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Rejection: Apple hates (certain) books and whistling

Aron Trimble

It seems like only yesterday Apple was surprising us with its App Store rejection antics. You'll recall that just last Monday, Apple was seen flaunting its control over the App Store by rejecting a remote-control client for the BitTorrent desktop application "Transmission" called "Drivetrain." Of interesting note in that case is that there is a web version of this application that I have on my iPhone's home screen.

Today we received word of an application called Eucalyptus that provided access to free-for-all books from Project Gutenberg. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball writes,

"Eucalyptus has been rejected by Apple, for the absolutely outrageous reason that one of the books you can search for and download from Gutenberg is Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana. Not only can anyone load and read this exact same book on any iPhone using MobileSafari, but it's also available through other e-book readers already in the App Store."
In both the Drivetrain and Eucalyptus cases it seems that Apple is playing favorites in terms of who it will let violate its rules. The strange thing though, is that both of these applications' functionality can be accomplished from within MobileSafari. Clearly Apple wants MobileSafari to be your only access to any pornographic objectionable content.

Before you get out your pitchforks however, there's more. If you have an application that has been approved twice, then guess what, the third time's the charm for you because you can expect the rejection hammer to come a'knockin'. At least that's the case for Yaniv Solnik's application "IsraelParty." When Yaniv submitted his app to resolve some routine bug fixes apparently the App Store royal guards decided they didn't like his marketing description of the application. The phrase that was so offensive as to warrant a rejection of an already-existing app that had been approved twice before? Adult content ahead, "Blow your iPhone's microphone to whistle."

Perhaps someone at Apple is bothered by the fact that they are not able to whistle themselves or perhaps they simply do not like the idea of an application that celebrates Israel's independence day. In any event the rejection is simply ludicrous; it brings me back to the late 90s when the over-zealous language filters in chat rooms would filter the phrase "the wind blows."

The clause that Apple cites in these cases refers to Apple's "reasonable judgment" (full text here). However, in my opinion, they are taking on a more overbearing role than they should. Not to say that I disagree with a filter on the App Store, on the contrary, I think a well-defined filter is absolutely necessary.

Because of Apple's unwillingness to firmly define and enforce the rules, I believe Apple is opening itself up to a "bag of hurt" by being the police of App Store city. It will not be long before advocacy groups will want Apple to provide the same filtering for Apple's own applications. I do not believe Apple wants to be in the business of filtering the web or our email, but by filtering applications based on availability of "inappropriate" content they are quickly headed down that path.

Hat tip to Peachfuzzy and Yaniv for the scoop.

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