I'll Know It When I See It

Apple App Store Review Guidelines:

We will reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.

Brent Simmons:

Just like the sixth finger in an AI-rendered hand, Apple’s policies for Distributing apps in the U.S. that provide an external purchase link are startlingly graceless and a jarring, but not surprising, reminder that Apple is not a real person and not worthy of your love.

John Gruber:

After yesterday:

  • Apps that wish to link to — or, I think, even tell users about — web purchasing options from within their iOS apps must (a) still offer Apple’s IAP for those items; (b) pay Apple its adjusted 27/12 percent commissions on web sales that come from inside iOS apps; (c) send Apple sales data monthly and submit to audits of their sales; and (d) follow Apple’s stringent design edicts for these in-app links to the web.

It is possible to get absorbed in the question of whether or not Apple does genuinely care about their user's privacy, safety and overall experience. I still think so, because I still think there are bundles of humans with beating hearts working there.

But whether it's true or not, it is irrelevant. What makes more sense to talk about is: does Apple value higher maintaining control? Ever since the App Store was conceptualized, the answer has been yes.

If the top concern was the privacy, safety and overall experience, the solution is straightforward, although not necessarily simple to implement in practice (you know, in much the same way as attempting to thoroughly, efficiently, effectively and productively review every single update of every single app): institute rules that protect the customer.

Allow some leeway, but have a mechanism where if you act in a way that defrauds or misleads the customer, you are liable to be booted off the App Store. With this in place and effectively administered, there would be no point in attempting to mislead the customer. Whether an abuse of In-App Purchases, a particularly malodorous third-party payment system or just shifty behavior in general, it could be chalked up to the same offense. Or, to focus on the positives, an opportunity to throw down the gauntlet and focus on reasoned, respectful behavior, building a community of trust, providing the rising tide that lifts all boats.

Instead, the focus is on the enshrined axiomatic supremacy of whatever the Apple payment solution is. If you find it wanting, and want to do something else, tough noogies. If you built up your own idea, your own product, your own network, your own offering, and wish to make reference to it – better do it under our rules, even when those rules have no parallel anywhere else and even when those rules do not make sense to the common person.

Instead, the focus is on the absence of trust, the framing of the developers who largely built the platform's identity, humanity and success as rogue agents incapable of contributing productively.

Apple already knows that it is a good idea to start out by providing warm fuzzy feelings and work backwards from there, rather than to aim for profit maximalism and sort out the details as you go. But, with apologies to Upton Sinclair, it seems to be difficult to get a company to remember what it knows to be right when their income depends on them not remembering it.

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