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Apple Tightens The Noose On Apps For Recommending Apps, Going After Sharing And Search Tools

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Apple has recently taken action against apps that violate clause 2.25 of its App Review Guidelines according to PocketGamer, a rule that says no app should replicate functionality of the App Store in order to promote or offer for purchase apps other than your own.

The rules recently saw two high-profile app removals, including AppGratis and AppShopper (which subsequently returned after changes were made) but more could follow as Apple is not also reportedly rejecting apps that replication App Store search features, as well as social network sharing of app recommendations.

A rejection supplied to PocketGamer by a developer shows Apple citing apps that “include filtering, bookmarking, searching or sharing recommendations” as not being distinct enough from the App Store itself to pass muster with Apple. Apple doesn’t include provisions around filtering, bookmarking, searching or sharing in the actual wording of clause 2.25 itself, but it was apparently spelled out pretty clearly in the email.

The app developer which spoke to PocketGamer wished to remain anonymous, which is probably because it hopes to work to get its app back in the store. AppShopper managed to secure a return after repurposing its app as more of a social network around mobile software than a pure app recommendation and discovery tool.

The extension of the guidelines to include a much more broad category of apps, including ones that do little but let users share recommendations with friends might seem a little unusual coming from Apple, since these fuel its own app economy. But there are multiple problems with giving developers free rein to build their own App Store clones and complimentary tools: Apple potentially loses control of the shopping experience and confuses customers; charts and ranking systems become subject to outside forces with different motivations other than surfacing the best content; social recommendations run the risk of looking like spam to users instead of something worthwhile.

Running a store of any kind well depends upon customers trusting you, and feeling that you won’t abuse that trust. It’s true that maintaining an affiliate network helps Apple drive app sales, but it has to be very careful that that network stays fair of consumer expectations, and guideline 2.25 is a way to help Apple keep companies toeing that line.

In other words, it’s a finesse tool, not a bludgeoning instrument, and while we’ll probably see more apps fall, this is probably about getting developers to focus where Apple needs them to be rather than about implementing a blanket ban.