Apple: No more fart apps, please

App Stores Given the specific changes Apple announced to its app developer agreement this morning we can fairly assume the FTC had something to do with it, if not everything to do with it.

Gone from the agreement is the language Apple inserted back in April prohibiting the use of cross-compilers to configure apps for the iPad and iPhone that were created using non-Apple approved tools. Apple had inserted the language after Adobe came out with its cross-compiler allowing apps created with Flash to be ported to the iPad despite the lack of support for the Adobe format in Apple’s iOS.

Also dropped was language that seemed to have been written specifically to prohibit (or at least strongly discourage) apps from using Google’s AdMob to serve ads in competition to Apple’s own iAd service.

Both provisions had attracted the attention of anti-trust investigators at the FTC concerned that Apple could be abusing its growing market power in the mobile apps business to disadvantage competitors. Apple didn’t mention the FTC in its statement, claiming it was merely heeding the feedback of developers. But recent reports have claimed the agency was getting ready to file a lawsuit against the company.

While the changes do not mean that Flash-encoded content will now be playable on the iPad — there’s still no support for the format in iOS — they will nonetheless simplify the development process for content owners. Now, apps developed for other mobile platforms using Flash can be ported to the iPad without having to go through a second entire development process.

The ability to use other mobile ad networks also simplifies life for distributors of ad-supported content. Now, advertisers that already use AdMob or other ad networks can be included in the iPhone version of an app without having to reach a separate deal with Apple.

In another surprise move, Apple also announced it would publish for the first time the review guidelines it uses for approving apps for the App Store. While it’s unclear whether that, too, was in response to pressure from federal regulators, releasing the guidelines makes the approval process seem at least modestly more transparent and less arbitrary. Though technically available only to licensed developers, a PDF of the guidelines was quickly posted online and is available here.

The guidelines include an unusual sort of preamble that lays out some of the “broader themes” of the approval process, often in pungent language:

  • We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
  • We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. 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.
  • If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
  • [snip]
  • 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.

I’d love to know how many fart apps actually get submitted.

On a less fragrant front, the guidelines also include provisions regarding media content in the App Store:

9. Media content

9.1      Apps that do not use the MediaPlayer framework to access media in the Music Library will be rejected

9.2     App user interfaces that mimic any iPod interface will be rejected

9.3     Audio streaming content over a cellular network may not use more than 5MB over 5 minutes

9.4     Video streaming content over a cellular network longer than 10 minutes must use HTTP Live

9.5     Streaming and include a baseline 64 kbps audio-only HTTP Live stream

Other items of note:

11.6     Content subscriptions using IAP must last a minimum of 30 days and be available to the user from all of their iOS devices

11.9     Apps containing “rental” content or services that expire after a limited time will be rejected

12.3     Apps that are simply web clippings, content aggregators, or a collection of links, may be rejected

So, in for a penny, in for a pound, apparently. If you want to do subscriptions on one Apple device you have to offer them on all devices (it’s unclear whether that would apply to Apple TV since it doesn’t yet have an App Store and may or may not run iOS). Only Apple can offer rentals, presumably through iTunes, and e-newsletters that compile links without adding their own content need not apply.

Also, spelling counts:

8.4     Apps that misspell Apple product names in their app name (i.e., GPS for Iphone, iTunz) will be rejected

Further readings:

A Taste of What’s New in the Updated App Store License Agreement

Google statement on changes to Apple’s ad policy

Did Apple Just Open the Door to Adobe Flash on iPhone and iPad?