After two years on App Store, Apple pulls Blockchain app without notice, citing 'unresolved issue'
Apple has removed the bitcoin app Blockchain from its iOS App Store, underscoring the belief that the company has an unstated policy against such services.
The Blockchain app has been on the app store for two years, and hooks in with popular online wallet service Blockchain.info to enable users to use their iPhones and iPads to make bitcoin transactions.
On Wednesday, Apple pulled the app. Blockchain cites official communication saying that the removal was due to an "unresolved issue", and argues that this is "a claim that cannot even be disputed and boils down to 'because we said so'".
"There was no communication prior to removal of this popular app," the company continued in a written statement, "no indication of any problems and no opportunity to redress any issues, making a mockery of the claim that there was an 'unresolved issue'."
Apple has a record of clamping down on apps that can be used to send or receive bitcoin. In December, it forced secure messaging app Gliph to remove bitcoin functionality, while BitPak, Bitcoin Express and Coinbase have also entered the graveyard of bitcoin apps.
While the company seems to have a consistent stance against Bitcoin apps, it does not provide consistent reasons to the developers themselves about why their apps are being removed.
BitPak's developer was told "that Bitcoin thing is not legal in all jurisdictions for which BitPak is for sale", while Bitcoin Express was told the app violated rule 22.1 of the company's guidelines, which state that "apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users. It is the developer's obligation to understand and conform to all local laws".
Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn argues that Apple's attacks are "obfuscation".
"If Bitcoin wallets were illegal then I wouldn't be working on them, would I?
"It's widely known that Apple would like to get into mobile payments, and banning competing apps from the App Store is classic Apple behaviour that they have engaged in many times before. When the App Store was new, they even had an explicit rule saying you couldn't "duplicate the behaviour" of Apple's own apps!
"If they had a more dominant market position their actions would trigger anti-trust investigations, but because iPhone users can switch to Android, Apple are under less pressure to play fair."
Hearn points to CoinPunk as an option for Bitcoin users who have an iOS device, but says that iPhone usage may be hindering take-up of the currency. "If you look at Berlin, where there are a huge number of local businesses accepting Bitcoin by now, low iPhone usage is one big reason they've been successful. I'm hoping over time the UK and USA will go the same way."
Apple had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Zach Copley