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The NetShare debacle: Apple, explain yourself

Giles Turnbull

Put yourselves in Nullriver's shoes for a minute: you create an app (NetShare - see TUAW passim), which as far as you can tell does not break any of the App Store rules. You submit it to Apple for inclusion. It passes the vetting procedure (so it must be OK, right?) and goes live online, for sale to real people.

Then it disappears, with no warning. No explanation is given. Then it returns. For a while. Again, no explanation. Then it goes offline again. (I've now lost count how many times NetShare has been online, then offline, rinse and repeat.)

And throughout all this, you get nothing from Apple. No explanation. No reason. No polite email asking you to wait. Not even an impolite email. Nothing.

What makes this more extraordinary is that developers of App Store products are not just developers; they are an income stream. Thirty per cent of the money we pay for every app goes directly to Apple, that's how the App Store works.

It's a deal, and deals work in two directions. Both sides get something. In this case, Apple gets software to offer to users of its exciting new platform. And the developers get access to a secure online distribution system, including payment processing, hosting, everything they need to sell their work.

Deals make partnerships, and partnerships (even unequal 30/70 ones) ought to work both ways. Apple expects (and has a right to expect) developers to behave themselves and act within the rules it has laid down. But in return, developers expect (and have every right to expect) Apple to be a responsible, indeed responsive store owner. At the very least, they have the right to know whether or not Apple considers their work suitable for sale in the Store, and to be told why it has been withdrawn. Then reinstated. Then withdrawn again. And so on.

But Apple has not done this. According to the updates on the Nullriver web site, Apple has simply ignored Nullriver's requests for an explanation. There might be a perfectly simple explanation for the whole sorry story -- that would be great! Apple's mistake is that it doesn't see a need to explain itself to anyone.

And you're all thinking what I'm thinking, which is that this is an echo of the MobileMe disaster, which required weeks of user complaints followed by days of negative coverage in the media before Apple saw fit to explain itself in public. And even when it did, it responded with a once-every-few-days, when-we-feel-like-it status page, which reeked of PR designed to paper over the cracks.

As I write these words, Nullriver's home page says: "Is this acceptable business practice? We don't think so. When an application fails to be approved or even more importantly so, when an application gets removed from sale, Apple should be required to provide a valid reason."

Hear hear, Nullriver. Hear hear.

UPDATE: Since posting this, Nullriver's home page has been updated with the following: "We've finally gotten in contact with Apple. Looks like the lack of communication was due to automated e-mail systems being employed on
both ends, which resulted in e-mails being lost in transit. We're working with Apple to get NetShare back up on the AppStore." Thanks to everyone who pointed this out in the comments,

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