Apple, Inc. (AAPL) this week pulled Blockchain from its app store, creating a growing controversy.
Blockchain is a developer that makes a wallet/trading app for the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s basis is the SHA-256d hash; you “own” Bitcoins via proof of work.
Introduced in 2008 by a programmer or group of programmers using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, the Bitcoin was the first of its kind, turning the science fiction fantasy of a decentralized, encryption-based global currency into reality.
Despite recent largely overstated and misinformed controversy over illegal uses of the Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency is the foundation of a generally credible and secure global digital payment network. While other cryptocurrencies have since emerged, Bitcoin remains the most prominent with a market value of over $10B USD. Blockchain estimates Bitcoin has roughly 1.2 million users, working out to an average wallet value of around $10,000 USD.
Bitcoins are the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, used by over a million people worldwide [Image Source: Bit-Square]
But Apple doesn’t want its iPhone customers to be able to use their Bitcoin assets on its devices.
In recent months it had already purged Coinbase and CoinJar, two similar apps that acted as trading portals and wallet apps for the Bitcoin. CoinJar blogged about the rejection, but was measured, saying it contacted Apple and was told that Apple didn’t generally allow Bitcoin apps. CoinJar suggested this might be because of the uncertain global legal status of the Bitcoin.
But Blockchain believes Apple may have a darker anticompetitive purpose for its transactions. In a blog Blockchain comments:
These actions by Apple once again demonstrate the anticompetitive and capricious nature of the App Store policies that are clearly focused on preserving Apple’s monopoly on payments rather than based on any consideration of the needs and desires of their users.
In comments to Wired, Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary said that he believed the undisclosed reason for these terminations of popular apps was because Apple is plotting to release a digital payments app for iOS. Such an app — similar to Google Inc.’s (GOOG) current “Wallet” app — would compete with Bitcoin as a secure digital payment mechanism.
CoinJar (left) and Blockchain were both banned from the iOS store this last month.
Apple has shown itself willing to kick out competitors from its “closed garden” App Store in the past. It was found guilty last year of colluding with publishers to raise eBook prices. Sued by the U.S. government, Apple was found by a federal jury guilty and forced to allow third-party eBook storefront apps.
Additionally Apple for a while was intent on banning any third-party browser. It eventually relaxed this restriction, first allowing alternative WebKit browsers and then finally in 2010 allowing Opera Software ASA’s (STO:OPERAO) Mini browser into its closed garden. Since then multiple releases of both Opera Mini and Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile have been made available in the app store, offering serious competition to Apple’s own native WebKit-based Safari browser.
Aside from apps that compete with its fares, Apple has also banned apps that it believes are associated with illegal behavior (e.g. torrent apps) or are overly offensive (e.g. pornography, strong political satire, or religious satire).
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