Developer calls for Apple to eliminate App Store review process

Developer calls for Apple to eliminate App Store review process

Summary: Joe Hewitt, a software developer best known for his work on Facebook for iPhone and early Firefox, has a radical proposal about how to fix the App Store: eliminate App Store review process completely.While I agree with the spirit of Hewitt's argument, it will never happen.

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Joe Hewitt, a software developer best known for his work on Facebook for iPhone and early Firefox, has a radical proposal about how to fix the App Store: eliminate App Store review process completely.

While I agree with the spirit of Hewitt's argument, it will never happen.

The premise (and title) of his blog post is that apps should be "innocent until proven guilty." Hewitt thinks that Apple should emulate the open and transparent model of the worldwide web and allow the market to police itself. He also states that Apple is overwhelmed and incapable of keeping up with the rapid pace of app development.

Apple does not have the means to perform thorough quality assurance on any app. This is up to the developer... Apple may catch a few shallow bugs in the review process, but let's face it, the real things they are looking for are not bugs, but violations of the terms of service.

Hewitt also takes issue with Apple's justice system of guilty until proven innocent.

They don't trust us, and I resent that, because the vast majority of us are trustworthy.

While all good points I can't help but think that a wide-open Apple Store would invite many untrustworthy opportunists all too eager to take advantage of the growing flock of iPhone owners. After all, if Apple can't keep up with the pace of apps submitted to the store, how could they keep up with all the complaints and investigations that would result from a "Wild West" approach?

What would stop developers from lodging fake complaints against their competitors in order to stifle competition? Although the "vast majority" of developers may indeed be trustworthy, what about the ones that aren't? What about the opportunists and thieves that would love to prey on unsuspecting iPhone owners?

Although I see Hewitt's point, Apple is unlikely to ever auto-approve apps, the App Store is simply too popular with too much profit potential for unscrupulous developers. That being said, there has to be some sort of middle ground between Apple's iron curtain and the Wild West.

My proposal after the jump...

Apple should implement a karma/feedback system for apps that is unrelated to ratings. The first time an app is submitted, Apple will put it through rigorous testing and guarantee a response (not necessarily an approval, mind you) within 14 days. This would eliminate the perennial "we're examining it" stunt that Apple's pulling with the Google Voice app.

Apple could assign a karma score to each app on a scale of 0-100, with an 80 needed for approval. Once the app is released Apple could implement a "feedback" button prominently in the App Stores (both in iTunes and on the iPhone) to solicit feedback from users that have purchased or downloaded the app. A carefully created feedback survey would require the user's identity and ask them to check a series of boxes (no time-sucking free-form text fields here) asking if the app violated any of Apple's Terms of Service (privacy, porn, spam, etc.). Apple would investigate each complaint and deduct points from the app's karma score. If an app's score dips below 80, the app gets removed.

The advantage to an App Store karma system is that once an apps has earned and 80+ score and been approved, subsequent releases of the same app (bug fixes and feature releases) could be automatically approved. If a nefarious developer tries to "slip something through" and users complain, the app will get removed. The same type of karma system could be implemented for developers. If the dev released five solid 80+ apps and has less than five percent complaints, for example, then the sixth apps could get fast-tracked for a 24 hour decision. In other words, once a level of trust has been established, apps would get approved that much faster.

There will always be those that will try to game the system. Nothing is perfect but something has to change with Apple's app review process -- and soon. A karma system that rewards good behavior has worked pretty well on sites like eBay for years and is worth a shot.

Topics: Apps, Apple, Software Development

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16 comments
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  • Good idea

    We do not have app stores for computer software. There are no such stores for PCs nor Macs nor Windows Mobile phones. I guess apple wanted to ensure that iphone experience will be always safe and clean but at this point they should just give up and maybe create two stores. One where they could have their review process and another one with minimal review that would just check for foul language or so.
    Appstore already is a mess. There are maybe a few good apps but the vast majority are the low value ifart iclones. I doubt that anyone would notice the difference without the review process. Some good apps that are stuck in the review process may gain from that though.
    paul2011
  • How about Apple allows for business apps?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/24/iphone_apps_not_for_business/

    [i]This makes it all the more surprising that Apple advised one customer that: "The iTunes Store sells only to customers as end-users for personal, noncommercial use."[/i]

    This is spelled out in their T&C:
    http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/uk/terms.html#SALES
    [i](ii) Your license of Products as authorized hereunder permits you to use the Products only for personal, non-commercial use, and not for redistribution, transfer, assignment or sublicensee, to the extent permitted by law.[/i]

    There you have it folks, yet another example of Apple telling you one thing (iPhone is ready for business) and then doing another (don't you dare use your iPhone for business).

    LOL!!! I just couldn't make this stuff up!!!! LOLOLOLOL!!!!
    NonZealot
    • How old are you?

      LOL? Are you a pre-pubecent teenage girl? Let it go...
      UsernameRequired
      • How old is your brain?

