Apple's new low: censoring a dictionary

You know guys, you're not really doing yourself any favors at this point. We've seen plenty of stories thus far detailing the company's absurd, reactionary, and typically confusing application rejections or changes for its App Store, but the treatment given to dictionary app Ninjawords seems particularly telling. In essence, the program, a simple and fast reference tool -- a straight-up dictionary -- has omitted a handful of common words seen as objectionable by the Star Chamber of application reviewers at Apple HQ. What kind of words, you ask? Well, namely the same kind of words which you can find in any standard dictionary in just about any classroom in this country. John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame succinctly calls out what is patently obvious:

Apple censored an English dictionary.

A dictionary. A reference book. For words contained in all reasonable dictionaries. For words contained in dictionaries that are used every day in elementary school libraries and classrooms.

But it's far worse than that.

Gruber went a step further and spoke with one of the developers, Phil Crosby, who had this to say on Apple's approach to the software:

"We were rejected for objectionable content. They provided screenshots of the words 'shit' and 'fuck' showing up in our dictionary's search results. What's interesting is that we spent a good deal of time making it so that you must type vulgar words in their entirety, and only then will we show you suggestions in the search results. For instance, if you type 'fuc', you will not see 'fuck' as a suggestion. This is in contrast to all other dictionaries we're aware of on the App Store (including's application), which will show you 'fuck' in the search results for 'fuc', 'motherfucker' for 'mother', etc."

In essence, you would have to already know the word in order to be able to look it up in the app -- your mind would have had to be already poisoned with the sinful idea.

After three rejections, the forced removal of a number of "illicit" words (many of which are common and innocuous -- "ass" for instance), and a mandatory 17+ rating, Ninjawords was finally admitted into the App Store... three months after it was first submitted.

Look, Apple, you don't seem to get it. You may have admitted 55,000 applications into the Store with little or no problem, no bumps in the road, but it's these kinds of decisions which are quickly defining your policies -- and those policies seem like garbage to us. Censoring content, keeping applications out of your store which "duplicate functionality" of bundled software, and rejecting submissions for things like unsavory search results isn't helping to protect end users: it's making the company that asked everyone to "Think Different" look like a company that can't think at all.