Facebook skirts Apple’s App Store fees with custom subscription links for creators

Facebook has found a way to skirt Apple’s 30 percent tax on in-app transactions.

On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook parent company Meta, announced that creators will soon be able to share custom web links directing their fans to pay them for subscriptions using Facebook’s native payments system. If a fan signs up through the link rather than Apple’s in-app subscription, the creator will keep all of the money minus taxes. Facebook subscription feature, which lets creators charge on a reoccurring basis for access to exclusive content, is available in 27 countries and accessible to creators who meet certain eligibility requirements.

Facebook is operating in a gray zone under Apple’s rules for the App Store, though a spokesperson said the social network believes its approach has always been allowed on iOS. The App Store currently forbids iOS apps from offering alternative payment options for purchasing digital goods, but in this case, it’s the creator, not Facebook, the app developer, that will be sending people to pay for a subscription on the web. The spokesperson for Facebook confirmed the social network isn’t removing the ability for users to sign up for a creator subscription using Apple’s native payments system.

“As we build for the metaverse, we’re focused on unlocking opportunities for creators to make money from their work,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. “The 30 percent fees that Apple takes on transactions make it harder to do that, so we’re updating our Subscriptions product so now creators can earn more.”

In addition to not collecting a cut of subscription transactions until at least 2023, Facebook will start paying creators a bonus of between $5 and $20 for every new subscriber they add, regardless if they pay through the custom web link or through Apple and Google’s systems. An earnings calculator will show creators on Facebook a breakdown of their earnings and fees, including how much they pay to Apple and Google. And starting in December, Facebook creators will be able to download the emails of their subscribers directly from the company.

Facebook is taking advantage of cracks that are starting to show in Apple’s grip on iOS app payments. Apple recently settled a lawsuit with developers by agreeing to let them directly email customers about alternative payment options and is facing even more restrictions after its high-profile lawsuit with Epic Games. At the close of that case, the judge ordered Apple to allow developers to link to outside payment methods, giving the company until December 9th to comply. Apple has asked for a stay while the ruling is appealed, but the judge has yet to rule on the stay.