Oh Fort Pete’s Sake Apple, Will You Pull Your Head Out?

Apple, I see you let Ninjawords in the App Store. Good for you. But there’s just one little thing

But Ninjawords for iPhone suffers one humiliating flaw: it omits all the words deemed “objectionable” by Apple’s App Store reviewers, despite the fact that Ninjawords carries a 17+ rating.

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.

Apple, you censored a dictionary? A freakin’ dictionary? Are you insane? Not only should it not have been censored, but it’s ridiculous that it would have required a 17+ rating anyway. We’re afraid of our kids learning English now?

In my mind, this reinforces my belief that Apple’s rejections (including high-profile apps) are less likely to be attempts at killing competition (plenty of duplicate functionality apps exists in the store), and far more likely because they really have no handle whatspoever on the rejection process. With thousands of apps to review and pressure from developers who (not unreasonably) want it approved yesterday, they’ve lost control.

People are clamoring for written guidelines for app approval and rejection, but it can’t just be that. Surely common sense would allow a dictionary (or, for that matter, the Kama Sutra in a public domain e-reader). No, this is not just process and procedures, despite the overhaul they’ll likely need, it’s a lack of control over the personnel involved as well. How else to explain similar apps getting in and others not? Or the same app getting in later with no changes? Different folks are interpreting the rules differently, and with varying levels of “user friendliness”. I don’t want to suggest some app reviewers are abusing their “power” but some of these conflicting stories seem to strongly suggest it.

So what can Apple do? Sadly, there’s no magic wand they can wave to address this. It’s clear we’re gonna see more silly rejections before this gets better, but Apple does need to act, and act fast.

Apple, it’s time for a meeting the likes of which you last held after the MobileMe rollout debacle. Remember that? I don’t know how or where that took place, but I’ll bet money it wasn’t a pretty meeting. It was also necessary.

Well, just like that screwup, I believe the App Store issue is something that can’t be fixed in a week or two, but rather over months. You need to perform the management shakeup necessary, communicate them to your user base, and then start getting it done. You’re embarrassing yourself here.