Developers claim Apple rates all browser-embedded apps mature

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple has caught the ire of some developers this week after it was revealed that all applications with integrated Web browsers will reportedly be rated for ages 17 and up, and that all such apps will not be entitled to promotional codes.



As first reported at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, the App Store's new app rating system prevents developers from obtaining promotional codes for their applications. Such codes allow up to 50 free downloads for developers to distribute however they see fit, such as for publicity or promotion.



"As it stands, neither the 3.0 software nor iTunes display parental warnings when using a promo code to purchase apps with a mature (17+) rating," TUAW writes, "so Apple has made the promo code functionality unavailable for apps that fall into that category. We were informed of this condition by a developer who prefers to remain anonymous."



This has upset some developers, such as the creator of Instapaper and Tumblr, Marco Arment. The developer conveyed his frustration in a blog post Friday, saying he now doubts the viability of a business based on iPhone apps. Arment has expressed his displeasure with Apple before, specifically with regards to the iPhone maker's alleged unwillingness to answer developers' questions.



Now, Arment claims that Apple takes 8 to 30 days for review, and all Web-capable applications must come with nudity warnings.



"They?re making a killing taking their 30% commission on the 1.5 billion copies of $0.99 top-25 games that they?ve sold," he wrote. "Who cares if the App Store discourages good developers from putting serious effort into it? Apple doesn?t need to care. And, clearly, they don?t."



With iPhone OS 3.0, Apple added an age rating system for applications. This not only allows parents to set appropriate application access for their families, but also opens up the potential for developers to release applications with adult content.



Friday another developer also complained about the length of time in Apple's App Store approval process. Syncode, the developer behind the application iTweetReply, claims that Apple tested their application merely a few days after its submission to the App Store, but didn't provide a formal rejection until nearly a month later. The reason for the rejection: An illustration of an envelope displayed when the application launches included Apple's address, 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Calif.



After the developer revised the application, it was approved two and a half weeks later.



"My personal guess is that once an app passes the initial technical test, it must be approved by multiple other levels from legal (to prevent illicit apps) to, well, God knows," Matthew Lesh of Syncode wrote. "If nothing else it has highlighted the need for a far more transparent approval process ? Come on Apple, is it so hard to give us at least a quasi-detailed description of the approval process?"
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    slang4artslang4art Posts: 376member
    In a future update, to separate the Safari/Browsing abilities from the App ratings altogether. You can already turn them off independently, but a .x update will need to allow developers to access these settings through an API and have the software be able to disable browsing features if the user has turned these off. This would allow the App to still be rated according to its unique content, and still protect the poor, innocent youth of America. That, or people could just could making frivolous lawsuits every time they feel the need to blame their parenting errs on corporations. Apple shouldn't be expected to risk their ass, or the livelihood of the App Store itself (especially in an age where we have an Internet "Czar") just because a few developers can't figure out how to lock their apps down, or don't see the potential hazard in not doing so. That being said, I do think my above solution would work, and would probably be as easy as several lines of code to implement into an App. Just my thoughts.
  • Reply 2 of 56
    leptonlepton Posts: 110member
    The app I'm finishing up right now is completely G rated. But because it uses a browser view to show its online help, it is going to be mature only? And I can't give promo codes to reviewers? I worked over six months coding this app!
  • Reply 3 of 56
    mac voyermac voyer Posts: 1,283member
    I am not a developer but that does not stop me from having an opinion.



    In my experience with all manner of sales, wherever there is a high level of heavy-handed regulation, there is a good reason behind it. If you consider the most regulated industries, you will discover some of the worst abuses of consumers. I suspect Apple is so inundated with obscene, pornographic, violent, and racist offerings, they have to regulate with a heavy hand. We only get one side of the story. We hear from disgruntled developers who feel cheated out of their piece of the app store pie. We never here from Apple, and so never get the whole story.



    There are many developers who are writing apps that are on the fringe of acceptability. They are constantly pushing the envelop of what is acceptable. I do not feel sorry for them when their app that took all of ten minutes to make is declined. There is plenty of room in the fat middle for writing good apps that are useful and inoffensive to all. Apple is a family company and wants to run a family store. It is not always possible, and they do make allowances for people who are writing useless crap. Just brows through the store to see what I mean. But if they did not regulate with such a heavy hand, all you would ever find are baby shaking apps. Yes, Apple makes many mistakes in the process. I would rather they err on the side of caution, which they are doing most of the time.



