a fraction of a penny of each dollar I spent — but those pennies would have come from my credit card company, not Amazon.
Retailers who sell through native apps do not pay Apple anything, let alone 30 percent. What Apple charges 30 percent for are purchases for in-app digital content. I can’t buy Kindle books in the Kindle app, or Amazon MP3 music, because of this — but I can buy everything else from Amazon.
It makes sense for Apple to charge for in-app purchases because the digital content is delivered by Apple’s servers to the consumers. Apple does not earn a commission from in-app transactions that are not handled by Apple. In Mims’s example, Amazon is the one delivering the purchases to the customer, not Apple.
Mims rightly suggested that the web should be kept open.
The Web was intended to expose information. It was so devoted to sharing above all else that it didn’t include any way to pay for things — something some of its early architects regret to this day, since it forced the Web to survive on advertising.
But the irony of that, as Gruber pointed out, is, his article is published on a site with a pay wall.