Telegram CEO Pavel Durov announced late last Friday the company had disabled users from using paywalls on posts to get users to pay to access content for iOS devices. Apparently, Apple just didn’t like the idea of people paying others using bots without paying the troll toll.
As first noted by 9to5Mac, social media analyst Matt Navarra spotted Telegram users asking users to pay money to view posts. While Navarra originally posited that Telegram was testing out a way for the platform to let users pay to see posts, Durov made it clear that this was third-party payment bots.
The paywall bots hid posts behind a notice to pay some money in order to access the content. The blurred image was actually a hyperlink that took users to an outside payment platform. It’s hard to tell if Navarra’s images are related to the @donate bot, which claims it creates an invoice for content with a simple button press. Applicable Telegram channels needed to have over 100 followers, though channels could also be listed as private. The bot page still exists on Android devices.
This essentially turned Telegram into a kind of OnlyFans-lite, with all proceeds going to the creators. Apple’s app policies charge 30% for purchased apps, in-app purchases, and—as of last week—even boosted posts.
Durov seemed to congratulate users on their ingenuity, mentioning that using these systems “content creators could receive close to 100% of whatever their subscribers paid, which was great.” He further lambasted Apple for using its “trillion-dollar monopoly” to abuse “its market dominance at the expense of millions of users who are trying to monetize their own content.”
Gizmodo reached out to Telegram but did not immediately hear back on whether the platform had any plans for its own internal pay-for-post system. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Durov has described himself as a libertarian who has dabbled in the world of decentralized finance, so it makes sense why he is so antagonistic of Apple’s app policies. In previous posts, he’s complained that Apple’s fees result in higher prices, fewer apps on iOS, and more ads. He’s also critiqued the tech giant’s monopolistic use of its own proprietary app store to censor content that is restricted by its app terms of service.
Durov isn’t the only person to call Apple a monopoly. The tech giant is one of the major players in the ongoing antitrust battle, and they’ve been spotted creating fake grassroots campaigns to fight against the push to break up big tech.
Google also charges a 30% fee for in-app purchases, though app developers recently received $90 million in settlement payments from a lawsuit against the Play Store owner. Google also committed to letting apps making $1 million or less in annual fees to kick back just 15% for in-app purchases.
Telegram bills itself as an end-to-end encryption app that’s open to anyone and everyone, but that open arms policy has come at a cost. Apple has previously cited Telegram and briefly pulled the app from its store for allowing instances of child sexual exploitation to go unmitigated on the app.