Last week, an iPhone developer told social-networking blog TechCrunch that their application was taken down from Apple’s App Store because it contained “objectionable material.” Since then, a firestorm has erupted over Apple’s handling of its App Store approval process. Of course, this isn’t the first time.
The company has been forced to deal with criticism since the store’s inception over how it approves or rejects different applications. In several cases, those watching the approval process were left scratching their heads.
For its part, Apple said that it has been receiving complaints over some of the applications in the store and it felt that it had a responsibility to ensure that the fewest number of people are being offended at any time.
Admittedly, it’s a tough balance. And Apple’s position on not wanting to offend others makes some sense. But what doesn’t make sense is exactly how its App Store works. What constitutes an “objectionable” app? What sorts of apps are more likely to be accepted than others? We might think we know the answer, but as the past week has shown, we probably don’t.
So here are 10 reasons why Apple’s App Store policies just don’t make sense.
1. It’s fine and then it isn’t
Apple is notorious for allowing an application into its store, only to inform the developer at some point in the future that, as it turns out, the app should never have been in the store, after all. Apple’s decision to remove sexual content from its App Store is not an isolated incident. It has been allowing applications in and removing them at a later time since the launch of its marketplace. And chances are, it won’t stop that practice anytime soon.
2. It’s not fine, then it is
At the same time, Apple has, on several occasions, rejected an application only to allow it in after feeling a significant amount of public and private pressure. One of the most notable rejections was a Nine Inch Nails app. Originally, Apple decided to reject it due to objectionable content that might have been accessed from within the app. After the band’s front man, Trent Reznor, made it known that he was more than a little upset over the rejection, Apple backtracked and allowed it in.
3. Why the double standard?
One of the main issues many critics have with Apple’s most recent removal of over 5,000 applications from its store is that it didn’t remove “big-name” brands, like Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit app. Apple contends that it allows those apps to stay in its store because they come from well-known companies. But should size and notoriety really play a role in the approval of applications in Apple’s store?
4. Enough with secrecy
A common complaint with Apple’s App Store is that the company is far too secretive over what it will allow and what it will reject. Apple can’t be expected to outline every kind of application it will allow, but when an app is denied access, the company needs to do more to explain to developers why their applications were rejected. Enough secrecy, Apple.
Developers Deserve Consistent Policies
5. Ambiguity reigns supreme
Since the store’s launch, Apple has cultivated a sense of ambiguity that continues to impact both developers and consumers. When it does divulge information on why it has rejected certain applications or it talks about its policies, the company is intentionally ambiguous, doing everything it can to not divulge too much about how it operates its store. That lack of detail makes some wonder if Apple can even be trusted.
6. Developers are still kept in the dark
Unfortunately, developers don’t know what their apps’ chances are of being approved once they send it to Apple for review. It seems that Apple likes it that way. The company has been criticized for years about its decision to let developers in on very little during the review process. It has said that it will open up to more developers going forward. But so far, few have been satisfied.
7. Why does it take so long?
Speaking of the approval process, some developers are still wondering why it takes so long. Granted, Apple reviews thousands of applications, which slows down the process, but some developers are still waiting weeks before they find out if their application will be added to the marketplace. The sooner the apps are added to the store, the better.
8. Apps are held to a higher standard
When users are looking for content in the iTunes Store, they can find just about anything. Right now, several films and songs with content targeted to adults are available for purchase in Apple’s Store. And yet, applications that feature the same or, in some cases, even more innocuous visuals have been taken down. If a policy affects one section of a store, it should affect all sections.
9. Precedents going forward
Apple has done an adequate job in recent months outlining some of its App Store rules, but it needs to do better. Some of the applications that were recently removed from the store were selling extremely well. Simply removing them without a fair warning to developers was a major blunder on Apple’s part. It needs to establish policies that will determine how such a situation should be handled going forward.
10. It goes too far
Apple’s App Store decisions go a little too far. Rather than individually sift through the worst of applications, the company tends to use a broad brush to eliminate any applications that might offend someone. Fairness is certainly not guaranteed in Apple’s App Store, but a fairer process of vetting applications is definitely needed. Apple’s policies have negatively affected several developers that have created applications that might not have deserved to be taken down. It needs to address that.