In a surprising turn of events, Damus, the popular decentralized social networking app built on Nostr, is facing removal from Apple's App Store. Apple claims that Damus violates their guidelines by allowing users to send "tips" (zaps) associated with receiving content from digital content creators through a mechanism other than in-app purchase. This violation of Guideline 3.1.1 - Business - Payments - In-App Purchase has prompted Apple to take action, according to the message sent to Damus creator William Casarin.
The news comes at a critical time for Damus and its creator, who was set to give a talk at the Oslo Freedom Forum on how decentralized social networks, integrated with lightning technology, can bring financial freedom to the masses. The impending removal from the App Store raises concerns about the freedom to transact peer-to-peer on the platform and has broader implications for apps that rely on Lightning integration and value-for-value models on the app store.
In an official communication from Apple's App Review, Damus received notice that an update compliant with the App Store Review Guidelines must be submitted within 14 days to ensure the app's availability. Failure to comply within the given timeframe will result in the app being removed from sale. Additionally, if Damus is found to be out of compliance and rejected even after the 14-day period, it will remain unavailable until a compliant update is submitted, approved, and released.
The removal of Damus from the App Store would not only impact its current users but also affect external and internal testing through the TestFlight version. All public TestFlight links will cease to function if the app is taken down.
This development raises questions about the future of apps with Lightning integration and the potential limitations on peer-to-peer transactions on Apple's platform. It remains to be seen how Damus and its creator will respond to this setback and whether they can find a solution that aligns with Apple's guidelines while maintaining the core principles of decentralization and financial freedom.
One interesting note is that Twitter allows for “tips” through the Lightning Network if enabled on a profile, which many large accounts do have. It is unclear how this function differs from the zap feature within Damus, as both utilize Lightning and do not rely on in-app purchases.
In the face of uncertainty, Casarin expressed his concerns, stating, "If people can't transact freely p2p on their platform, this has huge implications for the entire ecosystem of apps with lightning integration and v4v." The statement reflects the gravity of the situation and the potential ramifications for the broader ecosystem of decentralized social networking apps.
In another note posted to Nostr, Casarin said that “Its been an honour zapping with y’all,” implying that the most likely next step is the removal of zaps in order to comply with the App Store regulations. Responses to the note expressed support and appreciation for the creation of the app, and hope that zaps will at some point return.
U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson released a statement on Twitter that read in part, “Permission-less peer-to-peer payments are essential to defending freedom.” In addition, Twitter Founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted at Apple CEO Tim Cook saying the function “has the capacity to bring people around the world into the economy without the traditional gatekeepers. Please reconsider @tim_cook.”