Daring Fireball: Apple VP Phil Schiller Responds to Ninjawords iPhone App Store Incident

schiller time

Daring Fireball received a response from Apple Senior VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, regarding the App Store incident involving the Ninjawords iPhone dictionary app.

Gruber quotes "the salient parts" of the email in full, but the gist seems to be that, unlike other dictionaries approved for the App Store, Ninjawords drew from Wiktionary -- an open internet source -- and thus the App Store suggested they wait until iPhone 3.0 was released with parental controls before re-submitting it. Not knowing the release date of 3.0 and not wanting to wait, the Ninjawords developers went ahead and filtered it themselves, thus ending up with a filtered app that took long enough to approve it timed itself into the 17+ rating anyway.

However, other dictionaries with the same "objectionable content" haven't been flagged as 17+, so the capricious nature of the App Store -- the very thing developers fear most -- remains. Check out the above link to Daring Fireball for more on that aspect.

For his part, Schiller closes his response as follows:

Apple’s goals remain aligned with customers and developers — to create an innovative applications platform on the iPhone and iPod touch and to assist many developers in making as much great software as possible for the iPhone App Store. While we may not always be perfect in our execution of that goal, our efforts are always made with the best intentions, and if we err we intend to learn and quickly improve.

On the heels Tim Cook's comments about improvements needed to the App Store, if observable actions follow the sentiments, perhaps developers and users alike will begin to regain some faith in the approval process. Until then, it remains an unsightly blemish on Apple's otherwise brilliant mobile platform.

(No word yet on whether Gruber asked him about Google Voice...)

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 27 comments. Add yours.

Dev says:

...and we all know what road good intentions pave

SpiceRak2 says:

@ Dev
You know I was thinking the same thing...LOL!

Josh H. says:

That sorta sounds like they know they fucked up now, and the will fix it in relation to this specific case.
Let's hope they do and stop screwing other developers...

Josh H. says:

HA! Total censorship fail on what I just posted... lol! :P

icebike says:

Why would it matter the source of the data? Was Shiller claiming a copyright violation?
Where is the Apology. Bezos is looking like a Price compared to this arrogant clown.
PCWorld has some interesting comments on this from Ex Apple employees:
http://tinyurl.com/nzumgw (Its tinyurl because it contains underscores in the url).

So what's the problem here? Red Sweater Software developer (and former Apple employee) Daniel Jalkut weighed in on his blog that the real culprit may be the way that Apple employs its reviewers, by encouraging a system whereby reviewers are rewarded for finding violations. Another Apple engineer-turned-indie developer, Sci-Fi Hi-Fi's Buzz Andersen, concurred on his own blog, speculating that Apple staffed its review teams with "a bunch of people who can quickly go down a very literal laundry list of things to check, but don't have the time or expertise to make nuanced judgments about an app's suitability."

chrstphr.ross says:

Doesn't the Dictionary.com app pull from a web service?

sting7k says:

So basically,
Random House and Websters = OK
Wiki = Bad.
That's the message I see here...

JenIndo says:

Try SphereChain for iPhone and iPod Touch!

Truth says:

Apple is fucking up. What will it be tomorrow? They will sensor text in Safari?

Al says:

What about wikipedia apps? There are plenty of adult themed articles and photos there! In some ways a dictionary is more harmless than that. I understand and appreciate Apple censoring pornographic images and video from the app store (it would be COVERED with porn without that) but searching for individual words is silly.

Mark says:

I am glad all you folks could open an app store like apples with all the success they have had and have no problems. But where is this store?

Mark says:

Cydia has no rules. Half ass apps. Some are great apps but just because they will accept anything don't make them greAT.

chrstphr.ross says:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That's excellent. And it is successful.
Obviously with all the heat the App store is getting, it isn't GREAT. Sure it's got the 1.5 Billion Apps, but that's really only due to the fact that the 50 Million users HAVE to buy from them, otherwise they have nothing more than a generic smartphone with iPod Features.

chrstphr.ross says:

And don't even start on the half *** apps...The appstore has them too.

the real truth says:

for christ sake people, this is not censorship. Apple can let only apps who's name begins with the letter x on their store if they wanted to (granted this probably wouldn't be too lucrative of an idea). It is their store, their rules and they don't give a fuck about you. deal with it. Jeez a company worth billions whose main motivation is to make more money.....Oh the horror!!!!!!

