Oops, they did it again: More App Store follies

It shouldn't take publicity to make the App Store approval process work right.

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Would you be surprised to learn that here in the 12 year of the App Store, the vagaries of the approval process have still not gotten ironed out?

Probably not, but doesn’t it seem like they should have on Apple’s side, at least more than they have been to date? At any rate, it happened again.

On Sunday, the makers of iSH, a Linux shell app for iOS, indicated that their app was going to be removed from the App Store on Monday for what Apple claimed was a violation of section 2.5.2 of the company’s Review Guidelines.

If you’re not familiar with all of the sections of the App Store Review Guidelines, well, what have you been reading for the past 10 years? Books? How well has that turned out for you? Anyway, section 2.5.2 says, among other things, that apps may not:

…download, install, or execute code which introduces or changes features or functionality of the app…

Basically, apps are not allowed to change themselves by execution of remote code after they’re downloaded. Makes sense. You can’t put up a spreadsheet app that has a button that downloads code and turns it into a furry porn app.

God knows we’ve tried, but you can’t do that.

Scripting apps, like iSH, seem to cause a lot of confusion with this rule. They execute code at the behest of the user, sometimes even downloading packages from other places, but they never stop being the same scripting apps they were. The code is executed by the app, but it doesn’t change it. As the developers of iSH point out, even Apple offers scripting apps. So, what’s the fuss?

According to the developers in a post to their site over the weekend:

We have drafted numerous appeals, requests for clarifications, rule modifications, and explanatory emails. We’ve been on the phone with Apple for hours. Unfortunately, even with this we have been unable to resolve the issue, and the process has been significantly more stressful than we would have liked it to be.

This hassle is probably annoying, particularly considering they’re not even charging for the app.

Then a funny thing happened. After they wrote about it, their post and tweet got picked up and people made a fuss over it because, c’mon, Apple, it’s a scripting app, OF COURSE IT EXECUTES SCRIPTS.

And then…

We got a call this evening from someone who runs App Review. They apologized for the experience we had, then told us they’ve accepted our appeal and won’t be removing iSH from the store tomorrow. We’ll stay in contact with them to work out details.

You don’t say. How did that happen?

Well, we don’t know exactly what went on at Apple.

There are two possibilities, though. First is that this is a mistake made by an over-aggressive reviewer—let’s call him Randy—and, while it took Apple a while to recognize Randy’s signature handiwork, the company rolled it back as soon as it found out. We’re not sure why Randy still has a job. Possibly nepotism. It’s unclear. Still, the process worked, just slowly, only taking effect in the 12th hour.

Second, this only got escalated to the right people after it went public.

We don’t really know which one it is, but it’s another in a string of similar instances of Apple first telling a developer they need to bow to its senseless autocratic will and then, after an outcry, claiming the whole thing was a big mistake and all is well. Correlation is not causation buuut when correlation happens kinda a lot, causation starts to get a guilty look on its face.

The end result is the right one. Yes, the app was incorrectly rejected at first, but the rejection was deemed erroneous upon review, much like a call made by an umpire that is overturned upon reviewing the tape and finding that, yes, A-Rod did slap Bronson Arroyo’s glove and, upon even further review, A-Rod is just a jerk and should be called out all the time, even now that he’s retired. A-Rod walks into a stadium to see a game: out. A-Rod slides a Hot Pocket into its microwave sleeve: out. A-Rod goes to Pep Boys to get his car serviced on a Saturday morning: out.

The Macalope may be all wet on how this went down behind the scenes but, to all appearances, we only got the right result in this case and several others because they became public. That’s not how a healthy process should work. But no one said the App Store was a healthy process. Not even Randy.

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