Damus Founder Now Expects Deplatforming From Apple App Store

Apple cited violation of its in-app purchase guidelines as the primary reason for the delisting, according to Damus founder William Casarin.

AccessTimeIconJun 26, 2023 at 11:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 27, 2023 at 7:04 p.m. UTC

Apple (AAPL) is expected to remove Damus – a Twitter-like app popular with bitcoiners – from the App Store on Tuesday, for reportedly violating the company’s in-app purchase guidelines.

The decision was tweeted out Monday by Damus founder William Casarin, who also confirmed the news to CoinDesk in an interview.

Damus is a decentralized social media platform that runs on the Nostr protocol, which is popular with bitcoiners partly because most implementations of it support payments over the blockchain's Lightning Network. (Nostr is an acronym for “notes and other stuff transmitted by relays.”)

The app went live in the App Store earlier this year, only to be threatened with delisting on June 13 because of “zaps” – a special Damus feature that allows users to send small amounts of bitcoin (BTC) over the Lightning Network to tip their favorite content creators, much like Twitter’s “tip” feature. Lightning is Bitcoin’s second layer payment network for cheaper and faster transactions.

“Two weeks ago, we identified a feature in the Damus app that allowed users to send a tip in connection with digital content in the app, which violates App Store Review Guidelines 3.1.1 and 3.2.1 (vii),” Apple told CoinDesk.

Casarin said that Apple wanted the zap button removed from all “notes” or content sections – a configuration Apple deems tantamount to selling digital content according to Casarin – although it was fine to have a zap button on user profiles.

“​​I had a call with Apple and they told me that they don't want zaps to be used for selling,” Casarin explained. “I thought one of the compromises we can do is we’ll actually remove all note zapping functionality.”

He said he modified the Damus interface such that zap buttons would still appear on notes, but the zaps themselves wouldn’t be associated with any notes and would only be sent and processed at the profile level. Casarin says Apple wasn’t satisfied with his compromise.

“I spent the last two weeks removing the ability for users to see zaps,” Casarin said. “I resubmitted it and they just gave the exact same response.”

Apple confirmed it had engaged Casarin and clearly explained to him how to resolve the issue.

“As we previously communicated to this developer, they were to address the issues we outlined to them by their next update,” Apple explained. “Upon receipt of their latest submission, we found the issues were unresolved and rejected their app.”

None other than former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appeared to criticize Apple's decision, arguing that "tips aren't unlocking content." Earlier this month, he had tweeted that a move by the tech giant to cut off Damus could restrict Bitcoin adoption and thwart the “one opportunity to build a truly global payment protocol for the Internet.”

Dorsey, who is now CEO of Bitcoin-focused financial services company Block (SQ), has donated millions towards the protocol’s development.

It’s unclear if the looming removal is simply a misunderstanding by Apple or part of a broader crackdown to restrict certain types of bitcoin-focused apps. On June 14, the company rejected an updated version of the non-custodial Lightning-enabled bitcoin wallet Zeus, but it was subsequently approved the next day.

“We review all apps against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers,” Apple said.

Casarin and others have criticized the company’s approval process, calling it “opaque.”

“The frustrating thing is that whenever you get feedback from Apple reviewers, they don't tell you specifically how you're breaking the guidelines,” Casarin said. “It's very frustrating. I think a lot of Bitcoin apps are at risk.”

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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Frederick  Munawa

Frederick Munawa was a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covered blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.

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