WordPress, a free website building tool used by millions, had its iOS app locked by Apple for not offering in-app purchases.
In a bizarre series of events, WordPress’ founding developer Matt Mullenweg took to Twitter to explain why the WordPress iOS app hadn’t received recent updates, noting it was “locked by [the] App Store.” To fix the problem, Mullenweg said WordPress had to “commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans.” Mullenweg indicated on Twitter that the issue seems to stem over confusion about WordPress and WordPress.com, the open-source platform for building websites and the subscription business.
Heads up on why @WordPressiOS updates have been absent… we were locked by App Store. To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans. I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions. Allow others IAP? New name?
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 21, 2020
WordPress on iOS is a free app and part of the open-source platform — Mullenweg says that’s why it’s called ‘WordPress’ and not ‘WordPress.com.’ The app doesn’t offer in-app purchases. Separately, the WordPress.com website sells domain names and fancier website packages. The Verge and Stratechery’s Ben Thompson both double-checked and confirmed that the WordPress iOS app doesn’t sell anything. All it does is let users make a free website. Further, there’s no option to buy a unique dot-com or dot-blog domain from the app. Instead, it assigns users the standard free WordPress domain name and 3GB of space.
The Verge says Apple confirmed that it’s involved, and the company said it requires in-app purchases whenever apps “allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site [sic].” You can view the relevant App Store guideline, number 3.1.3(b), here. However, the WordPress app doesn’t sell anything itself and The Verge says it appears users can’t do anything special with anything purchased from the WordPress website other than upload additional files or select different site themes.
To be clear, the app doesn’t sell anything, and why would it? It’s an open source project. Apple is requiring the addition of functionality that has no plausible reason to exist.
— Ben Thompson (@benthompson) August 21, 2020
Mullenweg acknowledged a roundabout way for iOS users to find out about WordPress’ paid tiers existed in the app, but when he offered to prevent iOS users from seeing those pages, Apple refused. The WordPress developer went on to explain that he wasn’t going to fight it anymore and plans to add brand-new in-app purchases for WordPress’ paid tiers, which include domain names, within 30 days. Apple also agreed to allow updates for WordPress while it waits for the addition of in-app purchases.
There are a few convoluted ways you can get to our web app from within previews, documentation, etc. We offered to block based on user agent server-side, but that was not deemed sufficient.
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 21, 2020
WordPress is the latest to butt heads with Apple over App Store policies
The Verge summarizes the WordPress ordeal succinctly as “Apple won.” The company, now one of the richest in the world, successfully bullied an app developer into adding in-app purchases using Apple’s payment processing system so it could take 30 percent of the revenue.
Although Apple is in the process of defending its App Store rules and practices, both in the public space and legally as it battles a lawsuit from Fortnite-creator Epic Games, the California-based company seems content to dig itself a deeper hole. WordPress is far from the only developer to speak out about Apple’s App Store practices. Over the last several months, a clear pattern has emerged of Apple using its control over the App Store and iOS platform, as well as its restrictive App Store policies, to force developers to do things like adding in-app purchases.
Worse, others have accused Apple of applying these policies unequally. Epic Games said Apple allowed some apps to use direct payment methods despite the company banning Fortnite for doing the same. A group of news publishers recently petitioned Apple for a similar deal to the one it gave Amazon. In a congressional hearing earlier this year, emails surfaced showing that Apple offered Amazon a reduced revenue share offer to get its Prime Video streaming app on the App Store. Apple CEO Tim Cook told congress that deal was available to all developers who met the conditions, but the company has yet to make those conditions public. Apple also criticized Epic CEO Tim Sweeney for seeking a deal with the company over App Store guidelines even though it has a history of cutting such deals.
The easy response is to say that these developers broke the App Store rules and that they’re at fault for the consequences. However, that argument oversimplifies the issue. At the core, the problem is the rules themselves, and how Apple applies them, not whether developers broke them.
ZeniMax's 'Orion,' and how it will boost Microsoft's Xbox xCloud streaming tech – Windows Central
Microsoft shook the industry this week when it revealed its $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, which gives it the rights to legendary IP like The Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Fallout, and all of the talented studios known for making these epic, lasting experiences. One of the biggest criticisms of Xbox since practically forever has been the quality of its internal portfolio, which leaned incredibly heavily on Halo as its primary exclusive offering. With ZeniMax under its belt, that narrative is well and truly shattered — but there’s another vastly important aspect to this acquisition that is being overlooked.
At its 2019 E3 showcase, Bethesda revealed Orion, its patented cloud streaming SDK, which it says its easy to integrate into existing games. Bethesda claims Orion allows games to run at “max settings” with minimal bandwidth usage, even if you live far away from a data center. To demonstrate these claims, Bethesda and id Software who are leading development of this SDK, demonstrated DOOM 2016 at 4K 60 frames per second, running on a smartphone. We’ve uploaded the presentation clip so you can take a look below.
