Apple announced today it will begin allowing select publishers to waive the membership fees associated with its App Developer Program. Specifically, the new fee waivers will be offered to “nonprofit organizations, accredited educational institutions, and government entities,” says Apple. For starters, the waivers will be available in the U.S., but the company had said in December it plans to make them available to more markets over time.
This change originally came about due to the uproar over Apple’s new App Store policies, which banned templated-based apps from the store. The move has drastically impacted small businesses, schools, nonprofits and other organizations from being able to effectively and affordably conduct business on the App Store.
In its revised App Store developer guidelines, Apple had said it would reject any apps created from “a commercialized template or app generation service.”
Unfortunately for the small players in this space, templates and third-party services are often how they enter the App Store. They generally don’t have the resources or in-house developer talent to create a custom app from scratch, as Apple would prefer.
After developer outcry, media coverage (like ours), and attention from Congress, Apple made a revision to the guidelines to lessen the blow. To be clear, the company still wants nothing to do with templated apps. Instead, it thinks apps should offer something more than what you could access on the mobile web – they should be a different, unique experience.
This position makes sense in terms of removing the “clutter” from the App Store and sets a quality bar for developers to meet, which in turn ensures a quality experience for consumers. But it also ignores the fact that apps are the primary way mobile users access the internet. For example, 2017 data from Flurry showed that mobile browser usage dropped from 20 percent in 2013 to just 8 percent in 2016, with the rest of mobile users’ time spent in apps.
To help make its demands for “un-templated” apps more palatable, Apple rewrote the guidelines to carve out exceptions and clarify things further. It said that apps with a “picker” model (like a restaurant finder) were still acceptable. And it said that app template providers were no longer allowed to submit apps on behalf of their small business clients or other organizations – like nonprofits, schools, and government entities.
To make sure Apple wasn’t unduly impacting this non-business customer base, Apple said it would begin waiving the $99 Apple Developer Program membership fee in “early 2018.” That day has now arrived.
To have the fee waived, qualifying organizations and institutions can submit a fee waiver, after they’ve enrolled in the developer program (if they hadn’t already). The fee waiver will request information that includes the EIN/tax ID issued by the IRS, the Apple ID, and the organization’s D‑U‑N‑S Number (to verify its identity and legal status).
Apple says the organization must also be a legal entity – it will not accept DBAs, fictitious businesses, trade names, or branches. This is, in part, because Apple was concerned about how the app templating providers were submitting apps on behalf of clients. That meant the businesses whose apps were in the App Store weren’t actually reading through Apple’s terms or binding themselves in legal agreements.
In addition, Apple says the person enrolling the app into the developer program must also have the legal authority to do so. That is, they need to be the organization’s owner/founder, executive team member, senior project lead, or have legal authority granted to you by a senior employee, says Apple. Again, this is because Apple wants to establish a direct relationship with all its app publishers.
The fee waiver is available to existing organizations whose apps are already live, too. This will allow them to waive the fee when it comes up for annual renewal going forward. However, no refunds – full or partial – will be offered, says Apple.