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Ruminating about possibly eliminating the iPhone App review process

Joe Hewitt, the developer behind the Facebook for iPhone app adds a bit of sanity to the discussions about the iPhone App review process when he notes that no matter what, he won’t be abandoning or boycotting developing for the Apple platform, because:

…when I have a problem with a friend, I don’t threaten to boycott our friendship until they change, so I’m not going to do that to Apple either.

He then goes on to weigh in on the continuing kerfuffle about the iPhone App review process and how it utterly fails, saying:

Having said that, I have only one major complaint with the App Store, and I can state it quite simply: the review process needs to be eliminated completely.

While I agree with this stance, and have argued that Apple should both stop reviewing apps and stop being the moral arbiter of the App Store (notice that most of those who decry Apple’s blocking of certain apps that they want are the same ones who spew forth outrage at many of the apps that have been approved and in which they find some fault), there is one larger problem that Apple needs to solve (and which Apple thinks it is solving by having the review process in place): Apple needs to make it easier to differentiate good apps from crap apps. Right now, it is virtually impossible to do and there is a landfill of absolute crap polluting the App store. Why? Because of the walled garden approach.

Imagine if the iPhone were a slightly more open platform, like Mac OS X, where you could download any app that you wanted directly from the internet, not from iTunes exclusively, and install it on your iPhone. Developers could offer shareware versions of their software that would be activated fully by purchasing a license. In that instance, you’d probably only ever hear about the really good and useful applications that have proven themselves. Now, that’s a novel idea.

My point is: eliminating the iPhone app review process gains us little to nothing until Apple makes installing applications on the iPhone as open as it is to install applications on Mac OS X and allows you to shop for those applications from wherever you like online; not just exclusively from within iTunes or from within the App Store on your iPhone or iPod touch. That very successful for Apple marketplace is exactly the thing that is creating all these horrible apps and all these problems for the good apps that Apple keeps refusing to approve.

Will Apple make this change? Considering how much money it makes off the App Store, I seriously doubt it.

More discussion about this here…

Update: I love Nilay Patel’s take on all this: “I don’t care.”