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If there’s one thing you can count on about Apple’s App Store review policy, it’s that the process will be consistently inconsistent. Today, an app launches that was originally rejected for known and acknowledged use of private APIs, despite the fact that developers haven’t modified the app in any way since its rejection.
Knocking Live Video, the app in question, makes use of Apple’s forbidden private APIs to enable live video streaming over Wi-Fi and 3G for the first time on the platform. Apple has made clear its policy on the use of private APIs, most recently via the introduction of an automated layer of the review process for app submissions that automatically checks all code for the presence of unauthorized API usage.
Knocking’s usage of live streaming video is very particular, as Ars Technica explains, something which may have had something to do with it being approved while other apps like Qik haven’t been able to break down the streaming wall:
Knocking Live Video uses an interesting take on streaming video. Unlike Qik, which is designed to stream video to multiple clients, Knocking streams from one iPhone to another. (…) You simply launch the app and “knock” another iPhone user with Knocking Live Video installed. That user will receive the “knock” via push notification. Once answered, you can then stream live video directly to them. An iPhone 3GS or iPhone 3G is required to transmit video, but other iPhones and iPod touches can receive and view the stream via WiFi.
The app was initially rejected about a month ago for unauthorized use of the private APIs, but Knocking development Brian Meehan decided not to just take the refusal lying down. Instead, he went straight to the top, contacting Steve Jobs directly via email. Jobs has been known to actually respond to emails personally on occasion, so it was at least worth a shot. Meehan’s plea was not about self-interest, but instead focused on appealing to Jobs as a lifelong Apple user who wanted to create a better experience for other members of the community.
The Monday following Meehan’s email, which was sent on a Saturday night in late November, he was contacted by an unnamed Apple executive who informed him that the app’s rejection had been reversed, and that the decision to allow it into the App Store had come “directly from the top.” It is now available for free in the App Store.
Hopefully this means that Apple is at least considering expanding the pool of publicly available APIs. Access to the live streaming video API would allow a lot of applications that have been shelved to see the light of day. It proves one thing at least: Apple is listening to the iPhone development community, even though it may not always appear that way.