Apple announced yesterday that it would clarify the rules on the App Store review process by publishing the full set of guidelines used by the approval team.
Unfortunately for anyone thinking of joining the growing community of iOS4 developers, Apple chose to hide the document behind a pay wall, making it accessible only to those people who have already paid $99 to join the Developer Programme.
In the hope that Apple's new spirit of openness extends beyond those who have contributed to its bulging coffers, we have weaselled the document out of its walled garden and present it here in PDF form for your edification.
Read on for the juicy bits if you don't have the time to wade through all seven pages. We have reproduced the introduction verbatim:
We're thrilled that you want to invest your talents and time to develop applications for iOS. It has been a rewarding experience - both professionally and financially - for tens of thousands of developers and we want to help you join this successful group. This is the first time we have published our App Store Review Guidelines. We hope they will help you steer clear of issues as you develop your app, so that it speeds through the approval process when you submit it.
We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store. It may help to keep some of our broader themes in mind:
We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don't work unless the parents set them up (many don't). So know that we're keeping an eye out for the kids.
We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don't need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn't do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.
If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you're trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don't want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, "I'll know it when I see it". And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.
This is a living document, and new apps presenting new questions may result in new rules at any time. Perhaps your app will trigger this.
Lastly, we love this stuff too, and honor what you do. We're really trying our best to create the best platform in the world for you to express your talents and make a living too. If it sounds like we're control freaks, well, maybe it's because we're so committed to our users and making sure they have a quality experience with our products. Just like almost all of you are too.
Much of the remainder of the document is a list of technical, moral and philisophical reasons why an App might be rejected and it's quite clear that Apple is determined to make the process more transparent following a barrage of criticism about arcane and often unfathomable rulings.
Some of the technical issues which will cause Apps to be rejected include: crashes, bugs, not performing as advertised, undocumented or hidden features, using non-public APIs, reading or writing data outside the designated container, downloading code, installing or launching executable code and unfinished Apps which are deemed to be demo, beta, trial or test versions.
Apple also says that Apps which duplicate those already on the App Store or are primarily advertising spam will also be booted.
There is a whole host of other rules and caveats which must be followed, but we can only hope that making these rules open and public will not only improve the lot of formerly hapless developers who were coding in the dark, but also boost the quality of the iOS software available by weeding out the chancers and shysters.
Of course Apple's decision to make the review process more open will have more than its fair share of detractors, but we reckon it's a massive step in the right direction.
We'll leave the last word to Apple:
This document represents our best efforts to share how we review apps submitted to the App Store, and we hope it is a helpful guide as you develop and submit your apps. It is a living document that will evolve as we are presented with new apps and situations, and we'll update it periodically to reflect these changes.
Even though this document is a formidable list of what not to do, please also keep in mind the much shorter list of what you must do. Above all else, join us in trying to surprise and delight users. Show them their world in innovative ways, and let them interact with it like never before. In our experience, users really respond to polish, both in functionality and user interface.
Go the extra mile. Give them more than they expect. And take them places where they have never been before. We are ready to help.