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Jobs' Mob robbing meditation gurus

by on23 February 2024

Nevermind Nervana, give us 30 per cent of your rice bowl

Fruity cargo cult Apple has been bullying the maker of a meditation app and demanding that a third of the donations given to its teachers be handed over to keep the company wealthy.

Insight Timer uses a digital donations feature that lets its teachers collect "tips" from their user profiles and during live events.

It was all above board; Apple agreed that teachers who use his app to reach their students shouldn't have to fork over a third of their income to Jobs' Mob.

After Jobs' Mob eased its rules on in-app donations in 2022,. Jobs' Mob checked the app and gave it the green light on the App Store.

However, now it seems that the big tech bully has changed its mind- it wants to grab a commission from this content, and Insight Timer has to play ball or shut its iOS business down.

In section 3.2.1 of Jobs' Mob's App Review guidelines, the company says that apps can dodge Jobs' Mob's in-app purchase if the app lets individual users "give a cash gift to another individual" and "100 per cent of the funds" go to the receiver of the gift.

Insight Timer used this option to let its users tip meditation teachers, healers, musicians, and others who use its app to teach classes on meditation, managing stress, finding happiness or spiritual enlightenment, and more.

The company was set up using Stripe as the payment provider on the back end, as the rule allows. Users can donate funds to the teacher, but they don't have to. Insight Timer's primary business is selling posh subscriptions to its app, offering extra features, like offline listening, journaling, and unlimited course access.

Half of this revenue is shared with the teachers, so they don't have to depend on donations to fund their work. While the commission-free donations feature was live, Insight Timer's users donated about £70,000 monthly to the app's teachers.

Jobs' Mob seemed happy and approved 47 more updates to Insight Timer's app over a year. When a question came up, Insight Timer said that these were donations -- it doesn't take a slice of that revenue -- and Jobs' Mob would approve the app.

Then, late last year, those approvals stopped. An app reviewer told Insight Timer that these donations were no longer cash gifts -- they were now "digital content." That meant they were also now subject to Jobs' Mob's commissions.

This decision doesn't hurt Insight Timer's profits, as the app's primary business is subscriptions. Instead, it hurts the community of teachers who make extra funds from users' donations. Now, with Jobs' Mob demanding a third of that revenue, the teachers are getting a third of a pay cut overnight.

Insight CEO Christopher Plowman went back and forth with Jobs' Mob over this feature, trying to understand why Jobs' Mob had allowed the donations option -- 47 times! -- was now subject to commission.

Jobs' Mob gave in and said it would allow the donations' link on teachers' profiles to be subject to its commission-free rules. Still, all other contributions- from live events and meditations- had to be commissioned.

It wouldn't let those links point to the donation link on the teachers' profiles, either.

"I was like, well, what's the point of building an ice cream stand across the road if you won't let the customers cross the road to buy the ice cream?" Plowman argued.

In the end, the two parties didn't reach any deal. Plowman was given until February to follow Jobs' Mob's decision, or his business would be kicked out of the App Store.


Last modified on 23 February 2024
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