How frustrating and unpredictable the App Store approval process is

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There has been a lot of chatting about Tumblr on the Web for a few days, because it has censored some words and tags from their iOS app search system. When searching for a censored word on iPhone and iPad, a message appears warning that the results may be incomplete because they may include explicit or adult content.


Tumblr quite clearly suggests that it is not a deliberate choice, but an obligatory choice to avoid a worse evil, for example removal from the App Store – with the consequent, and easily foreseeable, loss of revenue that this would entail. A former Tumblr employee took the opportunity to explain a bit the reasons and background that have (or at least, could have) led the social network to such a choice. And Apple, more specifically the app review process for the App Store doesn’t make a good impression on us.

It is one of those cases in which it is worth going to read the source (just follow the link of the same name at the bottom of this article), because there is so much meat in the fire; but to sum it up, we can say that the process is defined frustrating, baffling and sometimes stupid. All apps are human-controlled, and often the judgment of each reviewer dramatically influences the approval outcome.

The source gives the example of a time when an update was rejected because an image of a woman in a very normal bikini, not even in a provocative pose (“it could be an image you see in a commercial for laser hair removal”) had been reported as pornographic. Then the developer just has to resort to, to which another department, which has no communication with the reviewers, checks the complaint and decides what to do. Here too, it is the judgment of the individual that determines the outcome.

Tumblr, it is worth remembering, had decided to ban all types of adult content from its site at the end of 2018, precisely because of the App Store policies; it was back available on iPhone and iPad on the same day as the ban came into effect.

In short, from the story it is not at all difficult to get the idea that the experience for the developer is very similar to what we all feel when we have a problem to solve in the mail, or with INPS, or with our telephone operator. . You never know how it ends because the rules aren’t always perfectly clear and it all depends on how the clerk on duty interprets them. Everyone has a different (however vague and inconclusive) answer to requests for clarification, you never speak to the same person, and so on.

This, of course, is the testimony of only one person, who however says he has talked to other iOS app developers and has received very similar opinions from virtually everyone. some even prefer to leave the platform rather than “argue” with the App Store every time an update needs to be published. Pornography and adult content, above all, are a huge risk to any platform hosting user-generated content, and those who aren’t the absolute giants (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so to speak) have far fewer resources available. for moderation.

But it is not the only one. Apple also rejects apps that don’t have a “specific purpose” – even here, it ends up that in practice the approval of the app depends on whether the auditor believes it is useless or not. Also, none of the iOS developers are on Apple’s side in the legal battle against Epic, especially over the 30% fee issue.

The Apple fanboy you all imagine is most likely not an iOS developer […]. Why do I still develop iOS apps? I don’t know, I have bills to pay.