Who Exactly Is In Charge Of The App Store? Anyone?

MG Siegler
Thursday, June 25, 2009; 10:05 PM

Okay, this situation continues to get weirder and weirder.

An application featuring pornography first appeared in the App Store yesterday. Today, that app was removed, which everyone presumed was a move by Apple. But the developers said that the removal was their doing because its servers were getting slammed with picture requests. Then more applications claiming to have pornography started appearing. And now Apple is apparently saying no pornography apps will be allowed in the App Store. But that seems to contradict its own rating system that now clearly allows for nudity.

This makes no sense. To the point where I'm not sure there is anyone actually in charge of all of this for Apple. Instead, I'm starting to think this whole system is run by a group of people, all with different thoughts on the approach Apple should take with apps. And none of whom seem to communicate with each other very well.

Here is Apple's statement to CNN earlier today:

Apple will not distribute applications that contain inappropriate content, such as pornography. The developer of this application added inappropriate content directly from their server after the application had been approved and distributed, and after the developer had subsequently been asked to remove some offensive content. This was a direct violation of the terms of the iPhone Developer Program. The application is no longer available on the App Store.

But the app was clearly labeled on its App Store page as 17+ with a rating that said the app contained "Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity." Those are not the developer's words, those are Apple's words.

And a few developers have now told me that there is an area in the app submission process to designate if your app contains nudity ? hence the need for a 17+ nudity label, which again, Apple offers.

So why pull this app? Perhaps because the developer wasn't honest upfront that it would have nudity, but even still, that would have been covered by the nudity portion of the warning. And there are other apps out there claiming to also have nude photographs in them, some are even claiming it in the title of their apps. Yet Apple isn't rejecting any of these.

So either we have another situation where the app screeners are doing a very sloppy job watching the submissions, or, there are no clear-cut rules for what should be allowed when it comes to this. I'm definitely beginning to believe it's the latter given what we're seeing.

It'd be one thing if Apple had a 17+ rating that in no way to suggested nudity (and instead was for violence or the like), but it does. So clearly it expects some apps to have nudity in the store. But according to that statement, it won't allow for them.

The App Store approval process has basically been a joke for much of the past year. I was hopeful it would get better now that parental controls are a part of the iPhone 3.0 software. Apparently, I was wrong ? it's getting worse.

We've reached out to Apple for further clarification on this. I'll update if we hear back.

[photo: flickr/arbo]

[thanks Chris]

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