The Case For The Dedicated E-Reader: When It’s Time To Go Off The Grid

The case for the dedicated e-readerWith the advent of the iPad and the plethora of cheaper Android tablets that are due to flood the market over the coming months, there’s an increasingly popular theory in the tech industry: the days of the dedicated e-reader are numbered.

Last week we published the latest forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media analysts that said as much. Sales of ‘smartbooks’ (a loosely defined term) are expected to grow from 3.65 million in 2010 to nearly 50 million in 2014, or over 50% of all embedded device sales. The losers will be dedicated e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader, and the winners, multifunctional portable devices like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The reasoning – and it’s convincing – is that e-book content is now available on most multifunctional devices like mobiles and tablets that work well enough as book readers, while having other functions.

The Nexus One Was Google’s Dream. The Carriers Were Freddy Krueger.

Your mobile phone should be free.”

That was Google CEO Eric Schmidt talking to Reuters in November of 2006. It was just about a year before the Android project was first unveiled. It was also just a few months before the iPhone was introduced (Schmidt was a member of Apple’s Board at the time). At that point, Schmidt had to know that both Google and Apple were on the verge of changing the mobile industry. Or, at least, that’s what he thought was going to happen.

There’s no question that the situation in the mobile industry (particularly in the U.S.) is better than it was in 2006 from a consumer perspective. And yes, that’s largely thanks to Apple and Google. But free phones? We’re nowhere close to that. But last year we were. And then Google’s dream turned into a nightmare.

Before I get to that, let’s clarify what “free” is. There are plenty of phones out there on the market today that are “free”. But they’re not really free, you’re simply paying for them over the life of a cellular contract and accepting an upfront subsidy to make them “free”. It’s really a nice little mind game scam the carriers have in place. That’s not what Schmidt was talking about.

What he meant was that phones should be free because they would be fully (or mostly) subsidized by mobile advertising. In a way, that’s not really free either — but it’s a lot more free than the contract version of “free”.

And Schmidt’s vision was almost realized last year, we’ve heard from a couple of sources. Specifically, we’ve heard that the original plan for the Nexus One (the device that was being called the first real “Google Phone”, remember) was to release it for $99 unlocked. Let me repeat that. $99. Unlocked.

How? Google was going to pay the subsidy. Mobile advertising was ramping up so nicely at that point for Google that they felt they could get away with eating a few hundred dollars per user (which would be paid to the phone’s manufacturer, HTC), and really explode the market. It wasn’t a free phone. But it was damn close.

So what happened?

Well, as we hear it, the carriers told Google to go screw themselves.

You see, Google’s grand mobile plan had just one pesky problem: Google doesn’t run their own cellular service. They need the carriers’ support in order to make their phones work. Otherwise they’re just handheld WiFi devices (an idea Google also toyed with).

And Google had another problem. Android was already in full swing at the time, and while the Nexus One was going to be a different kind of phone, they still needed full carrier support for all their other phones. They simply couldn’t afford to piss off the carriers who could effectively destroy the platform they had built. So Google backed down.

Instead of a $99 unlocked Nexus One, we got a $179 version that was subsidized… by T-Mobile… if you signed a two-year contract. You could still get an unlocked version — but it was going to cost you $529.

At the Nexus One launch event, Google also announced a commitment from Verizon to sell the device. A couple months later, Sprint and AT&T also committed. All the major U.S. carriers were on board to sell the Google Phone. Subsidized. With contracts.

Yeah. That wasn’t Google’s original plan.

Their big back-up plan to revolutionize the industry was to sell the device online. The carriers went along with that, likely knowing it would flop. After only a few months, the entire thing fell apart.

By May of 2010, Google announced that they would no longer be selling the Nexus One (except to developers) — and this was before Sprint and Vierzon even got around to launching their versions of the device. What was the point? Instead of an insanely cheap super phone, the Nexus One had become just a moderately-priced poor-selling smartphone.

Gee thanks, carriers.

Earlier today, Robert Scoble painted a similar (though much more brief) picture over Twitter of the story I just told. “My conversation last night with a Google VP confirmed that they threw their principles under the bus in order to gain Android market share,” he tweeted this morning. “What did the Google VP say? They learned from Google Nexus One that carriers hold all the cards. They had to play ball with them,” he continued. Bingo.

On one hand, it’s hard to blame Google. I mean, what else were they going to do? They had no choice. On the other hand, the pendulum is now swinging in the complete opposite direction and the carriers are starting to take advantage of the openness of Android to set the entire industry back ten years. And Google is playing along.

