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Apple extends 2.25 banhammer to apps with sharing, recommendation and App Store search tools

Apple extends 2.25 banhammer to apps with sharing, recommendation and App Store search tools
Apple has begun clamping down on third-party tools that allow users to recommend apps to their friends, with releases equipped with an app search facility also now prohibited.

No official announcement has been made, but PocketGamer.biz understands that apps are now liable to be rejected if they feature "filtering, bookmarking, searching, or sharing recommendations."

We've been contacted by one developer whose app discovery tool has recently been blocked by Apple because it includes such features, with App Store regulation 2.25 - which restricts apps that could be confused by consumers as app stores in their own right – cited within the reasoning.

Share and share alike?

As a result, it appears Apple has stretched the remit of 2.25 to cover sharing via email or social networks. The ability to search the App Store within third-party apps also now seems to be restricted.

It's a move that, in theory at least, threatens scores of titles already active within Apple's ecosystem - and, for the first time, not just those engaged in pure app discovery, either.

"Our app is primarily focused on sharing recommendations to your friends," the developer, who wished to remain anonymous, told us.

"I have not seen this rejection notice before and believe that it is a new one. We thought that basing our recommendations on sharing was suitable for Apple, as it had previously stated that if you bake in social or local into your app discovery, you would be fine.

"However, either we are not social enough, or Apple is going back on its position. Either way, it appears the scope of 2.25 continues to grow and I think they aim to be the only provider of recommendations for apps, along with being the distributor."

'Familiar'

The email sent to said developer by Apple directly points to apps that "include filtering, bookmarking, searching, or sharing recommendations are not considered as significantly different from the App Store."

However, as the image below attests, these new conditions do not feature within App Store regulation 2.25 itself.


Regulation 2.25 as it stands today

Though it's hard to gauge just how many studios have been faced with a similar rejection letter, one developer behind a rival app discovery platform has told us that the wording 'looks familiar'.

This apparent covert expansion of regulation 2.25 risks adding to the confusion iOS developers already feel, the developer behind the recently rejected app told us, with the community being left in the dark about the way Apple applies its own regulations.

Confused

"Regulation 2.25 was put into effect last fall and the scope of what it entails has grown quite large since then," he said.

"At first it seemed Apple was targeting the Tapjoy network and apps that would 'game' its top charts. Next, AppShopper fell because it was too similar to its storefront.

"Finally, AppGratis got that axe and seemingly our app as well, although I remain hopeful that we might be able to adjust our UI to appease Apple.

"Discovery on mobile remains an issue. If iPhone users can’t be connected to great apps, then the whole ecosystem suffers.

"If Apple decides it wants to be the sole source for recommendations of iPhone apps - and do something as drastic as discontinue its affiliate network - it won’t win. Apple loses, developers lose, and most importantly, everyone with an iPhone loses."

A logical leap would be to suggest that Apple's supposed move against apps that sport recommendation tools has been instigated in preparation for a realignment of its own approach on this score, though that's little more than speculation at this point.
UPDATE: It appears not all new app discovery platforms are suffering at the hands of Apple's new regulations.
Are you a developer who has had your app rejected for similar reasons? Drop us an email at keith.andrew[at]pocketgamer.co.uk.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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FoscoSoft
Fortunately exists PriceDrop (www.pricedrop.com) that offers the same service via web and with a web app companion.
Ouriel Ohayon
Well i hope you ll cover appsfire (or others) as much as the rest if the app does not get pulled. it is also a news...

ps: appstatics our other app discovery app was also approved twice in the past month. in case this can ring a bell
Keith Andrew
It's my job. :)
Ouriel Ohayon
Keith - why so pessimistic?
Keith Andrew
Ouriel - why so bitter?
Ouriel Ohayon
Keith, here is a developer insight that will be helpful: every app pulled gets approved before they are pulled.... But not all apps approved get pulled. Unless you want to make a headline about this too?
Keith Andrew
A new version of AppGratis had just been approved before it was pulled... ;)
Ouriel Ohayon
Keith your hopes may come true: you are welcome to download the just approved and released new Appsfire version. Have fun
Hey, guys! Apple hates our dialer! They strongly disparage us in the rankings. Denied access to some very important functions, simply because they *just because they don't like it*.It all started when users have written that our dialer easier than theirs (standart). Direct access to the features has been closed. After all, we just wanted to simplify the search for contacts, and didn't even think to compete with the holy iOS!
Don Synstelien
Keith,

I always assume that Apple *will* remove any app they don't like *just because they don't like it* I don't think the actual rules matter. If they did, Apple would provide guidance about what might pass the rules, and be far less secretive than they are about how these rules are interpreted.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that the real target of that section is any developer/business who creates a way to generate elevated promotions that are guaranteed to take an app to the top 25, and that the suggestion that Apple has a problem with competition to the general ability of the app store to present apps is not their real concern.

I would assume that *any* activity or creation that allows any developer to "buy" their way to the top of the charts, whether it's in the rules today or not, will eventually be shot down. So... Don't do that if you want to stay in the store. Even if the rules permit whatever you might be thinking of building.
Keith Andrew
Don - That's all established, of course. What's important about this apparent amendment is that the wording suggests 2.25 could now be applied beyond the kind of pure app discovery platforms you cite.

The scope is now much wider.
Don Synstelien
Re: "If Apple decides it wants to be the sole source for recommendations of iPhone apps - and do something as drastic as discontinue its affiliate network - it won’t win. Apple loses, developers lose, and most importantly, everyone with an iPhone loses."