Microsoft’s own streaming tech Project xCloud is potent in of its own right, but it only streams at 720p, up to 30 FPS, and even then, most of the time you can feel the latency. While this makes it perfectly usable for turn-based experiences and games that don’t require pinpoint precision, like brawlers maybe, 3D shooters do suffer a fair bit unless you’re in absolutely optimal conditions.
This could be a shot of adrenaline Project xCloud needs
Some of the biggest barriers to xCloud isn’t necessarily the speed of your network, but the conditions too, namely 5GHz WiFi, or high-quality 5G (with a compatible smartphone). Bethesda’s Orion demo showcases DOOM 2016 running at 4K, with 60 frames per second, with “no perceptible latency,” which is most likely the ideal end-goal of Microsoft’s xCloud tech for Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming.
If it truly works as Bethesda describes, this could be a shot of adrenaline Project xCloud needs to propel the user experience into meetings Xbox lead Phil Spencer’s vision of “console-quality” game streaming. The patents associated with this technology and the sole rights to distribution to the SDK will give Microsoft’s xCloud another big leap over Google Stadia.
Stadia is struggling to catch up on the basics right now — namely content — even if they have the technology and server infrastructure down. The acquisition shows that Microsoft isn’t complacent to the idea that one day, Google or one of Microsoft’s other competitors could pull ahead in this space.
It all just further slams home that ZeniMax was a perfect acquisition for Microsoft, with almost every aspect of the operation fitting nicely into Microsoft’s wider goals for its gaming division in 2021 and beyond. You can try Project xCloud gaming for yourself right now on an Android device, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Today’s the day
Experience next-gen gaming for less.
Microsoft serves the next-generation for less with its budget-friendly Xbox Series S. The console packs the same high-performance CPU and SSD technology as Xbox Series X, while scaling back the GPU and removing the disc drive.
The full next-generation experience.
Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s new flagship, as its most powerful console with over 12TF GPU performance and a custom SSD. It boasts up to 4K resolution and 120 FPS, full backward compatibility across four generations, and ray-tracing support.
PS5 and Xbox Series X pre-orders are a disaster — what to do now – Tom's Guide
For those who haven’t followed the whole debacle, the PS5 pre-order process went so poorly that Sony had to publicly apologize for it. Microsoft promised that similar difficulties would not beset the Xbox Series X — but then, of course, they did.
Essentially, if you tried to pre-order a next-gen console, there’s an excellent chance that you didn’t get one. And even if you did, you may find yourself with an order that’s delayed, at best, or canceled, at worst. If you want a PS5 or Xbox Series X, it feels increasingly like you’d have a better experience just waltzing into a store in mid-November and trying your luck.
Let’s break down what went wrong with both pre-order processes — and dispense some advice for those who didn’t manage to score a new system. While we can’t guarantee anything, there’s still plenty of time between now and November to turn your luck around.
The PS5 pre-order process got off to a rocky start when Sony elected not to share any information about it during the PS5 September showcase. Right after we got a price and release date for the PS5, the livestream ended, and fans assumed that was that — until Sony hopped on Twitter and casually mentioned that pre-orders would begin at “select retailers” the next day.
“The next day” meant “a few hours later,” as some retailers began selling the devices right away. Some retailers were sold out of pre-orders before September 16 was over; some waited until midnight on September 17; some didn’t start until later that morning, or in the afternoon. Consoles went in and out of stock for hours on end. Some websites wouldn’t load; others crashed when people attempted to check out.
In short: It was a mess, and there wasn’t much that buyers could do except click and pray.
Our head of testing, Matthew Murray, was one of the unhappy customers. While Tom’s Guide usually receives review consoles from Microsoft and Sony, we also buy our own units, since we need consoles for office use, as well as home testing. It may comfort you to know that our luck has been no better than yours.
“Let’s just say it was chaotic,” Murray told me via Slack. “It was just like everything sold out right away, not like the websites wouldn’t even work.”
Even if you managed to procure a PS5, your woes may not be over. Even after going through the checkout process, many customers learned that their orders weren’t processed properly, and they wouldn’t be getting PS5s at all. Others received e-mails that their orders went through, but there was no guarantee of a November 12 shipping date. There was no guaranteed date at all, in fact — it’s entirely possible that these customers will be waiting until January.
Sony put up a frank apology tweet on September 19, promising that more PS5 stock would become available between now and the end of the year. While that’s probably true, it doesn’t give us any indication of how PS5 pre-orders might proceed from here.
After a frustrating day of stymied pre-orders, Murray — like many other customers — threw his hands up and reassured himself that the Xbox pre-orders would be a smoother process.
Xbox Series X pre-orders
On its surface, it seemed like Microsoft had a plan in place for Xbox Series X pre-orders. Shortly after the company announced the Xbox Series X’s price and release date, it let buyers know that pre-orders would begin on September 22. After that, it filled in the blanks about participating retailers, time of day and so forth. While there would still be a rush, at least both users and websites knew what to expect, and when.
