App Store Roulette

This week I have been presented with something of a dilemma regarding what to do with my iNewz applications for the iPhone, iPod touch and most recently the iPad. As is often the case with apps for these platforms, the cause of the problem is nothing technical; it began with Apple’s review process, or more specifically the inconsistent way in which it is applied.

The Rejection
Like most app developers, I’ve had rejection emails from Apple before (actually called “feedback”), and they have normally been for things that are simple to address, even if not always things I agree with the need for.

This one was different though. Here’s the key paragraph of the email:

Thank you for submitting iNewz to the App Store. We’ve reviewed iNewz and determined that we cannot post your application because it appears to contain features, namely, feeds, that bear a resemblance to well-known third-party marks, specifically well known news organizations including The New York TImes, The Washington Post, USA Today, and BBC.

Yes, iNewz does include feeds from major news organisations – it is essentially an RSS reader with a set of pre-configured feed URLs making it easier for people to select the news sources they are interested in reading content from.

Not being entirely sure about the implication of the wording in that paragraph, I asked for clarification. Here’s what I received back:

Thank you for your response and prompt attention to the Trademark issue. While we cannot provide legal guidance on the specifics of copyrights, The New York TImes, The Washington Post, USA Today, and BBC have all previously objected to other applications that include preset feeds to their content, and believes that such features infringe their rights.

So, I guess that means iNewz cannot include at least those feeds, and by extension I am sure they will assume all other similar news organisations could feel the same way. I also see no reason why they would feel differently about the other iNewz applications, even though the feeds are from smaller news organisations and blogs.

The Inconsistency
To make it worse, iNewz has been on the app store for over a year, and had mostly the same set of feeds for that time. It has been through the review process numerous times (several times in the last month or so), and certainly makes no attempt to hide the fact that it gets the news from the feeds of major news organisations.

The Irony
To further emphasize just how random the Apple review process is, on the very same day, just a few hours after the initial rejection email, I received a second email stating that the same update (a fix for a Twitter OAuth problem) to iNewz for iPad had been approved.

The Conclusion
There were really two ways out of this dilemma:

  1. I can try to find a way to get the application(s) approved;
  2. I can pull the applications from the store.

This application was never really a commercially viable project; it has not even come close to paying for its development in hours. It was more a labour of love – I wanted a news application for my commute, and I thought other people might enjoy it too.

But looking back over the reviews in the app store, I realise that was perhaps a mistake. And the update it appears is disliked by almost all those who have written reviews so far.

Given that, I think I have no real choice to make here. Sadly, I think iNewz, in all its forms, will have to be removed from the app store soon.

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