        "Pre-pubecent"? Learn to spell or stop skipping English Class in your elementary school before posting on a site like ZDNet. It's Pre-pubescent, by the way.
        Zach S
    • Business licensing is different

      Apple has (I am told) different T&C for enterprise use. During the iPhone
      OS 2.0 keynote Jobs noted that there <i>would be a process available
      for businesses who develop their own Apps to by-pass the App store.
      </i>Presumably this is an API that Apple makes available to Enterprise
      customers.

      Don't assume that because you read the T&C that there is only one T&C
      to cover all use cases.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • I certainly hope that happens

        As long as a developer has a real opportunity to bring their product to market, whether through the app market or through some other means, that takes away just about every complaint I would have with the iPhone app market.

        As it is right now, the iPhone app store has a monopoly on the iPhone app market. But if Apple is looking to change that and allow alternative methods of marketing, purchasing and installing iPhone apps, then good on them and it can't happen soon enough.
        Michael Kelly
  • Apple needs to review each app so as to be sure

    that it does not add feature that Apple will be introducing in the next version of the iPhone.

    Who loses if people do not purchase the next version of the iPhone or iPhone OS, as someone just added the capability for soon to be released features for next to nothing, via the App Store?
    GuidingLight
  • It's all about taxes...

    not about being unable to use the iPhone for business. As I
    read your link, Apple's statement is because of a tax issues.
    Think about U.S. Non Profit Organization, they're usually
    setup as such only for tax purposes which of course they
    must make a profit to stay in business.

    Your links are informative, your final sentence uncalled for
    and childish.
    BubbaJones_
    • That's the NonZealot for you

      His posts always read like that. Yes, the Terms and Conditions for retail
      customers read as quoted. Every phone I have owned (Nokia, Moto and
      Appple) read the same way, but I am a consumer. If I were a business I
      would be (technically) required by AT&T to purchase a business-level
      service plan too. If I want a static IP address from Comcast I have to pay
      for a business level service plan. I am constantly amazed at how ONE
      reference becomes the ONLY reference after we read it.
      use_what_works_4_U
  • Android market does this

    The android market does basically this, only reviewing apps that are complained about.

    Sure, you'll get some false reports, but it's going to be far fewer than the number of submitted apps.

    The app stores are what will eventually determine a winner in the smart-device wars, not hardware or even the OS. Apple has a nice headstart in this area, but seem to be doing their best to allow others to catch up.

    coffeeshark
  • Shouldn't these guys be coding or something?

    If they spent more time writing apps for Pre or Android and
    less time whining about the App store we'd all be better off.
    matthew_maurice
  • If they removed the approval process...

    Then riff raff (like Microsoft) would be able to toss out their tripe on the iPhone. Heh

    Consider also the huge amount of horrible horrible code that is produced for Windows. It's amazing Microsoft doesn't do reviews to reduce the effluent level of Windows apps. Mind you, they wrote Word (loss) but they could also come up with Excel (win) so who knows what quality control means to them.
    zkiwi
  • RE: Developer calls for Apple to eliminate App Store review process

    Just an historical footnote. Microsoft Word and Excel both
    were originally written for Apple's Macintosh intended to
    ship with the Mac. The Macintosh tool box was then one of
    the most tightly controlled OS codes on the planet.
    I frankly have no issue with Apple's control on the App
    store. They seem to be only guarding against what might
    be considered obscene or what might violate their
    agreements with ATT or, finally, coding that circumvents
    the iPhone UI in some manner. If you want the Wild West
    buy a Nokia with Android and have fun. I prefer my
    iPhone.
    dheady@...
    • App Store review a must ...

      Have to fully agree. The App Store is an unequivocal success. Nobody
      forces anyone to buy or endorse anything, there are enough alternatives
      out there to make anybody happy. Keep those apps coming ...
      ron.connal@...
  • Bad Idea.

    I don't want to have to run anti-virus in the background on
    my phone because of potential malware. I prefer to have
    the apps vetted.

    Ignoring malware, how can we be sure that the developers
    had any QA? What if the app brings down the phone? What
    if affects the cell network in some way negatively?

    The review process not only serves as a filter for malware
    but also provides some QA for smaller developers who
    cannot afford their own or are under pressure from their
    bosses to ship before it is ready.
    aristotle_z
  • What a fantastic idea!

    I love the karma score feature, but with more restrictions: only a select or voluntary group of users can use those apps immediately. Those users will review the apps (maybe even require evaluation or the app will be deleted). Not only have those users to check if the app isn't malware and rated/described wrongly, but also if it has any use. Fart apps would be rated by most users as of no use. They'll be deleted and it wouldn't be Apple's fault. And after a certain number/percentage of positive feedback, it should be checked by Apple (for legal issues only) and then opened for everyone. At the same time, we're enabling beta testing!

    What a great idea! :-D
    ctxppc