    As to apps with browsers, I can imagine that many developers are submitting apps that are fine on the surface, but link to inappropriate content in a browser. It is just a way for them to get around Apples rules and Apple is fighting back by overreacting with this new regulation. I am too familiar with human nature to be too upset with Apple over this one. Personally, I would prefer all of the fringe developers to go over to WinMo, Palm, or Google. The app store does not need to become a red-light district. If that means overenthusiastic policing from time to time, so be it.
  • Reply 4 of 56
    applestudapplestud Posts: 367member
    the saga continues. Yawn.
  • Reply 5 of 56
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,070member
    Well, this might be a temporary thing. Whenever they get around to enable coupon redemption with rating warnings, the case should be solved? No idea what this browser-nonsense is about though. If somebody displays a help file or FAQ in a Mobile Safari control, the user has no means to navigate elsewhere. So, what's the big deal. Also: shouldn't the browser object added through Interface Builder honor the same parental control settings as Mobile Safari itself? If yes, then there is no issue. If no, go ahead and fix it.



    As long as thousands of developers sign up for the program, and they can't barely keep up with submissions, they have absolutely no need to be more transparent about the approval logic. And seriously: putting anything in writing that can't be bypassed or turned upside down is about impossible. It would only make the situation worse for Apple, because then making exceptions to whatever they put in writing could open the door for claims.



    On the other side, I can't really understand Apple's priorities in some cases. The German iTunes Store offered music by some neo-nazi bands for months. Some of them as explicit as celebrating 9/11 for the "extinction of Jewish and American scum" (and already blacklisted and declared illegal by German public offices). All this, of course, without even a rating or an "explicit" tag (no, I am not suggesting that would have made a difference). After the story hit major news sites, blogs and even the second biggest news show on German TV, they still needed almost two weeks to pull that crap.
  • Reply 6 of 56
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    This is the second time in a few days where I've read someone say something like "Apple is making a killing off the app store" but aren't they pretty much breaking even? I'm sure there are some profits, but nothing to justify saying they are "making a killing."



    Apple's profits from the app store aside, I think the app store has become so large that Apple now has a responsibility to treat this approval process professionally. Provide thorough documentation for developers so approval is easier.



    I mean, when you think about it, it would save Apple time and money if they gave a clear definitive guideline for developers to follow. When an app is rejected, it goes back into the approval process. So if the developer had known what not to do in the first place, time wouldn't be wasted to analyze their app a second time.
  • Reply 7 of 56
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Apple HAS to do this, or else the ratings feature doesn't even work. Because Apple made a big mistake.



    The mistake they made is not adding one more parental control: "allow 3rd-party apps to access network." They need to do that, so that paranoid parents can keep their kids offline and yet still buy apps. Then apps can be rated on their OWN INTERNAL content (or on the content they are specifically MEANT to download), rather than on the possibility that "anything" might be out there.



    Apps already fail gracefully of the network can't be reached, so games with online high scores etc. should be basically OK even with that function removed.



    (What about games with chat? I assume those are all mature, since a fellow gamer could swear? Once again, adding that additional parental control switch would solve the problem.)



    Apple could even add a new rating: something like "Open-Ended Content, May Include Any Age Level of Material." Something that goes on any app that accesses the network, without the stigma of "mature."
  • Reply 8 of 56
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lepton View Post


    The app I'm finishing up right now is completely G rated. But because it uses a browser view to show its online help, it is going to be mature only? And I can't give promo codes to reviewers? I worked over six months coding this app!



    Maybe you could use web services to retieve the information and display it in a view. Since all you need is a few help screens.
  • Reply 9 of 56
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    Apple HAS to do this, or else the ratings feature doesn't even work. Because Apple made a big mistake.



    The mistake they made is not adding one more parental control: "allow 3rd-party apps to access network." They need to do that, so that paranoid parents can keep their kids offline and yet still buy apps. Then apps can be rated on their OWN INTERNAL content (or on the content they are specifically MEANT to download), rather than on the possibility that "anything" might be out there.



    Apps already fail gracefully of the network can't be reached, so games with online high scores etc. should be basically OK even with that function removed.



    (What about games with chat? I assume those are all mature, since a fellow gamer could swear? Once again, adding that additional parental control switch would solve the problem.)



    Apple could even add a new rating: something like "Open-Ended Content, May Include Any Age Level of Material." Something that goes on any app that accesses the network, without the stigma of "mature."



    This is a good point. I think the people at Apple are too smart to ignore such common sense as this.
  • Reply 10 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    "They?re making a killing taking their 30% commission on the 1.5 billion copies of $0.99 top-25 games that they?ve sold,"





    Apple has not sold 1.5 billion Apps, they have distributed 1.5 billion Apps. It is quite reasonable to assume that an overwhelming majority of those are Free apps. Do the math.



