In the Apple App Store, Big Brother is Always Watching

Apple's banishment of the popular AppGratis app is a cautionary tale for all app developers. In Apple's App Store, Big Brother is always watching.

With the recent take down of the AppGratis app, I can’t help to point out the delicious irony in Apple’s tranformation from the underdog usurper to the Big Brother figure it sought to destroy in this 1984-inspired Super Bowl commercial..

As the $13 million, and 45 employees behind AppGratis have recently learned, the hegemon Apple rules over its iTunes App Store with an iron fist that can, without warning or justification, strike down upon the heads of any app developer.  Apple’s tight editorial control of its app store is part of what makes it such a great consumer marketplace, but for those creating and distribtuing their apps through it, Apple’s erratic and inconsistent rule is increasingly taking the look of a good ole fashioned police state.

The Apple App Store police are always watching, even after your app is approved.

The Apple App Store police are always watching, even after your app is approved.

Apple’s App Store review process has always been the gatekeeper to the app store, keeping malicious and poorly created apps from turning the Apple pond into the turgid pool that is Google’s Play.  However, Apple’s editorial decision making has shown a more ruthless, self-serving quality as of late. AppGratis is the latest in a line of apps like 500px and PhoneStory which were pulled from the app store with no more explanation than an opaque “violation of App Store guidelines”. AppGratis’ apparent crime was in reproducing functionality that competed with Apple’s own App Store.  While AppGratis was clearly in violation of Apple’s policy, PhoneStory’s only crime was poking fun of Apple and it’s shady supply-chain practices.

The disappeared: apps that were banned from the App Store

The lesson for app developers is that of caution. Just because your app made it past the Apple Review board doesn’t mean you are safe. If your app violates any part of Apple’s App Store Guidelines, then  sleep with one eye open. You never know when Apple’s gaze will turn to you and come crashing down on your app with Idi Amin like ferocity.

If it’s freedom of expression you want to practice, the Google Play store is just down the street. If you want to play in Apple’s world, you have to abide by its Pleasantville-inspired mantra of decency, propriety and above all, respect of Apple’s authority over its domain. Tread lightly my friends, as citizens of totalitarian dictators have long since learned: don’t weep for those who have disappeared, just do what you can to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Apple App Store Rule of Thumb: Would the mayor of Pleasantville approve of your app?

Apple App Store Rule of Thumb: Would the mayor of Pleasantville approve of your app?

About Bobby Gill

I am the creator of Bahndr, founder of New York based app development lab, Blue Label Labs and editor at Idea to Appster. I like crepes and I am fascinated by big data.