I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Apple can’t stop reviewing iPhone apps

The iPhone is on top of the market with a lot of popular support, so journalists and bloggers know that any negative press will generate a lot of attention. Any anti-iPhone headline incites fans to defend it and validates envious people who take pleasure in the misfortune of the popular. Both bring a lot of pageviews and money. Therefore, the press and the public have very strong incentives to find flaws in the iPhone and yell about them.

If any iPhone application is malicious, destructive, or in extremely poor taste, it will generate bad press. Even if Apple stopped reviewing apps completely, they would still be blamed in the press for the effects of problematic apps. This creates a difficult position: Apple must attempt to be the gatekeeper in a market full of gray areas, but any decisions they make fall under intense scrutiny, and many decisions don’t have an indisputably “good” option.

Regardless of potential policy and implementation changes, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect perfectly smooth operation of a review system of this magnitude. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but the system won’t and likely can’t completely go away for the foreseeable future.

One possible solution is to maintain app review only for inclusion in the App Store and start permitting apps to be sold and distributed independently without requiring customers’ phones to be jailbroken. But this has a lot of technical and practical hurdles before it could be a high-quality experience, and I’m not confident that it would relieve Apple of the implied liability for the effects of bad apps.

Rather than fighting to abolish app review, it’s far more productive to guide and influence Apple, through both public and private interactions, to improve the system that we’re all, including Apple, probably stuck with for a long time.