Apple Gave Hulu Access to Special App Store APIs, Reveals Internal Emails

BY Sanuj Bhatia

Published 6 May 2021

tim cook defends app store monopoly

Apple’s unethical behavior towards different app developers has been the talk for quite some time now. A day after it was revealed that Apple struggled to ‘convince’ Netflix not to drop in-app purchase support, new documents have unveiled that Apple gave Hulu access to some special App Store APIs.

Epic Games vs Apple trial is in place now, and the documents being shared in the trial are giving us a look at what goes behind the scenes at Apple. Yesterday, a report claimed that Apple kicked Shadow game streaming service out of the App Store only to prove a point to Microsoft about its strict App Stores policies.

Today, some internal documents have revealed how Apple gives access to some private APIs to some of the special developers. ‌App Store‌ Vice President Matt Fischer was on the stand today when he was asked about the special access being given to Hulu. An email between Matt and Cindy Lin read:

“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.”

With access to the StoreKit API, Hulu was able to bypass App Store’s in-app purchasing system and switch users to Hulu’s billing system. This went on from 2015 to 2018 until when Apple realized Hulu was misusing the private API and took back the special access.

Fischer was also asked if Apple discriminates between developers and gives access to private APIs to some developers. To which, Fischer obviously said no, but he did say that Apple sometimes tests a feature with a small group of developers before providing it to all developers.

App Store has been under scrutiny for quite a while. Even though Apple ensures the ‘quality’ of the content available on the App Store, some developers have reported millions of dollars worth of scams running on it. Developers have long been criticizing Apple’s App Store policies, asking the company to give away its monopoly over iOS app distribution or implement a better system.