App banning: it’s all the rage these days. Last week came news that Apple had refused entry to an application called Podcaster, because it “duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.” Which is either extremely suspect or just someone at Apple not understanding the difference between what the app does and what the podcast section of iTunes does.
Now the folks at Nullriver, makers of the controversial NetShare application that lets you use your iPhone as a modem for your laptop, report that their application has also been officially banned from the App Store. A post on the company’s website reads:
Looks like Apple has decided they will not be allowing any tethering applications in the AppStore. As such, NetShare will not be available in the iTunes AppStore. We are seeing a lot of similar reports from various developers who’s applications were abruptly removed and banned from the AppStore without any violations of the terms of service. This is all unfortunate news for the iPhone platform end-users.
Developers have already voiced their concern over Apple’s unwritten rules of what can and cannot be sold through the App Store, but the situation has become even more dire with this most recent round of rejections. It's prompted some, such as Fraser Speirs, developer of iPhone Flickr browser Exposure, to say that they’ll cease developing for the platform until Apple clarifies the rules.
Apple needs to deal with this problem before it gets any larger. Speirs may only be one developer, but that’s all it takes to get the ball rolling. The App Store is big—by some accounts, bigger than the iTunes Store was at a similar point in its life cycle—and Apple needs to take steps to ensure that the developers who populate it with its goods are happy.
And more than that, there’s an issue of image here. Apple’s long been perceived as the underdog, the little guy in the big market, the rebels, dreamers, and round pegs in square holes, as their very own advertising would have it. That image has engendered them not only goodwill but also enthusiasm and incomparable loyalty among both developers and consumers—two things that they’re in danger of losing if the Kremlin-like non-communication continues in this vein.