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Apple issues moral regulations apps dev guide

'If it sounds like we're control freaks, well ...'

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Apple has finally published some rules for applications submitted to the iTunes store, and it seems that down in Cupertino they're just as bored of flatulence-themed applications as the rest of us.

The guidelines, which are now available to Apple developers, lay out the rules by which apps are rejected, or accepted. They also lay out a route by which developers can appeal decisions - as long as they haven't gone crying to the media, that is.

In the document Apple explains that it doesn't attempt to control books or music: "If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song." Only applications fall under Steve's proxied eye, and that eye refuses to depend on parental controls which Apple reckons few parents configure - "we're keeping an eye out for the kids".

When the company isn't busy thinking of the children it's rejecting applications that "duplicate apps already in the App Store", and those "that are primarily marketing materials or advertisements". Also verboten is changing the function of hardware switches and anything that portrays a "real entity" as an enemy - so no fighting al-Qaeda on the iPhone.

There's no mention of the ban on applications developed in languages other the Objective C, which does appear to have been rescinded. So you can have Flash, but not, apparently, Opera.

The rules are quite explicit: "Apps that browse the web must use the iOS WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript". That would seem to close the loophole by which the iPhone version of Opera was approved.

Opera slipped onto the iTunes store on the grounds that it doesn't interpret code locally - all interpretation is done on the server - but it would be hard to argue that the application doesn't "browse the web".

The ban on downloading code (of any kind) for local interpretation remains in place, along with the expected ban on pornography (though no mention of the branded pornography already in the store). A rule that is new to us is the explicit ban on applications involving Russian roulette, though we didn't think the iPhone packed suitable hardware for a realistic rendering.

Subscriptions must be usable across iOS devices, which could portend Apple expanding its range, though that shouldn't come as any surprise.

Overall the new rules aren't terribly surprising, but they still leave a lot of questions - will Apple kick Opera out of the store along with Playboy, both of which clearly breach the now-published rules? Greater transparency is to be commended, but unless Apple decides to apply the rules with a little more equality then all we're left with is obvious injunctions and excruciating platitudes as the guidelines explain:

"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." ®

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