iPhone devs can now mark apps as 'explicit'

Update 2:53PT: Macworld has confirmed that Apple has removed the Explicit option from the category drop down, as first reported by Gizmodo.

Well, it looks like this story is determined to stay in the news cycle—after last week’s disappearance of many adult-themed applications in the App Store, plenty of questions sprung up regarding Apple’s inconsistent approval policy. However, it appears that Apple may be preparing to loosen the restrictions on what kind of content it accepts as the App Store submission form now boasts an “Explicit” category.

The report first surfaced at Cult of Mac, but Macworld has independently confirmed the existence of the new category.

As we’ve long had “Explicit” warnings on songs and ratings for TV shows, this could be Apple’s first major step toward creating an exclusive category for adult applications and otherwise potentially offensive material.

Supplementing the age-based ratings system already in place, explicit offerings could easily be sectioned off from the rest of the store—I’m thinking something along the lines of Google’s “SafeSearch,” where if a parent or user so chooses, they can restrict viewing of adult content altogether when searching or viewing—not to mention a whole other host of possibilities. It also allows a line to be drawn between the 17+ rated apps that truly offer adult content and those which merely give free access to the Internet.

Apple is understandably at a crossroads: on one hand, they’re trying to market both the iPod touch and the upcoming iPad to a family-friendly (and scholastic) market, and the current age-rating system is insufficient for parents to block explicit content. At the same time, while everyone has their own opinions on the validity of these programs, the demand is nonetheless there; continuing to restrict development may send both programmers and customers away from the iPhone/iPad platform.

That’s further complicated by the inconsistent development guidelines that Apple provides. For example, last June, we were told that under no circumstances would the company distribute applications with inappropriate content, yet by February, these “sexy apps” somehow numbered in the thousands before being pulled. (And, of course, many from major publishers still remain.)

Officially, there has been no official statement from the company and we really don’t know what Apple plans to do with this new category. However, the suggestion that Apple is finally acknowledging the presence of adult and explicit content is promising for developers and customers alike.

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