Who Exactly Is In Charge Of The App Store? Anyone?

3176160087_86dcc1d447Okay, the situation surrounding the App Store and its approval process continues to get weirder and weirder.

As you may have heard, an application featuring nudity first appeared in the App Store yesterday. Today, that app was removed, which everyone presumed was a move by Apple. But the developers said that the removal was its own doing because its servers were getting slammed with picture requests. Then more applications claiming to have nude photos started appearing. And now Apple is apparently saying none of these apps will be allowed in the App Store. But that seems to contradict its own rating system that now clearly allows for nudity.

This makes no sense. To the point where I’m not sure there is anyone actually in charge of all of this for Apple. Instead, I’m starting to think this whole system is run by a group of people, all with different thoughts on the approach Apple should take with apps. And none of whom seem to communicate with each other very well.

Here is Apple’s statement to CNN earlier today:

Apple will not distribute applications that contain inappropriate content, such as pornography. The developer of this application added inappropriate content directly from their server after the application had been approved and distributed, and after the developer had subsequently been asked to remove some offensive content. This was a direct violation of the terms of the iPhone Developer Program. The application is no longer available on the App Store.

But the app was clearly labeled on its App Store page with a 17+ rating that said the app contained “Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity.” Those are not the developer’s words, those are Apple’s words.

And a few developers have now told me that there is an area in the app submission process to designate if your app contains nudity — hence the need for a 17+ nudity label, which again, Apple offers.

So why pull this app? The reasoning seems to be that the developer wasn’t honest upfront that the app would contain nudity. But then why would it have the nudity warning attached to it? Is it possible that Apple approved some of the nudity but then the developer was trying to push something like hardcore pornography into the app? Maybe, but I haven’t heard any reports of that — just that it featured pictures of topless women. And from its statement, it would seem that Apple doesn’t want any nudity, period.

And if that’s true then why are there other apps out there claiming to also have nude photographs in them, that are getting approved as well? Some are even touting it in the title of their apps. Yet Apple isn’t rejecting them.

So, either we have a situation where for some reason Apple has app warning labels that it never intends to use, and has app screeners that are once again doing a sloppy job watching submissions. Or, there are no clear-cut rules for what should be allowed when it comes to this in the App Store.

I’m definitely thinking it’s the latter, given what we’re seeing.

It’d be one thing if Apple didn’t have a rating that accounts for sexual content, but it does. So clearly it expects some apps to have “”Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity” in the store. But according to its statement, it won’t allow for them.

And further, Apple allows for plenty of movies that contain all kinds of nudity to be in iTunes. You can even now download those directly to your iPhone. Why are those okay, but apps of that nature are not? I’m repeating myself, but it makes no sense.

The App Store approval process has basically been a joke for much of the past year. I was hopeful it would get better now that parental controls are a part of the iPhone 3.0 software. Apparently, I was wrong — it looks like it’s getting worse.

We’ve reached out to Apple for further clarification on this. I’ll update if we hear back.

[photo: flickr/arbo]

[thanks Chris]