Confusion Still Reigns as Apple Clarifies What Makes or Breaks an App

The company publishes its first rule book for the App Store

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For years, Apple has infuriated app developers by failing to offer clear rules for what apps get accepted or rejected in its lucrative App Store. But on Thursday the company published, for the first time, detailed guidelines for developers. Will this clear things up? Judging by the reaction from many in the blogosphere, probably not. When it comes to creating apps with suggestive or violent themes, for instance, Apple offers this:

We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.

And when it comes to app developers airing their grievances, Apple warns "If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps." Here's what tech pundits are saying about the new rules:

  • A Limited Embrace of Adobe, writes Suzanne Choney at MSNBC: "The announcement from Apple doesn't mean that those annoying messages mobile users see time after time when they click on many websites, videos and animations, and are essentially greeted with: 'Sorry, can't show you this because you need Adobe's Flash Player,' will go away. It means that apps made specifically for Apple's mobile devices — and downloaded from the App Store — can use Flash."

  • May Allow for Political Censorship, warns Josh Benton at Nieman Lab. He cites Apple's rules regarding materials that "defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or grop in harms way." Apple warns it will reject such materials unless they are expressed by "professional political satirists and humorists." Benton isn't happy about that. "So a professional columnist or cartoonist can say nasty things about Obama, but Joe Citizen can’t? Defining who is a 'professional' when it comes to opinion-sharing is sketchy enough, but when it includes political speech and the defining is being done by overworked employees of a technology company, it’s odious."
  • We Can't Trust Apple With This Much Power, writes Scott Rosenberg at Wordyard: "Trouble is, the App Store is also being framed as the New Newsstand. The idea of Apple as the keeper of such a newsstand never sat right with me: I just don’t like the idea of my information diet being regulated by any company, let alone a company as tightly wound as Apple. Now Apple has made my unease explicit. In these high-handed words, the company is saying: We will ban whoever we want. And we won’t tell you what the exact standards are. You can guess; then we’ll decide."
  • Apple's Perfectionism Will Fail Them, writes Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post: "The simplest interpretation of this document's litany of rules is that Apple wants to legislate its way out of Sturgeon's Law - the oft-quoted maxim that '90 percent of everything is crud.' That is a laudable goal. But in a world populated exclusively by fallible human beings, it's an impossible one. Not everybody can be above average, even if they all use iPhones."
  • Some Developers Are Rather Pleased, reports Jenna Wortham at The New York Times:

“This is gold. This is great,” said Dom Sagolla, chief executive of Dollar App, a mobile development company based in the Bay Area. “It feels like we’re finally getting a clue about what Apple wants.”

“This is a document I’ve been wanting to see for two years,” said Raven Zachary, president of Small Society, a software development firm. “It’s going to foster the creation of better apps because we know going in what to do and what to avoid.”

Apple also said it would begin to allow developers to use third-party tools to create applications for its iOS mobile operating system, which is used on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It had banned such tools in April.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.