LOS ANGELES—It looks as though the bright line past which no adult fare will pass into the Apple ecosphere is not as inviolate as we thought. Talking New Media has posted a new article that details the extent to which "Apple has been approving magazine apps from Russian developers that clearly violate developer guidelines."
Apple, according to writer D.B. Hebbard, is knowingly allowing the Russian app developers to engage in deceptive practices via the apps, by allowing them to "promote the name of one magazine [while giving the reader] access to magazines under other names" after the app has been installed.
Hebbard continues, "My assumption was always that the magazines in question must be what one would call soft core porn—like that seen in many motorcycle magazines: suggestive pictures rather than full nudity. I hesitated to download any of the magazines because I naively believed that it couldn’t possibly be true that these digital magazines deliver what they promise to.
"But they do," he added.
What Hebbard says is a trend on Apple's part began in 2012, when he began writing about the Russian apps. "The apps in question," he writes now, "were from Sergey Rudnev for magazines with odd names like Magazine Father and Magazine Gun and Magazine Pick Up.
"Shortly after these apps appeared came apps from Dimitry Nikolin," he continued. "The formula looked the same: release a couple apps that appeared benign, then release two magazine apps. One of the first apps released was for Mary Kay products! Then came Magazine “Oh! Yeah!” and Oh! Yeah! Black."
During this time, Hebbard says he contacted Apple more than once about content that "appeared to be far more 'adult' than what Steve Jobs had allowed when he was alive," but never got a response.
Then, in September 2013, "TNM wrote for the first time about the apps from ANASTASIYA RUDNEVA. These were something else altogether.
"In a series of four apps, all released at once, the developer was offering what appeared to be different digital magazines, but were in fact the same app when opened," Hebbard continues. "Each opened to a page where the reader could access the Oh! Yeah! magazines, plus video content." [Emphasis added]
"Why was the App Store team approving these apps, and why, after being told what was going on was Apple keeping them in the store," wonders Hebbard. "A month later I wrote about the apps again, comparing what was seen in iTunes with what the reader actually gets once the app is downloaded."
But the story of the Russian apps in the App Store was not over. "Now comes the new apps from a fourth Russian (presumably) developer, and these apps seem to believe they have nothing to hide anymore, brazenly advertising their wares: 'Sexy girls photos and video. Watch and enjoy…' the app description says."
The revenue model for the new apps has evolved as well, according to Hebbard. "The way these newer apps work," he writes, "the reader buys 'Coins' from within the app. The reader buys a few hundred of these 'coins' and then can buy the video and magazine content within the app. Rather than a magazine costing $2.99, for instance, it costs 100 coins, videos cost 20 coins. The reader gets credit by buying 5,000 at a time for $39.99, or a smaller amount for $9.99. Apple, of course, facilitates the transaction and gets its 30 percent."
Hebbard's take on the situation is that while the content does not appear to be hardcore, it certainly includes nudity and other forms of sexual content, which means that Apple is open to an accusation of being in the porn business. "But what makes [that accusation] completely legitimate, in my opinion, is two factors: Apple’s developer and press teams have known about these apps for a long time now (and this site has written about them five times now); and because of the in-app purchase scheme used here, Apple is making money off the apps and presumably paying the developers for their sales."
Time will tell if Apple's apparent sneakiness in trying to make a few bucks on adult fare Steve Jobs would surely have forbidden on his network will come back to bite it in the ass. But one group of people who will not look kindly upon Apple's "sexual development" are adult producers who currently play a cat-and-mouse game that involves a far less direct method of laundering traffic through innocuous apps, hoping to ultimately drive the eyeballs to hardcore destinations. The revelation that Russians have been provided a deceptive fast-track to Apple-blessed income from adult content is bound to irritate them.
Image: Content now available on Apple App Store via Russian Apps.