Elon Musk delays Twitter Blue launch again, this time to spite Apple

Twitter’s oft-delayed paid verification service is reportedly being postponed again, this time due to Elon Musk’s ongoing beef with Apple and how the Cupertino giant treats in-app purchases.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk had said Twitter Blue would relaunch this coming Friday, but the social media company is now postponing the launch as it tries to avoid paying Apple’s 30% cut of subscription revenue, reports Platformer, a newsletter from tech journalists Casey Newton and Zoe Schiffer.

Twitter’s bid to withhold Apple’s fee for purchases in the iOS app store coincides with Musk’s broadside against the iPhone maker, which he launched with a series of Tweets this week. On Monday, Musk claimed that Apple had pulled most of its ads from Twitter and had threatened to kick the social media network off the iOS app store.

When Twitter Blue finally launches, it’s expected to look different from what Musk initially proposed. The service will ask users to verify their phone number and cost $8, up a penny from the earlier $7.99 price, reports Platformer.

Neither Twitter nor Apple responded immediately to a request for comment. Twitter reportedly no longer has a communications department. Apple has not publicly acknowledged Musk’s claims.

Musk has complained about the 30% fee as part of his escalating feud with Apple. “Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?,” Musk tweeted on Monday.

In the technology world, the fee is hardly a secret. In fact, in trying to evade Apple’s cut of subscription revenue, Musk and Twitter join a lengthy battle between those who run smartphone app stores, like Apple and Google, and software developers, including big names like Meta and Spotify

Apple and Google take a cut of any in-app purchases that users make through their smartphone app stores, including subscriptions to services like Twitter Blue. The commission can be as high as 30%, though both Apple and Google have reduced the fee for smaller developers in recent years.

In 2020, Epic Games, the developers of the Fortnite video game, sued Apple, arguing the 30% cut—and the iPhone manufacturer’s rules to ensure developers paid it—were anti-competitive. 

In 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple had to allow developers to link to payment systems outside of the iOS app store, which would evade the 30% cut, but stopped short of declaring Apple a monopoly. Epic Games is appealing the ruling. 

Twitter could try to send its users to payment services outside of the iOS app store, a tactic that could keep the 30% cut of revenue in Twitter’s pocket rather than Apple’s.

The most recent delay of Twitter Blue is the latest setback for the service, which has been pushed back several times since its disastrous launch. 

Musk originally introduced the paid-verification service on Nov. 6. Immediately, some Twitter Blue subscribers impersonated the official accounts of companies like Eli Lilly, Lockheed Martin and Nintendo, sharing jokes and false information. Twitter quickly suspended the service.

Musk has not given a clear indication of when the service would return. The Twitter CEO first tweeted that the service would return on Nov. 29, but has since said that Twitter Blue was being “postponed indefinitely,” then would be launched on Dec. 2.

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