Steve Jobs released rules, apparently in his own words, outlining creative correctness in Apple's App Store. The Apple CEO's "guidelines" are arbitrary, prudish and almost comically despotic. But at least now they're written down and exposed to public scrutiny.
Apple released a set of "App Store Review Guidelines" today, governing all content, games and tools that can be installed on the iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch. It's the first time Apple has spelled out for developers how it makes decisions about the app store, where a lengthy approval process and seemingly arbitrary rejections have angered and frustrated app publishers. The rules, whose language hints strongly that they were written by Jobs himself, come amid a broader retreat for Apple, which today also backed off rules that had banned apps translated from Flash and that had stifled Google's mobile advertising network.
At least one of those rules came under scrutiny by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. Apple's also been under heat from programmers at other companies. The company's app store director Phillip Shoemaker publicly trashed the developer of Facebook's hugely popular iPhone app, who quit developing for the app store in disgust. Shoemaker also clashed with other developers, including one who wrote an online essay entitled "Pass the lubricant as we're getting fucked by Apple too."
Apple's pullback isn't cowering, though. If anything, the new guidelines illustrate how fervently the company continues to defy critics (like us) who say the app store would work better — as a business, as a creative showcase and as an increasingly popular commons for all manner of human expression — with more diversity and less corporate censorship of fashion spreads, gay culture, literary illustrations, critical caricature, political satire, and on and on.
Here are 10 rules illustrating Apple's continuing authoritarianism, plucked from its new "guidelines:"
1st Commandment: No snitching
2nd Commandment: No porn
3rd Commandment: Think of the children
Some people might think Apple's arbitrary rules result from the fact that the company is run by an eccentric control freak. That is wrong. Apple's job is protecting children, and letting an adult anywhere install anything vaguely porny hurts kids.
4th Commandment: No being mean without a license
Apple has a longstanding ban on ridicule in the App Store, a ban that has censored several prominent cartoonists. Good news: The ban is now lifted... if you're a prominent cartoonist. Not just anyone is allowed to be mean. And no one is allowed to be mean about religion:
5th Commandment: Amateurs suck
At an Apple event last week, Jobs trashed videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo as "amateur hour." Now he's worked that same dig into his app store guidelines (one of the reasons we think he probably wrote them personally). Funny: Once upon a time Apple took pride in being the company that helped amateurs express themselves via software for desktop publishing, movie editing and so on. "It helps you go from rookie to rock star," Apple brags of its PC operating system. And then it keeps your filthy amateur content out of its store.
6th Commandment: Fart apps suck
7th Commandment: Apple's taste rules all
Apple will continue to be arbitrary and fickle in its tastes, these rules notwithstanding. Accept it. Apple knows best. It says so right in the guidelines.
8th Commandment: No fun games
9th Commandment: Be appropriately objectionable
Nothing "excessively objectionable." Confusing enough for you? Good.
10th Commandment: Be awesome
This is actually a great pep talk. It just sounds like Steve Jobs. And like Apple. It's a rule that would be a lot easier to follow if the rest of the document wasn't such a straightjacket.