Many companies are reluctant to speak out on these topics for fear of retaliation, but Coinbase feel like they need to continue the dialog in the open. Coinbase has tried discussing this through regular channels with Apple, and Coinbase reached out directly to leadership to request a dialog, but they seem to be at a dead end.
Here is the issue. Apple has told Coinbase they cannot add the following functionality in our iOS apps: (1) the ability to earn money using cryptocurrency and (2) the ability to access decentralized finance apps (sometimes called DeFi apps or Dapps).
Why would Apple want to prevent people from earning money during a recession? They seem to not be ok with it, if it uses cryptocurrency. I’m not sure why. This is what our Coinbase Earn product does. they sometimes end up in bizarre negotiations with them, modifying the product, and asking users to jump through hoops (do a task on mobile, then move to the web to claim your reward!) to comply with their guidelines. This creates a worse experience for Apple and Coinbase customers.
In addition to earning, they have told Coinbase that they cannot provide a list of decentralized apps (which are really just websites) to users on iOS. DeFi and Dapps are a major area of innovation in financial services that has seen rapid growth lately. They let people get access to a global credit market to get a loan or earn interest, for instance.
There are many unbanked and underbanked people in the world who have no ability to get a loan to buy a home, or start a business, so this kind of technology has enormous potential to improve the world over time, even if it is still early days.
So why is Apple making it more difficult for iOS customers to use Defi apps? They’ve told Coinbase “Your app offers cryptocurrency transactions in non-embedded software within the app, which is not appropriate for the App Store.” Dapps or DeFi apps are fundamentally just websites that you can access through any browser. So Apple is essentially saying you can’t provide users with a list of websites they can visit through an app.
Coinbase feel like Apple customers should be made aware: the crypto apps you use on iOS are not missing some features you want because the teams haven’t gotten to them, those features are being censored by Apple.
Coinbase greatly admire Apple as a company, and think they build amazing products, but their restrictions on the app store, in particular around cryptocurrency, are not defensible in my view, and they are holding back progress in the world. Apple also has a conflict of interest in applying these app store restrictions. While they are ostensibly designed to protect customers, it increasingly looks like they are also protecting Apple from competition.
Forcing users to use the App Store instead of Dapps (websites), or IAP instead of crypto payments, reminds me of what Microsoft did back in the day (forcing users to use IE if you were on Windows) which led to all their antitrust issues. Apple, it’s time to stop stifling innovation in cryptocurrency. they would like to work with you productively on this. Some day, cryptocurrency could even be integrated into IAP to give people in emerging markets better access to the financial system globally.
Remember that small group of enthusiasts and misfits at the homebrew computer club who saw a glimpse of the future in the Apple II? Big ideas sometimes start off looking like toys. That is exactly where Bitcoin was just a few short years ago, and a major transformation in financial services is now underway.
Recently Apple announced a way for developers to suggest updates to the App Store policies. Our team is planning to submit a formal request for Apple to allow its users to earn crypto and see a list of decentralized finance apps. We’ll keep you updated on what they hear back.