May 24, 2009

Welcome to the iTunes App Store!

This document describes our process for reviewing applications for iPhones and iPods touch submitted to the iTunes App Store. We’ve avoided using legalese in this document so that you’ll actually read the whole thing. Please do so before starting to write your application, so that you won’t waste a bunch of time writing an application that we cannot publish.

We hate having to reject anyone’s application, so we want to make it clear that we have very compelling motivations behind our acceptance policies, so you can adhere to their spirit. (Oh, our lawyers just reminded us that we should mention that circumstances, times, and social mores change, and we reserve the right to change these policies at any time for any reason, but we’ll do our best to update this document to always reflect the current state of affairs.)

FIRST, you must do no harm. We cannot allow applications that will mess up users’ iPhones, or interfere with their normal operation in any way. The iPhone is a vital communications device, and any downtime on it is unacceptable to Apple and to our customers.

While viruses, malware, and apps that can be remotely exploited are obvious targets of this rule, there are more subtle implications to this. For instance, we cannot allow applications that send too much data through the cellular network; not only would we be breaking our agreements our cellular carriers (who have priced their data plans based on an estimated average data use of customers without including your application), but overloading the network would make it unusable for everyone, and thus violates our first rule.

We also do not allow emulators or other computer languages right now, because those kinds of applications are notorious for having subtle security holes, and we must take the cautious path to ensure the iPhone remains stable for our customers.

SECOND, if your application is what a reasonable person would consider offensive, we require it to carry an “M” rating on our app store, which carries with it certain restrictions on who can purchase and use your app.

We do this because, to a certain extent (and despite our best efforts), users do not fully distinguish between third-party authors like yourself and Apple; if something runs on an iPhone and it is ‘bad,’ that is (at least somewhat) considered to be Apple’s fault. Apple abhors censorship in any form, but it also recognizes that even within a single society there are different ideas about what is acceptable and unacceptable, and we would like to warn our customers (yours and Apple’s) who might be more sensitive.

We realize that any attempt to categorize anything into “offensive” and “inoffensive” is a fool’s errand, especially considering that your application’s audience will encompass thousands of cultures around the world. Thus, we will use our “best efforts” to determine if an app might be found offensive: for example, if it is overtly sexual, if it contains slurs or curse words, if it has violent themes — these are topics reasonable men disagree on, and our goal is to flag anything that might be controversial so that, for instance, parents can review it with their guidelines before letting their children see it.

RESUBMISSION of your app can be done if you believe that it has been rejected in error — please include in your resubmission a description of what you’ve changed in your app, or why you believe the original judgment was in error.

Because in the end our judgments are made by humans, and humans are variable and fickle creatures, our policy is to always let resubmissions be judged by a different person at Apple, to get another perspective.

REFUNDS are opt-in for developers in the iTunes App Store: you can set the number of days during which Apple will offer a full, no-questions-asked refund to your customers, which number will be displayed prominently in your application’s listing on the iTunes App Store and on the user’s list of installed apps inside iTunes.

While the number is up to you, we generally recommend that the more your application costs, the longer a refund period you offer; if you are making a $20 application and your customers are “done with it” after two days, you may not be offering a good value for money spent. As well, customers will be inclined to trust software that offers a generous refund policy.

Please note that Apple’s checks to you will be delayed by the length of the refund period you offer; we will not act as your creditor to cover refunds.

FINALLY, note that these rules actually exist only in the fevered and every-hopeful imagination of one Wil Shipley. Consult the real iTunes App Store for its actual policies, not a blog. Dur.

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