None of these apps are being rejected because they somehow conflict with the app store display or take advantage of the affiliate model for revenue (i.e. Apple's problem with them is not that Apple wants to be the only store in town, nor is apple's problem that developers are driving affiliate installs)

Rather, the problems are all related to gaming the app store. i.e. the "Tapjoy" problem. Tapjoy was obvious about how they gamed the app store, App Gratis, Appshopper, etc, all. are less obvious, but they game it just the same.

App Gratis sells a promotional spot in it's apps. That promotional spot appears in front of millions of AppGratis customers at exactly the same time (or would if AG's push notifications were not revoked by Apple)

That kind of immense and immediate traffic will propel any app developer able to pay the toll to App gratis to an immediate top 25 spot... Which, if you review some of the documents floating around is how companies like App gratis, etc. sold their promo spots. To drive that same amount of performance from traditional banner ads is difficult.

If these companies would have limited their activity to something like a basic app store model, with spotlights and such, this probably would not have blown up in their faces. But since they went big and developed enough power to be able to move the needle on the app store charts any time they wished, they ran afoul of how Apple wants things to happen.

I'm not defending Apple. I'm a developer of games and really need services that are cheap to get users. But none of these services are cheap since the real problem is that they all compete to drive apps to the same top 25 spots so that those apps will get real, organic traffic.
Keith Andrew
Ouerile - I'm not going to talk about the app in question in any regard because they have anonymity. Pretty standard stuff.

And this is the first case we've heard of of a developer being warned off on these terms. It's not a phrase many others in the industry have seen, hence why this story is quickly spreading across the web. It's utterly news.

If it wasn't news to you - if you knew of these terms - then you probably should have told someone.

(Oh, and good luck. Genuinely hope Appsfire isn't the next platform we cover on these pages for getting pulled.)
Israel Lazo
come on people!! start buying androids and stop feeding aple with your money!!
Ouriel Ohayon
Keith

i don't imagine. i stick to facts. 2.25 is a master rule. It applies to apps that apple consider *close to the app store and possibly confusing*. so there is no contradiction, no extension and no news. You *do not* know if Apple never invoked those details before for a simple and good reason. Not all the cases are public and reported. Maybe they did and if they did you would not know about it for sure unless every single developer in the field come share their story with you which i doubt


Now, it would have been interesting to know your opinion: since you saw the app and know the developer. Is this the case? is the app different enough or not? to close or not? Appshopper seems to have managed to get back by bringing back something Apple considered unique. And it does not look either that Apple has rejected yet every single apple offering search, filtering, bookmarking or whatever else

So i am sorry to insist, but there is nothing new on the table. Including indeed, and without irony, that Appsfire could be falling under those rules.
Keith Andrew
Ouriel - yes. I know the app in question and what it does. Do you imagine we'd publish if we didn't?

We didn't pick this up from the forum you cite or anything already published on a web - we've been in contact whose app discovery app was recently rejected from the App Store for the reasons highlighted in the story.

Apps that have previously been blocked for regulation 2.25 have not been warmed against "filtering, bookmarking, searching, or sharing recommendations" before.

(The irony here is, under these new conditions, it's not hard to imagine that Appsfire could itself very easily fall foul of Apple.
Ouriel Ohayon
And how do you know that? No one has seen this app. Did you?

2.25 does not detail on the features that Apple consider as "displaying an app" which can encompass a lot of aspects including sharing, bookmarking searching ...the point of 2.25 is about "being similar to the App store"

So there is no "news" here and even less a contradiction. Apple applies the rules. And that's the rule...you can agree or disagree with it.

The title present as if this was something "new" when it is not.

Keith Andrew
We haven't published this lightly. The whole point of the article is to point out the rules HAVEN'T been changed, yet we have evidence Apple is contacted developers who apps have been rejected with this reasoning.

That's the whole point of the story: how can developers know when they've broken rules if the rules they're charged with breaking aren't in the rule book?

The title is in no way misleading - it's exactly what's happening - and it's becoming utterly tiresome to see developers blindly leap to Apple's defence when they haven't actually got to grips with what the charge is.
Keith Andrew
You're missing the point - as with every Apple set of rules, it's not being applied universally.

That's what this and all other regulation 2.25 articles are about chap - you can find scores of apps that break 2.25 that are still on the App Store.

You're missing the entire point of the article.
Ouriel Ohayon
re Appshopper: how does that fit your "theory" since the "new appshopper" does have search, sharing and bookmarking..that 's weird isn't it?
Ouriel Ohayon
Even if that isn't you have no evidence Apple has "changed" their rules. It is even harder to make any decisive conclusion without knowing what the app does exactly and what it looks like and your title is certainly misleading
Keith Andrew
Also, the original AppShopper has not been restored. The developer was forced to launch a new, different app. The original one continues to be banned.
Keith Andrew
Nope. That's not our source.
Ouriel Ohayon
Keith.. there are some talks about it on the web in a "chinese app forum" http://www.cocoachina.com/bbs/simple/?t138492.html

It is hard to give a solid credit to it either. specially not seeing what the app looks like, how it is designed, conceived and working...

would that be your source? or you have more than that?

2.25 has not been rewritten that we know of and Apple has not notified developers that was going to be the case.

It is really a big jump to lead to any conclusion from there. Specially after Appshopper has been placed back. Your title sounds like the guidelines have been rewritten and systematically applied...

Would you agree?
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