Even so, many — if not most — potential pre-order customers left empty-handed.
“All of the websites were overloaded in one way or another, and all gave us bizarre error messages and problems,” said Murray. “On Target, the ‘pre-order’ button just didn’t work. Best Buy would claim the item was available, but not add it to your cart. The Microsoft Store took ages to let me add [the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S] to my cart, and when it eventually did, it wouldn’t accept my payment information.”
Both Walmart and Sam’s Club (which are owned by the same company) let Murray add the systems to his cart, then immediately deleted them. GameStop crashed. Amazon gave him a litany of error screens for the Xbox Series X; it didn’t seem to have the Xbox Series S available at all.
Between crashed websites, empty shopping carts and missing products, Xbox customers had plenty of problems to worry about. But, as with the PS5 pre-orders, the issues didn’t stop there. Many customers put orders through, but have yet to receive confirmation e-mails. By this time tomorrow, we expect cancellation e-mails to make the rounds, as well as “we cannot guarantee delivery on November 10” e-mails.
The situation wasn’t much better in person, where certain GameStops could confirm fewer than 10 pre-orders.
In short, the Xbox Series X pre-order process had an orderly plan, and a chaotic execution. Whether this is better or worse than Sony’s “chaotic plan, chaotic execution” depends entirely on your perspective — and whether you wanted a PS5 or an Xbox Series X.
How to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X now
While there’s some catharsis in bemoaning a broken pre-order system, it’s not a very practical activity. Instead, let’s take some time to figure out next steps for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to score a console during the first round of pre-orders.
Murray gave me this advice:
“I’m going to keep trying to get the systems I’m looking for,” he said. “Be patient, keep trying and try to follow when preorders are likely to start again. I think eventually there will be enough to go around, but whether everyone will get them by launch day, I don’t know.”
“Be patient and keep trying” may sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it often works. Sony and Microsoft both plan to release additional stock between now and mid-November, and retail websites will work a lot mor smoothly when they’re not slammed with a pre-order rush. I’ve personally found that mid-morning and mid-afternoon are good times to check stock: 10 AM and 2 PM ET, respectively, but there’s no secret to it. Retailers restock whenever they can, and sometimes it’s just a matter of clicking on the right website at the right time.
Failing that, console manufacturers don’t generally sell through their entire stocks during pre-orders, as they need to put products on store shelves, too. While you may just be trading one type of chaos for another, you could always try your luck at retail stores — but I wouldn’t do so on November 10 or 12. Give it a week or so, and wait until the second wave of consoles starts trickling in. By that time, the initial rush has died down, and you can often find a single console hiding on a store shelf in a small outlet somewhere.
I wouldn’t recommend turning to eBay. For one thing, you’ll pay at least twice what a system is worth; for another, you’ll be rewarding scalpers, who make the buying experience worse for everyone. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll receive a brand-new, functioning console instead of, say, an old car battery, or nothing at all.
My final recommendation is a little different: Don’t pre-order a console, or scramble to get one on launch day. This may seem a little counterintuitive, but it’s been my personal practice for the last three console generations, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. The vast majority of PS5 and Xbox Series X launch games will be available on the PS4 or Xbox One. That means you’ll have plenty to play between now and January. And come late January (maybe even earlier), consoles will be a dime a dozen and whatever retailer you frequent, free from cumbersome, expensive bundles or obnoxious website malfunctions.
Being patient is your best strategy, particularly since many current-gen games you buy this year will get free next-gen upgrades whenever you find a new console. Your friends may have shiny new consoles before you, but you’ll have your sanity intact, which is arguably worth a lot more.
Microsoft is pausing Xbox Design Lab on October 14th, before you get to unwrap your Series X – The Verge
If you are planning to design your very own Xbox controller ahead of the Xbox Series X and S launch on November 10th, you might want to act fast. Microsoft is temporarily shutting down its Xbox Design Lab on October 14th.
Announced back in 2016, Xbox Design Lab brings a lot of flexibility and personal flair to the Xbox One controller. For $80, you have access to over 40 different color options for the various parts of the controller, adding up to over a million different combinations in total.
A couple years ago, I designed one for a close friend and was amazed how much customization I could do; it didn’t feel like I was just creating another color variant, but a truly unique personalized product. My friend loved it, telling me they thought I’d bought a rare controller online.
But starting October 14th until sometime in 2021, Microsoft says the service will be “offline temporarily so that we can bring you some updates.” The company didn’t say why or exactly when in 2021 the service will be back online, but it’s likely that Microsoft is preparing to expand the service to include customization features for the new Xbox controller.
Unlike the PS5’s DualSense controller, which strays away from the design of the DualShock series in terms of design and color scheme, the new Xbox Series X and S controller has a pretty familiar design. Microsoft says the controller’s “size and shape have been refined to accommodate an even wider range of people,” which makes it slightly smaller than its predecessor. The new Xbox controller also includes a redesigned D-Pad and a dedicated share button.
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