The App Store is a beautiful idea that is wildly successful, but Apple has a big App Store problem. They are trying to control the content in the Apps and they really, really need to just get out of the way and let the market judge the quality of an App.
The only threshold should be: Does it poison the platform or violate an agreement with the carrier selling the phone? If not, then allow it in and let users decide if its good enough.
Nine Inch Nail Trouble
Apple ran into trouble on Monday when it rejected an App by the band Nine Inch Nails because of profanity issues, which is just about the stupidest reason I can think of to reject an App. They let the Baby Shaker app through, but they reject NIN's app because it uses a bad word? It's not Apple's job to be the morality police. It's their job to ensure the integrity of the platform. The sooner they realize that, the better off they (and all of us) will be.
When You Control Content, You're In Trouble
I posted about this issue on Twitter Monday:
Trent Reznor of NIN is angry at Apple and I don't blame him. If there's not bad code, let the market decide. http://bit.ly/NUNwL
I got back this response my fellow technology journalist Dee Ann LeBlanc:
One of the huge weaknesses for Apple of their controlling what can be an app, it limits the market and makes them responsible.
LeBlanc nailed the issue in under 140 characters. Apple leaves itself incredibly vulnerable when it tries to control content, and there is really no sound reason to control content when the market can decide on quality.
Apple sells a whole range of applications that could offend any particular segment of the population. If you don't like a given app for whatever reason, don't download it and the developer will get the message really fast.
If people downl0ad a particular app, whatever the content, then it's not Apple's place to place a value judgment on the content.
Apple Needs to Get Out of the Way
As Troy Reznor of Nine Inch Nails points out the forums on his band's web site, there's always a huge level of hypocrisy where censorship is concerned. He points out you can download the song in question, Downward Spiral from iTunes, but for some reason you can't download the App from the App Store and hear the same song. Reznor is right when he says it makes no sense.
If Apple insists on controlling content, it's going to continue to run into embarrassing issues just like this one. Apple has a right to control the quality of the Apps on it's platform from a programming perspective, but if it's just about bad words or other ill-defined policies on the content, they are going to get slapped around again and again and again, and they would be wise to simply get out of the way.