A couple days ago, Apple put iPhone developers on notice that location-aware ads will no longer be allowed in all apps. Some observers read this as a blanket prohibition, and noted that it looks like Apple might be reserving geo ads for itself through its acquisition of Quattro Wireless.
But the notice itself only seems to ban location-based advertising from non-location-based apps.
Here’s what the notice on Apple’s Dev Center says:
If you build your application with features based on a user’s location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.
We’ll see how liberally Apple chooses to apply this new guideline, but the language does not ban all geo ads. It only bans geo spam. If an app does not have a geo component as one of its core features, it can’t serve up irrelevant geo-targeted ads. This seems like a policy aimed to avoid random geo-targeted ads from popping up in games or other apps that try to enable the core location feature for ads and nothing else.
Geo-based ads are very promising, and could open up local advertising to the Web in an entirely new way. But Apple needs to set the rules of the road early to make sure that consumers are not inundated with ads that are nothing more than spam and out of context to what they are doing. If you are an iPhone developer whose app was sent back for this reason, please share your experience in comments.