Apple gave special App Store API access to Hulu and some other developers

Documents from the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple trial have revealed that  Apple had given special App Store API access to popular video streaming service Hulu. This access was related to StoreKit API and allowed Hulu to special subscription cancel/refund privileges that were not available to other developers.

App Store

Hulu got early access to an App Store API

As revealed from Apple’s internal emails, App Store Vice President Matt Fischer had emailed Apple Director of Program Management Cindy Lin, back in 2018, referring to a tweet by developer David Barnard, which spoke about how Hulu could switch its users from in-app purchases to its own billing, while others could not. Phil Schiller was also unaware of this change and wanted to know what was going on.

In response, Cindy Lin said that Hulu is in a list of developers that have special access to the subscription cancellation and refund API:

Hulu is part of the set of whitelisted developers with access to subscription cancel/refund API. Back in 2015 they were using this to support instant upgrade using a 2 family setup, before we had subscription upgrade/downgrade capabilities built in.

It is unclear which other developers were on that whitelist.

Matt Fischer was testifying in the court as part of the ongoing Epic Games v Apple trial and was asked if Apple gives special access to App Store features to select developers. Matt said no, and explained that Apple tests some features with a small group of developers before releasing them to all developers. This goes in line with Apple’s official statement that all developers have a level playing field in the App Store.

The testimony also revealed some other interesting information such as Apple’s support for in-app gifting that was part of a policy change due to a special request by Epic Games for Fortnite. This policy change was rolled out to all developers by Apple. Matt also said that Apple features competitor apps in the App Store all the time, a claim disputed by Epic Games.

Another interesting tidbit from the testimony was that Apple found Fornite’s Travis Scott concert a “really cool concept” and scrambled to ensure that it was promoted in the App Store.

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