Apple rejects Conroy's big red button app as devs feared

The Australian government's cybersafety app for iOS was deemed too similar to a web link for Apple to approve.

(Credit: Sony)

The Australian government's big red button for cybersafety was rejected from the iTunes app store for being too similar to a web link, documents released under Freedom of Information have revealed.

In 2010, the government launched a software based red button for the desktop, which allowed a child who was being bullied or facing other problems online, to click a button and be directed to a website that shows them what they can do. The website would explain, for example, how to report issues to Facebook or how to report something to the police.

The government allocated AU$136,000 to the program, although, at last report, only $113,000 of this had been spent. Since the launch, the government has also released versions of the program for browsers, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, and Android.

A Freedom of Information request by online rights advocate Geordie Guy today revealed that, in October 2011, Apple rejected the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's version of the app for iOS because it was deemed too similar to a web link.

"We found that the experience your app provides is not sufficiently different from a web browsing experience as it would be by incorporating native iOS functionality," the rejection letter stated

"We encourage you to review your app concept and evaluate whether you can incorporate additional features to enhance the user experience. Alternatively, you may wish to consider building a web app using HTML5."

The emails from the department reveal that the government had suspected from the outset that the app would be rejected on these grounds.

"Bad news, Apple have rejected the app ... it's basically what we feared in the first place."

The department and consultancy firm Saltbush Group suggested that a web app might be the best alternative, but did suggest that a self-contained iOS app might be the way forward.

"Given there have been outages/issues with the website since we launched the Android app, this might make sense anyway, and we could optionally back-port the application to the other mobile platforms if that suited."

The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been contacted for comment.

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