Apple censors App Store dictionary, loses its mind

If you're 13 years old, shooting people in the face is fine, but you should under no circumstances swear, or have access to written content that contains swear-words, because that is badness itself. This is the word and law according to Apple, judging by its latest App Store blunder.

Apple's achieved great things with the App Store: billions of downloads, strong usability, and a (potentially) great distribution and payment system for developers in return for a reasonable cut of the profits.

But in moves reminiscent of the Apple of old, whoever's in charge of App Store approvals seems to be shooting themselves in the foot. Repeatedly. And then in the knees - just to be sure.

After all, Apple initially okayed the Baby Shaker app and hundreds of clearly obvious IP breaches litter the store; however, eReader Eucalyptus was initially rejected for enabling access to text from Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (accessible via Apple's own Safari), and Twitter client Tweetie had an update booted because a rude term was a trending topic on the day an inept App Store reviewer started searching for objectionable things to object to.

After publications worldwide slammed Apple, its response bordered on the ludicrous: further updates to applications enabling access to general web content (web browsers, eReaders, RSS readers, Twitter clients) were saddled with a 17+ rating, thereby effectively rendering Apple's top App Store rating worthless and redundant.

Apple app update

BAD KARMA: If Apple was warning young'uns about '80s hair, that'd be fine, but this warning is about an update to Eucalyptus—an eReader that provides access to out-of-copyright literature.

But Apple's latest act of idiocy is the worst yet and truly draconian in nature. As revealed by Daring Fireball, Ninjawords was recently rejected, and an update only approved once the developer removed all 'objectionable' words—and even then the app still has a 17+ rating for 'frequent/intense mature/suggestive themes' and 'frequent/intense profanity or crude humour'.

Ninjawords isn't a game where black-clad martial artists throw shuriken while swearing like sailors. And it's not yet another unfunny audio toy, with people swearing in an 'amusing' far-East accent. It is, in fact, an English-language dictionary.

Apple genuinely rejected a dictionary for containing swear-words, forced the removal of 'objectionable' words that also have non-objectionable meanings (such as 'screw'), and, for good measure, slapped the censored dictionary with a 17+ rating anyway. By comparison, Super Sniper 2, where you can watch people's heads explode in a cloud of blood after taking a well-aimed pot-shot at them, aren't apparently as 'objectionable', getting a mere 12+ for 'frequent/intense realistic violence'.


NINJAWORDS: No screw (of the metal kind), pussy (of the feline kind) or snatch (of the grabbing kind) in Ninjawords, to avoid potential warping of fragile little minds.

Every time Apple's App Store approvals process hits the peak of absurdity, the company seems hell-bent on topping itself. One can only imagine what's in store for the future. Will children's farmyard games get 17+ ratings due to roosters going 'cock a doodle doo'? Will 16-year-olds find the Maps app blanks out Scunthorpe? Will 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James have its title's last word unceremoniously lopped off?

Supporters argue Apple's a pioneer, and the App Store's success took the company by surprise. 'Glitches', they say, are inevitable. But here's the thing: the App Store is no longer new, and Apple must sort out its problems now, because, sooner or later, the tide will turn.

Rivals will catch up but avoid aping Apple's dumbest restrictions. And even if Apple does an about-face, it'll be too late—users and developers will have gone elsewhere.