    Lets say, for simplicity sake, Apple sold 500 million Apps, and gave away 1 billion for free. Lets say the average free app is 5 mbs. Thats 5 billion mbs of bandwidth going through Apple and AT&Ts networks.



    Imagine what 5 billion MBs cost. Also imagine that NOBODY USES PARENTAL CONTROLS.
  • Reply 11 of 56
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,463member
    I understand that Apple wants to maintain its family friendly status.



    But how do they do that while allowing mature content? With movies, it's an independent board. With TV shows there's a broadcast standard that applies to all over the air companies. Pay channels such as HBO and Showtime can do what they like, up to a certain extent.



    How does Apple regulate this? No matter what they decide, some will think it's wrong.



    But they should be much more open as to how they make their decisions.



    If we go by what Apple is saying here, then the entire iPhone/Touch system should be rated as mature, as we can go anywhere with Safari. That's what makes much of this so silly.
  • Reply 12 of 56
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    Apple HAS to do this, or else the ratings feature doesn't even work. Because Apple made a big mistake.



    The mistake they made is not adding one more parental control: "allow 3rd-party apps to access network." They need to do that, so that paranoid parents can keep their kids offline and yet still buy apps.



    Children who have an iPhone are usually trusted to be online. The parents wouldn't have allowed the child to have that kind of device if they were not. The problem is in unwanted surprises from the net. Apps need to access the net. IMO any social networking or UGC type app should be 17+ because there are eventually going to be some mention or image of private body parts in those types of apps. You can moderate it but you can't prevent it.
  • Reply 13 of 56
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    If we go by what Apple is saying here, then the entire iPhone/Touch system should be rated as mature, as we can go anywhere with Safari. That's what makes much of this so silly.



    Parents can turn Safari off
  • Reply 14 of 56
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,463member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Parents can turn Safari off



    And they can prevent their kids from buying and using any program they think isn't suitable.



    So?
  • Reply 15 of 56
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by clickmyface View Post


    Apple has not sold 1.5 billion Apps, they have distributed 1.5 billion Apps. It is quite reasonable to assume that an overwhelming majority of those are Free apps. Do the math.



    Lets say, for simplicity sake, Apple sold 500 million Apps, and gave away 1 billion for free. Lets say the average free app is 5 mbs. Thats 5 billion mbs of bandwidth going through Apple and AT&Ts networks.



    Imagine what 5 billion MBs cost. Also imagine that NOBODY USES PARENTAL CONTROLS.



    lets also say that many people have ipod touches, and app store purchases are through wifi. I mean, what you quoted from that guy was wrong and misinformed, but to say 5 petabytes of data was transfered over AT&T's network might be wrong as well, just on the opposite end of the spectrum.



    From everything I've read, I don't think Apple is "making a killing" but I also don't think their profits aren't covering the cost of the app store.
  • Reply 16 of 56
    roos24roos24 Posts: 170member
    As long as we have more lawyers than ants in this country, I think Apple is right. Is Apple going to be sued when someone finds inappropriate material on his/her child's iPhone? You bet. Is Apple going to be sued by someone whose app was denied because there is a change that it opens the door to unwanted material? Questionable. There's your answer.
  • Reply 17 of 56
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    And they can prevent their kids from buying and using any program they think isn't suitable.



    So?





    So what was your point about restrictions being silly?
  • Reply 18 of 56
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    If we go by what Apple is saying here, then the entire iPhone/Touch system should be rated as mature, as we can go anywhere with Safari. That's what makes much of this so silly.



    Maybe this is why they haven't provided a clear cut definition of what an acceptable app is, because by that very definition, Apple's stuff wouldn't be acceptable.
  • Reply 19 of 56
    mknoppmknopp Posts: 257member
    I don't understand people who think Apple is in any way justified or obligated to do this.



    They do not restrict what can be ran on their Macbooks or iMacs. So, why should they be playing morality police on the iPhones and iPod Touches. They shouldn't!



    Now, I fully agree with Apple building in parental controls, and I think nagromme has the truth of the matter. Apple needs to build in the ability for parents to limit what their children can download and run on their iPhones, just like they do on their computers.



    Beyond that they need to back the hell off.
  • Reply 20 of 56
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ... With iPhone OS 3.0, Apple added an age rating system for applications. This not only allows parents to set appropriate application access for their families, but also opens up the potential for developers to release applications with adult content. ...



    just to be picky, this statement is not actually true.



    Apps with adult content are (so far) still not approved.



    There is also the question of what counts as "adult." Where I live a woman can walk down the street topless and it's legal and no problem, whereas the app store both considers an app with naked boobies in it "adult" and simultaneously (so far) refuses to publish it, even with the parental controls.



    The idea that parental controls would enable adult apps has so far proven to be false.
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