Has Apple opened the door to Bitcoin apps?

An update to the App Store guidelines suggests cryptocurrency apps are welcome

Apple seems to be finally getting ready to allow apps that deal in Bitcoin and other digital currencies in its App Store.

An update to its App Store Review Guidelines emphasizes that apps for transmitting "approved virtual currencies" may be allowed -- as long as they do not break any laws.

The relevant clause in the "Purchasing and Currencies" section reads as follows: "Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions."

The legality of Bitcoin differs across jurisdictions and countries. Last year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidelines about virtual currency, saying administrators and exchangers are subject to its regulations.

Apple didn't provide any details about its new rule, and did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The update on Monday came as Apple announced a range of new features and products at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco including OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

Apple had been firmly opposed to Bitcoin wallet apps, withdrawing them from its App Store. The removals included Blockchain, a popular Bitcoin wallet app that had apparently been on the store for two years with 120,000 downloads.

On the Blockchain blog in February, backers slammed the tech giant for the "anti-competitive and capricious nature of the App Store policies."

An online petition to allow Bitcoin wallets on iPhone had garnered 6,000 signatures.

Gliph, a secure texting and Bitcoin payment app, had also been targeted by Apple. It was asked to remove the ability to send bitcoin from its iOS 7 app.

"It is unclear immediately how this affects successful submission of Bitcoin-transmitting applications into the app store," the Gliph developers wrote in a blog post in response to the update to the App Store Guidelines.

Some Bitcoin enthusiasts, however, were optimistic.

"It looks like Apple saw the incoming Bitcoin tsunami and decided that they better be ready for it rather than get washed away," Bitcoin investor Roger Ver wrote in an email.

"This move will certainly help Apple maintain their relevance and will help Bitcoin spread to an even larger audience."

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Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
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