TikTok tests web coin purchases: Bypassing App Store fees?

TikTok, the popular short-form video app, has been accused of avoiding commission fees on tips by allowing users to purchase “coins” on the web instead of through in-app purchases.


Apple, which controls the iOS App Store, demands a 30% cut on all digital purchases made within apps on its devices, including in-app purchases like TikTok coins. This has been a point of contention for many developers, including TikTok, as it significantly reduces their potential revenue.

By offering an alternative way to buy coins on their website, TikTok may be able to bypass this commission and earn more revenue indirectly, but this raises questions about whether it is allowed within App Store guidelines.

Typically, developers are required to use in-app purchases for any digital goods or services offered within an app, including virtual currencies like TikTok coins. However, the concept of virtual tipping adds a complication to the equation.

TikTok coins

If Apple deems this a violation of their guidelines, consequences could range from mild to severe for TikTok:

  • Forced removal of the feature: Apple might require TikTok to remove the option to buy coins outside the app, effectively forcing users to go through the in-app purchase system and pay the commission. This could decrease user convenience and potentially decrease virtual gift income for creators.
  • Negotiation at the table: Another possibility is that both parties come to the table and negotiate a solution. This could involve a compromise on the commission structure or finding a way to accommodate virtual tipping within the in-app purchase framework.
  • No action (for now): While less likely, it’s also possible that Apple might choose to take no action, especially if the feature is currently limited to a small number of users. However, this wouldn’t address the underlying issue of how virtual tipping should be handled within the App Store model.

The alleged actions of TikTok in offering users the option to purchase coins on the web instead of through in-app purchases raise significant concerns regarding compliance with app store rules.

If TikTok is indeed circumventing commission fees, it could have far-reaching implications for the app ecosystem and user trust. Platforms and developers need to uphold transparency and adhere to the policies set forth by app stores to ensure a fair and sustainable digital marketplace.

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