Brian Armstrong Apple hostile crypto
Cryptocurrencies,  Regulation

Coinbase CEO calls Apple ‘hostile’ to crypto

Brian Armstrong latest to criticize the tech giant for strict App Store rules, calling Apple ‘restrictive and hostile’ to crypto

The bad blood between Coinbase and Apple is showing no signs of abating.

In a tweet on Aug. 22, the exchange’s CEO Brian Armstrong claimed that the tech giant has been “very restrictive and hostile to cryptocurrency over the years.”

Apple’s hardline approach has ultimately meant that iPhone and iPad users have been unable to complete tasks in exchange for cryptocurrency—or benefit from unrestricted DApp browsers.

Tensions rise

Armstrong’s tweet was in response to criticism of Apple’s terms of service, which often limit developer freedom. RunKit founder Francisco Tolmasky had written:

“Remember: Apple’s iOS rules would not have allowed for the invention of the web browser. Let that sink in. They would have rejected one of the most important technical innovations in the history of computing. Microsoft’s bully tactic of making IE free seems quaint in comparison.”

Armstrong replied: “Apple has been very restrictive and hostile to cryptocurrency over the years. They’re still blocking some functionality right now, including the ability to earn money with cryptocurrency by completing tasks, and unrestricted dapp browsers.”

Coinbase has locked horns with Apple before. Last December, the company was forced to remove DApp browser functionality from its flagship Coinbase Wallet app, as it fell afoul of the App Store’s policies. At the time, Armstrong told a user on Reddit:

“This is really unfortunate to see. Apple seems to be eliminating usage of DApps from the App Store. If Apple customers want to be able to use DApps, we may need to make this request known to Apple in some way.”

He went on to describe DApps as an “important area of innovation in finance”—and set out the consequences for Apple’s policies. “Many developers and early adopters of this technology have millions of dollars’ worth of crypto tied up in these financial applications, which they will no longer be able to use on Apple mobile devices if this App Store policy continues,” he wrote.

Too big for its boots?

It is worth noting that Apple’s “our way or the highway approach” isn’t just alienating cryptocurrency businesses.

America’s most valuable company is currently embroiled in legal action after it removed the popular Fortnite game from its App Store—despite the fact that tens of millions of people play it. Epic Games, the app’s developer, had released a mechanism which meant it could be paid directly for in-game purchases—ultimately depriving Apple of its 30% cut. An antitrust lawsuit has now been filed by Epic against both Apple and Google, accusing the tech giants of engaging in monopolistic behavior.

And the journalism sector, which has been down on its luck for a number of years, is also demanding more favorable terms. A trade body that represents The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post recently wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook, railing against the commission these organizations have to pay when someone subscribes to their news outlet. These fees can be anywhere from 15% to 30%—eating into already thin razor-profit margins now advertising has been cannibalized by Facebook and Google.

Apple has gotten itself into a number of antitrust scrapes before. Back in June, the European Commission announced it had launched a formal investigation into whether current App Store rules are in violation of EU law—restricting developers from being able to inform iPhone users about cheaper purchasing possibilities.

Updated 2:00 pm on Sept. 18, 2020 to remove repeat.

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Connor Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.