Apple, ever the arbiter on questions of morality, recently began removing adult themed apps from theiTunes App Store en masse. Over the past few days, a number of developers with sex-centric apps received emails from Apple notifying them that their apps would no longer be available on iTunes due to a rash of customer complaints, or so the story goes.
Reports indicate that the letter received by affected developers mirrors the following letter received by JonAtherton, the developer of Wobble iBoobs, and first published by TechCrunch.
The App Store continues to evolve, and as such, we are constantly refining our guidelines. Your application, Wobble iBoobs (Premium Uncensored), contains content that we had originally believed to be suitable for distribution. However, we have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content, and have changed our guidelines appropriately.
We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store, which includes your application.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter. If you believe you can make the necessary changes so that Wobble iBoobs (Premium Uncensored) complies with our recent changes, we encourage you to do so and resubmit for review.
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Naturally, this has created a tiny storm of controversy - not because people are demanding that Apple allow any and everything into the app store, but rather because people aren't comfortable with Apple being able to ban entire swaths of apps in one fell swoop, and with no warning whatsoever.
The banning of Woble iBoobs is particularly interesting because the app itself contains no lewd photos or objectionable content at all. Rather, users upload their own photos which they can then manipulate to "wobble" via the app. Of course, the nature of the app is quite implicit given its name, but you would think that Apple would at least give the developer a chance to make the necessary adjustments before taking any sort of action.
On the other hand, there are a number of sex-themed apps whose entire utility consists solely ofslideshows that display racy photos. A lot of these apps are free and include suggestive titles intent on luring in customers, only to inform them that the full range of advertised photos are available only in the paid version of the app. In short, it's not far fetched to state that the vast majority of explicit apps on theiTunes App Store are nothing more than link-bait apps looking to make a quick buck.
So while some might applaud Apple's recent action, others are worried that it sets a horrible precedent that leaves developers guessing. Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch writes:
Most worrying is that “sexy” applications were already blocked at one point until Apple specifically changed its policies to begin letting them in. It was only a little over a year ago that the words “Boobs” and “Booty” in an application’s description weren’t allowed. But Apple made the conscious decision to lift that ban. In effect, Apple sent a message to developers that on a platform where the rules are nebulous and anything innovative is risky, these applications were safe. Now it’s changing its mind.
That's a good point, and it's a tough line for Apple to toe. Crapware on the app store is already well-documented, and I doubt anyone will truly miss any of the now banished apps. But as the old saying goes - with a lot of power comes a lot of responsibility.
Some have suggested that Apple create an adult-themed area for the iTunes App Store, but that hardly seems like an idea Apple would be interested in entertaining.
Whatever the rationale behind Apple's recent moves, I think most can agree that the root of Apple's problems is inconsistency. Developers often spend a lot of time and a whole lot of resources to get their apps up and running, and though the utility of some can easily be questioned, it would behoove Apple to be more clear about its guidelines as it pertains to the app store so that everyone can be on the same page.
If Apple wants to keep the iTunes App Store free from adult themed content, then that's fine, but they should pick a position and stick with it.