Zak Saber says:

ok the free app Dictionary has the word ass in it and you can have a voice tell you how to say it. This app is not filtered so why should Ninjawords be? Apple approving process is really annoying. Are there robots approving and rejecting apps?!

tweger01 says:

Why do they want to censor so much? I bet Phil and Steve have their kids on lockdown, I feel sorry for them.

Truth says:

Actually Cydia has a ton of apps that actually provide useful features. Right now I have Siphon hooked up to my Google voice account (free incoming) and my Gizmo5 (cheap outgoing) calls and then on top of that I got PDAnet, BossPages, and SBSettings, and a real Lock Screen.
You dont know what you are talking about.

Truth says:

@ the real truth
Apple stop innovating in 2007, now it is just trying to get by with as few updates. The sad thing is that their aren't more people who see how their behavior has negatively effected the device.

Didier Prophete says:

Definitely the right way to NOT answer the basic question: why is the iphone review process so screwed up? They are slowly changing their own fan boys into angry boy.
What's also pretty bad is the inconsistency between app reviewers. Sometimes it really looks like they approve/reject apps depending on the day of the week/the weather/etc... If apple wants to succeed, it needs to get this under control. Quickly.

Liam says:

I think the problem with having a completely uniform aproval process is that if it's to strict. All the apps will be cookie cutter apps.
As far as why apps are being held to a diffrent standard now. Idk. I think when the app store was trying to establish itself the had a mostly open door policy. They just wanted to get to X amount of apps so the could make a historic press release and ad campain. Now that they have a long way to the next milestone there cooling things down and being prudes about everything. Idk that what I think anyway.
The only way they can be fair now is to go back and re-aprove(reject) all the apps they already aproved. Let's hope this never comes to be.

The real truth says:

it seems to me that iPhone 09 has a lot more going for ot than iPhone 07 had. Stopped innovating? Do you consider the original iPhone to be innovative? It was a bit crippled don't you think? It seems to me that regardless of what apple does some people will find something to piss and moan about.

The real truth says:

Cydia....jailbreakng...whatever. It's for people that are into the device in terms of the technological aspect of it. The majority of users are into the iPhone because they figured they have cell phone and an iPod why not just get both on a single device. The app store is an added luxury. I would be willing to bet that a large portion of iPhone users came from yourrun of the mill cell phones, not a smart phone. Make phone calls, text, take some pictures....this is what their used to. The app store is lme a playground for these people. Safari alone is huge deal for a lot of them. A full fledged web browser in your pocket? Shit. Listen to your ipod, make phone calls, text... All on one device. Not to mention watching dirty movies free over the Internet whenever the urge strikes. This is all the selling point most users need. They could care a less and are way to involved in the things mentioned above to take the time to jailbreak.

icebike says:

@The Real Truth (Truth's other personality):

The majority of users are into the iPhone because they figured they have cell phone and an iPod why not just get both on a single device. The app store is an added luxury.

[Citation Needed]
I seriously doubt this. I don't know of a single person in the 15 or so people who have iPhones that I personally know who had an ipod and wanted to consolidate.
We all agree that the thing that drove us to the iPhone was having the web at our fingertips in all of its forms, email, browsing, IM, as well as the Phone capability.
At the time it was the only choice for a platform of this capability. Its not any more.
Far from being a Luxury, the APP store is key to the iPhone success. Its the ONLY thing that differentiates this phone from those that seek to unthrone it as the king of smart phones.
I would have long since dumped this phone for an Android or a Pre had not the App store come along and allowed me to do even more on the phone than I could when I first bought it.
I think you are way off base here to suggest its all iPod users wanting to carry only one device. The iPod portion of this phone is the least used feature, among my friends, except those under 30.

the real truth says:

15 or so people out of how many million sold? what is that like less than 1 percent of iphone users? yeah sorry, not exactly relevant.

Steve says:

@the real truth:
I've been using only Apple computers since the mid-80s. When the iPhone came out I had to have it. Why? Because it was a Apple "phone" with a cool touchscreen ー that's it. I never owned, used, or wanted an iPod (or any other portable music player) before the iPhone.
It's just not possible to pigeon-hole most users' reasons for buying the iPhone without data..