Maybe Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone app review process is actually partially automated, because I can see no other good reason for having rejected the latest update of Tweetie (1.3) for objectionable content. The offending word (the F-bomb, in case you were wondering) would normally merit that kind of treatment, but considering the circumstances, it seems like a pretty ridiculous move on Apple’s part.
The word came up in a Twitter trends search, which, as those of us familiar with the popular micro-blogging service know, is well beyond the control of Tweetie’s developers. For those of you not familiar with Twitter or trends, when enough people mention the same thing, it shows up as a trending topic in Twitter’s search page, or in apps that use Twitter’s API. It would be a little like blaming Google for the contents of their search results.
By Apple’s logic, they should reject and remove every app that allows for Twitter searching or the viewing of Twitter trends. Which they haven’t. You can still get the existing version of Tweetie (1.2.1, App Store Link), which provides exactly the same feature, and no doubt showed exactly the same trending topics when the offensive word appeared.
This is exactly the kind of thing that worries me about Apple having as much power as it does in overseeing the App Store. Is the (brief) appearance of an offensive word in an open search really so much worse than tasteless fart and gun noise-making apps? Especially when the Tweetie update actually provides a large number of truly useful features and improvements, instead of just a single throwaway function that people will use only once and never again. Inject some intelligence into that approval process, Apple, before the App Store becomes as much of a joke as most of the apps it’s hawking.