CUPERTINO, Calif.—Thus far content to let app developers divine the intent of the App Store gate-keepers—sometimes by getting approved and then kicked out!—Apple today finally relented and issued developer guidelines.
No reprieve for those hoping that Steve Jobs has made peace with his inner pornographer; the sex-hostile status quo remains in place. Not only is porn banned outright, but so are apps that contain intermittent user-generated sexual activity. The details, according to CNET, are a tad vague in that inimitable Apple way.
“The subject of pornography is a little more ambiguous, and one of the shortest sections in Apple's document,” writes Josh Lowensohn for CNET. “Its two rules consist of:
“18.1 Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster's Dictionary as ‘explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings,’ will be rejected.
“18.2 Apps that contain user generated content that is frequently pornographic (ex ‘Chat Roulette’ apps) will be rejected.”
How Apple will know exactly which sorts of sexual feelings are being stimulated by an app is anyone’s guess, but it will be very interesting to see the approved apps that stimulate aesthetic sexual feelings, as opposed to erotic, or what will happen when, God forbid, an app stimulates two types of feelings, or all three! Actually, we know what will happen. It will be rejected.
Apple also may find itself in a pickle of its own making when an app is submitted that actually stimulates erotic feelings in a way that is not explicit, a somewhat vague term in its own right.
But the guidelines are clearly meant to be vague enough to give Apple whatever room it feels it needs to make any decisions it wants to make, and damn the torpedoes anyway. Apple believes it is unsinkable, and it may very well be so.
Pornography is not the only barrier to entry. Violent apps are also given clarified guidelines. Lowensohn writes that shooting games, in particular hunting and sniping games, are themselves being targeted by Apple.
“Rule 15.1 says that ‘Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected,” he writes. “Within that context, titles such as Deer Hunter 3D or Deer Hunter: African Safari stand to be removed, given that the primary objective is to hunt down deer with various weapons, often employing different kill animations depending on where you end up hitting the animal. The same goes with sniping games like the popular Sniper vs. Sniper, iSniper 3D and Silent Scope, the last of which involves your victims falling off of buildings after being shot.”
Even more problematically, for some game app developers, enemies “within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity." Lowensohn mentions Brothers in Arms and the Modern Combat series as titles in which gamers do battle with Nazis or terrorist groups in the Middle East that could get the ax under that prohibition.
There also are new non-content-based guidelines for developers, some of which could cause some currently approved apps to be banned, according to Lowensohn. (You need to have a developer ID in order to access the guidelines, so AVN is dependent upon others’ coverage.)
“One of the new rules that may end up as a thorn in the side of a handful of developers is 11.2 in the purchasing and currencies section,” writes Lowensohn. “This stipulates that ‘apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.’ This goes squarely against the system developer TapJoy has put in place with its apps, including the hit title Tap Defense.”
Making unauthorized use of iPhone hardware could also land a developer in hot water, he writes, noting, “Two new items under the ‘damage to device’ subsection says that ‘apps that encourage users to use an Apple Device in a way that may cause damage to the device will be rejected,’ as well as any apps that ‘rapidly drain the device's battery or generate excessive heat."
Because the guidelines were only released today, expect those with already approved apps and those looking to develop apps for the App Store to pore over them with a zeal bordering on panic.