Decentralized social networking app Damus to be removed from App Store, will appeal decision


Damus, a decentralized social networking app backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, will be removed from the App Store due to Apple’s strict payment rules. Apple had threatened to remove Damus earlier this month over the app’s tips feature, claiming that it could be used by content creators to sell digital content on the platform.

The tech giant has a long history of prohibiting developers from selling additional in-app content unless the transactions go through Apple, which takes a 30% cut. To avoid a ban, the team behind Damus had to tweak the app’s tipping feature, which is made possible by way of Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. The company previously explained in a tweet that it had to remove the tips button from posts, and was only allowed to permit tips on profiles.

Despite the changes, Damus revealed on Monday that its app will be removed from the App Store. The company shared a screenshot of Apple’s review notes, which state that the app’s tips feature still does not comply with its guidelines. The tech giant wrote that “although tips or donations may be optional, if they are connected to or associated with receiving digital content, they must use in-app purchase in accordance” with its guidelines.

A spokesperson for Apple told TechCrunch in an email that the tech giant rejected the app upon receiving Damus’ latest submission, noting that the issues it had previously outlined were unresolved.

Damus plans to file an appeal to fight Apple’s decision.

“Looks like we are getting removed from the App Store even after updating our app to make it clear that no digital content is getting unlocked when users are tipped,” Damus wrote in a tweet. “Users are only ever tipped after posts are made, the idea that content is being sold is nonsense. We will be filing an appeal as this guideline is clearly being abused and misapplied.”

Last year, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey donated around $245,000 in bitcoin (then roughly 14 BTC) to fund the development of an open and decentralized social networking protocol known as Nostr, which is based on cryptographic key pairs. Damus is the first mobile app to leverage the protocol. Dorsey reacted to Apple’s decision in a tweet on Monday, outlining that “tips aren’t unlocking content.”

Damus hit the App Store in February and was one of many Twitter rivals to emerge following Elon Musk’s takeover of the social network, which had driven Twitter users to try out decentralized social networking services, like Mastodon.

The app’s promise is an open social network without a central authority that makes decisions about the network’s content or who’s allowed to participate, as Facebook or Twitter do. Damus has end-to-end encrypted messaging, and does not require users to sign up with a phone number, email, or name because of how the Nostr works.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that Damus has run into issues with Apple. Damus faced some issues when going through the app review process due to its decentralized nature, as Apple had kept asking the app to follow the same rules as any other social network, such as providing a way for users to flag objectionable content and having a policy that makes it clear that abuse is not allowed.

The company previously said the app had been rejected repeatedly, despite making changes to adhere to the tech giant’s guidelines. That changed in February, when the app was finally approved.

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