ClassPass built its business on helping people book exercise classes at local gyms. So when the pandemic forced gyms across the United States to close, the company shifted to virtual classes.

Then ClassPass received a concerning message from Apple.

Because the classes it sold on its iPhone app were now virtual, Apple said, it was entitled to 30 percent of the sales, up from no fee previously, according to a person close to ClassPass who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting Apple.

The iPhone maker said it was merely enforcing a decade old rule.

Airbnb experienced similar demands from Apple after it began an ''online experience'' business that offered virtual cooking classes, meditation sessions and drag-queen shows, augmenting the in-person experiences it started selling in 2016, according to two people familiar with the issues.

Airbnb discussed Apple's demand with U.S.House Lawmakers' offices that are investigating how Apple control's App Stores, according to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Those lawmakers are now considering Apple's efforts to collect a commission from Airbnb and ClassPass as part of their yearlong antitrust inquiry into the biggest tech companies, according to a person with knowledge of their investigations.

Apple's disputes with the smaller companies point to the control the world's largest tech companies have had over the shift to online life brought on by the pandemic.

While much of the rest of the U.S. economy is struggling, the pandemic has further entrenched their businesses.

With millions more employees working from home, Amazon and Google are selling more online cloud space, with revenue for Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud soaring in the first quarter of the year, which included the start of the pandemic.

With people unable to socialize in person, traffic surged at Facebook and YouTube, which is part of Google, two of the internet's largest gathering places.

Apple has also brought in more revenue from its online-services business, mostly on the back of its App Store, and its Macs, iPads and iPhones have become even more important.

The World Students Society thanks author Jack Nicas and David Mccabe.


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