Reporters' Roundtable: Deciphering Apple's developer rules

Apple recently rewrote its rulebook for developers. In this show we discuss these changes with Brian Chen of Wired.com and developer David McIntosh of Redux.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
3 min read

On September 9, Apple rewrote its rulebooks for developers. In its revised developers agreement, it reversed a ruling that blocked developers from using all but a very few programming languages for iPhone apps. And it also made public for the first time the guidelines it uses for deciding if apps will be allowed into the app store, or be rejected. Today we're going to talk about these changes in some depth.

Our guests today are Brian Chen of Wired.com, who covers these issues for that publication; and developer David McIntosh of Redux, a social video discovery app.

Watch this: Deep into the Apple Developer Agreements


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Show notes and talking points

Let's talk about the developers' agreement first. The biggest reported change was the relaxation of the April ban on using cross-compilers like Adobe's. Explain what happened, first in April, and now with the changes? Possible causes included developer outcry? Users? Competition from Google Android?

Why does it matter? What does it mean to Adobe?

Other changes in the dev agreement?

Now let's get into the App Store guidelines.

It used to be a black box, right?

David, how did the agreement affect you? Did you have run-ins with Apple?

Now the new guidelines: Better or worse?

Let's talk about a few selected excerpts from the guidelines:

• "We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app." (What makes apps so different/special?)

• "We don't need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn't do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted."

• "We have lots of serious developers who don't want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour." (So how are new devs supposed to get up to speed?)

• "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." (Is that enough?)

• "If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps."

Other rules to discuss:

• "Apps that include undocumented or hidden features inconsistent with the description of the app will be rejected."

• "Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them."

• "Apps with metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected."

• "Apps that look similar to apps bundled on the iPhone, including the App Store, iTunes Store, and iBookstore, will be rejected."

• "Apps that create alternate desktop/home screen environments or simulate multi-app widget experiences will be rejected."

• "Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentary."

Compare Apple with other app stores - Android, Blackberry, MS.

Question from listener CurtisB: What are the biggest improvements, from a developer's perspective, to the new agreement? And worst?

Watch my Twitter account (@Rafe) for updates on next week's show. Of, if you have an idea for a topic you'd like to see covered, e-mail it to me.

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