AppGratis ban just the first of many says AllThingsD

by Kenny Hemphill on April 10, 2013

Apple’s controversial removal of app-discovery tool, AppGratis from the App Store was just the first casualty of a crackdown on infringement’s of the company’s Store policy, according to AllThingsD.

AppGratis, which allowed users to easily find other Apps on the store, was banned for violating to clauses (2.25 and 5.6) in the App Store terms and conditions which prohibit apps promoting apps from other developers, and prohibit the use of push notifications for marketing purposes.

Sources familiar with Apple’s thinking tell AllThingsD that AppGratis’s ouster was a first step in a broader enforcement action generally targeted at app-discovery apps that run afoul of clauses 2.25 and 5.6.

I’m told that Apple feels that these apps threaten the legitimacy of the App Store charts by providing a way for developers to spend their way to a high ranking.

While Apple hasn’t said why it has chosen to strictly enforce its policies now, it’s believed to be concerned by the possibility of apps providing alternative shop windows, creating a Russian doll effect as users open an app only to be confronted with another store front. The move may also be related to Apple’s integration of Chomp, the search and discovery company it bought last year.

The cover of SAGA 12, as displayed in iBooks on an iPad.

Apple caused further controversy yesterday when it banned an issue of comic book, SAGA from being downloaded through apps like Comixology.

Co-author, Brian K. Vaughan said ‘Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s SAGA #12 from being sold through any iOS apps. This is a drag, especially because our book has featured what I would consider much more graphic imagery in the past, but there you go.’

While issue 12 of SAGA has been banned from apps, it is currently available on the iBookstore, which Vaughan said ‘apparently sometimes allows more adult material to be sold than through its apps. Crazy, right?’

Update: ComiXology has issued a statement which said that it was it, and not Apple, which made SAGA 12 unavailable through its app.

As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps. Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today.

We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.

Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.

ComiXology CEO David Steinberger also said that the company had been told by Apple that it had interpreted its rules incorrectly. Vaughan later issued a statement in which he apologised for causing a ‘kerfuffle.’

Yesterday, I was mistakenly led to believe that this issue was solely with Apple, but it’s now clear that it was only ever Comixology, too conservatively interpreting Apple’s rules. I’m truly sorry. I never thought either company was being homophobic, only weirdly inconsistent about what kind of adult material was permissible. I’m grateful that the situation was cleared up so quickly, and I’m delighted I can go back to reading smutty comics on my Retina display iPad.

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