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Apple celebrates first year of App Store hijinks

Happy birthday, fartmonger!

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One year ago Friday, Apple launched its iTunes App Store. And it's been one hell of a wild - if famously flatulent - ride ever since.

Love it or hate it, the iPhone has been a runaway success, and the App Store has been a major contributor to its inarguable megahit status.

In the beginning, the App Store's original 800 offerings resulted in over 10 million downloads in its first weekend of operation and achieved $500m (£310m) in sales during its first month.

By October, the Store had grown to 5,550 apps and 200 million downloads. In December its 10,000 apps grew that total to 300 million downloads, January saw 15,000 apps and 500 million downloads, and the one billion downloads mark was achieved this April, when the Store held 35,000 apps.

Now, on its first birthday, the App Store's collection easily exceeds 56,000 apps, according to Store-watcher 148apps. Add to that the over 4,000 apps that 148apps tags as "inactive" and we're talking over 60,000 apps written for the iPhone and iPod touch over the past year.

With those numbers in mind, you could be excused for thinking that it's been a year of smooth sailing for Apple's online megastore. But you'd be wrong.

The last 12 months have seen tiffs with developers, accusations of erratic censorship procedures, and torrents of fartware - one specimen of which led to a third-party legal stink.

Although Apple's iPhone Developer Program has enticed new devs to flock to the iPhone in record numbers, their path has not always been a smooth one.

First, Apple imposed an non-disclosure agreement on developers that prevented them from sharing info - including details of their rejection letters. After a suitable hue and cry in the blogosphere, Apple lifted the NDA in October.

Soon after that, however, another flap developed when Apple was accused of favoring a major developer - Google - over hoi polloi. Then there were delays in that many developers experienced in getting paid for their app sales.

One of the most frustrating hurdles that developers have had to, well, hurdle, has been Apple's difficult-to-comprehend censorship system, which has over the past year brought down - among many, many others - comics, mammaries, South Park, shaken babies, Jesus, and the reindeer-assisted murder of old women.

But there have been moments of levity as well. Who can forget, for example, the mother of all stupid iPhone apps, the notorious "I Am Rich," which simply displayed a glowing gemstone and which one unhappy iPhoney was reported to have actually purchased for its listed price of $999.99?

Then there was the bizarre dust-up between one developer and the Molson Coors Brewing Company, which the developer sued for $12.5m for allegedly stealing the idea for a faux-pint elbow-bending app.

And today, at the apex of the App Stores popularity, the sublime (e.g., Spirituality Quotes) continues to coexist with the ridiculous. A search for the word "fart" on the App Store, for example, now turns up 389 exemplars ranging from iFart Mobile - "The world's most popular digital fart machine!" - to Farting Choir - "The world's most popular Farting Choir!" - (App Store links).

What worries us about this proliferation of digital flatulence is that according to Freudian theory the "anal phase" of child development is usually understood to commence at around 18 months. Let's hope the one-year-old App Store is a precocious child.

But happy first birthday, App Store. You've grown big and strong, but you haven't yet found your moral compass or fully developed your sense of responsibility. Hopefully, that will come soon.

All things considered, though, it's been a very good year. ®

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