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Those following us on Twitter already know that last week Apple rejected Instacast, a well-love podcatcher, over its Flattr integration. What does this mean for the future of Flattr inside applications for iPhone and iPad?
First, some history
Instacast introduced Flattr integration back in February (screencast of how it worked until now) and it quickly became a very popular way of flattring podcasts. We saw a definite uptick in daily volume and while Instacast hasn’t revealed the numbers themselves one indication of the power of the integration is to look at podcasts from the 5by5.tv network – without any promotion they clocked up thousands of flattrs largely thanks to Instacast.
On May 6 however Apple suddenly decided to reject an update to Instacast HD citing the following point in their App Store Review Guidelines:
21.2 The collection of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS
Apple recommended Vemedio (the maker of Instacast) to change the user flow and force the actual flattr to take place in Safari (a web browser). While technically doable it’s a big step back for the user experience, kills the auto-flattr feature and would reduce the number of flattrs happening. Apple itself acknowledges this:
We understand that directing your user outside of your app may not be the user experience you prefer to offer your users. However it is a common experience in a variety of iOS apps.
Unfortunately Apple decided not to take into account that Flattr deals with micropayments and as more apps integrate with it the jumping from app into Safari and back again, to do something that should be one-click action, becomes less than optimal.
Long story short
Both Vemedio and ourselves got in touch with Apple describing in detail how Flattr works, what it is (and isn’t), pointing at analogies (Spotify, Readability), and asked them to reconsider the decision.
Finally on May 24th Apple made a final ruling that even after some changes in Instacast Flattr was still not OK inside apps and to not hold up critical bug fixes any longer Vemedio complied, removed Flattr and got Instacast approved.
It’s not over till it’s over
Apple is notoriously secretive about its motives or what would be the compliant and best way of doing things that are sort of new – micropayments to content creators who’s stuff is available via a 3rd party application.
There are several avenues we continue to pursue to clarify further what Apple thinks is OK usage of Flattr inside apps in their AppStore.
* Vemedio will continue a dialog with Apple regarding their Flattr integration.
* We are updating our own iPhone app to test different ways of integration. That’s pretty much the only way to find out what Apple thinks is “right”.
* Martin Hering, the main guy at Vemedio, will also be attending Apple developer conference WWDC in June with the whole Flattr integration as one things on his agenda.
How can you help?
A friendly tweet to Martin will never go amiss, he (and his team) needs to know that he’s fighting a good fight. We’ve already seen tons of support on Twitter, really appreciate that and shows that you found it a super nice feature to have in a podcatcher.
Beyond that just keep flattring the excellent podcasts and their authors, that’s the biggest contribution you can do – as Flattr goes bigger it becomes easier for us to negotiate with different partners finding optimal ways of integrating into a wide variety of software and services.
Update: 21:45 London time
Wow, we’re overwhelmed by the response and support, thanks all. There’s some interesting discussion continuing on different angles of this story over at HackerNews thread, TechCrunch “Apple Rejects Apps Integrating Micro-Payments Service Flattr, Company Claims “It’s Not the End”” and TheNextWeb “Duh: Apple doesn’t want Flattr money flowing through its apps if it can’t take a cut”
Just one soundbite from the last article:
The rejection has nothing to do with quality or security, which are two things that are very important to Apple. No, this has to do with the fact that using the very disruptive service Flattr, apps can process micro-payments without Apple’s involvement. Basically, Apple isn’t getting a cut of the action.
But as one Flattr user cleverly points out on Twitter:
— Sebastian Kippe (@skddc) May 28, 2012