Apple releases app-store review guidelines

Apple has finally released its guidelines for “acceptable” applications in its App Store. Of course the document is itself covered by a non-disclosure agreement, but someone has helpfully posted it anyway. What’s interesting are some of the following items:

“2.7 Apps that download code in any way or form will be rejected”

This clause will still prevent Scratch from being approved; Scratch was sadly removed from the App Store earlier this year. What makes this such a problem is that Apple was once known for their educational software, for the ability to easily program in Basic from boot. And now the ability for new students to learn the fundamentals of programming on the device is not available.

“14.1 Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected
14.2 Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean- spirited commentary” (emphasis added)

This is due to a major spat earlier this year when Apple rejected an app by a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist. Yet the devil is in the details, is it not? What is the definition of “professional”? Does it require one to win a Pulitzer? And what does this mean for people wanting to become better known as satirists?

“15.3 ‘Enemies’ within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity” (emphasis added)

This one is really curious. Now your latest satirical game that targets BP/Goldman Sachs/Wal-Mart is going to be automatically rejected? Something like molleindustria’s McDonald’s video game would be rejected under these rules. It’s clear that with this clause Apple is preemptively shutting down an avenue for activists to develop applications for the iPhone and iPad.

As I’ve said many times before, the problem is less that Apple has made these restrictions; they are allowed to do so, however wrongheaded they might be. Rather, the problem is that so many academics lend their weight to Apple’s regime by continuing to buy their products (my Linux-running Macbook, purchased by my school years ago, will be the last Apple item I own), basing classes around programming for the iPhone or iPad, or giving away free iPads to incoming students. (It should not cost money to become a developer, like it does to join Apple’s developer program. That is not “open” in any way, shape, or form.) Apple’s ecosystem is becoming more and more closed, and as academics we should not be supporting that. Similarly, given these guidelines, journalists should not be ceding editorial control to a separate corporation and should avoid producing apps for Apple. Just Say No to the Apple.

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