My only remaining hope is that Google is secretly building up Google Voice to be the VoIP solution they can use in conjunction with ever-expanding WiFi to blindside the carriers. That, or that they’ll somehow use the Open Spectrum they fought so hard for to come up with another way around the carriers. But the recent net neutrality shenanigans with Verizon don’t leave me too hopeful.

With Android growing so quickly, with Apple now clearly a foe, and with Microsoft trying to come back with Windows Phone 7, I fear Google now has too much vested interest in the current game to take the risks necessary to change it. It almost happened, but the carriers got in the way. Now, the only way we’re getting anything sort of resembling the free phones Schmidt promised is by giving Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile roughly two grand over the next couple of years.

You know, “free”.

[images: New Line Cinemas]

With 40+ Customizable Plugins, Seesmic Desktop 2 Aggregates The Realtime Web

After a year’s worth of work, Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur just announced the launch of Seesmic Desktop 2 (SD2), a desktop client that goes beyond Twitter; “We want to be the first platform for platforms,” says Le Meur.

Running on Silverlight (to install go here), the desktop app now has plugin architecture that supports a multitude of content streams including but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Foursquare, Flicker, Klout, Formspring, Myspace, Google Reader (!), GroupOn (!), Salesforce Chatter, E-Bay, and so on and so forth.

With this latest iteration it looks like Seesmic has found a way to prove that it’s more than just a one-trick, Twitter-platform pony, “The inspiration to build SD2 came from the understanding that our users desired support of many different social services, more than just Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin” Le Meur writes on his blog and in fact you can customize the app any way you like, “If you don’t like Foursquare, you can filter out Foursquare.”

Seesmic has also gone the way of the App store and has developed a plugin Marketplace, where you can search and download your favorite news viewing or social interaction plugins. Note: There’s a bit of turbulence in the installation process as you needlessly have to restart Seesmic Desktop in order to get the plugin to initially load.

Seesmic plans on launching payment options next year, but for the moment all plugins are free. And as Seesmic Desktop 2 is an open platform, Le Meur expects many more, “If all goes well there will be hundreds,” he tells TechCrunch hinting at more to come like E-Bay, ZenDesk, Gowalla, GroupOn, Visa, Blippy and Mint.

To encourage this he has built a SDK, offered up the Seesmic team for those companies that don’t have the chops, and hired third-party developers tequilarapido to build some of the more popular plugins like YouTube and Google Reader.

Alongside Seesmic Desktop UI mainstays like URL shortening, Search, Multiple Accounts, Lists, Photos/Video Twitter integration, and accounts support for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Buzz, the most exciting new features being launched here are individual to each plugin. And while it would take forever to get into into each one, I will bring up some of the most notable.


The YouTube plugin allows you to share and watch video within your Seesmic app, and enables you to keep tabs on your Favorites, Most Popular, etc.


You can now listen to music through the Seesmic client, if you have a Pro account.


With the Zappos plugin, perhaps the first social commerce plugin, anytime someone tweets a Zappos link you can see the item and buy it — If a Zappos link is tweeted by someone you follow you can now see all product information in your streams.


You can now view the tech news aggregator entirely on Seesmic, including discussion and related links.


The Klout plugin includes a small box under tweets in your stream which allows you to see the “Klout” or “influence” rank of of people who are tweeting.

Google Reader

Seesmic Desktop supports all Google Reader features, you can open any RSS and now use Seesmic as an RSS Reader.

Seesmic, which has received 12 million dollars in funding thus far, plans on monetizing Desktop 2 both from eventual Marketplace sales as well as with a classic freemium model which has at its core deep integration with the enterprise software and B2B space, which is where plugins like Salesforce Chatter and ZenDesk fit in. As TechCrunch Europe’s Mike Butcher said about the Chatter integration, “It’s like the link enterprise and the realtime social web just got invented.”

Le Meur also plans to take many of the Seesmic Desktop 2 features, and port them over to the iPhone/Android platforms next year. Windows Phone 7 will come first, since it’s the most compatible system with Silverlight.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Adobe To Resume “Dev Work” On Flash-to-iPhone Tool

Hot on the heels of Apple’s decision to increase, ever so slightly, the opportunities for devs to use different frameworks for iPhone app creation, Adobe announced that its resuming work on its Flash-to-iPhone system for Flash Professional CS5.

Here is the relevant quote:

Apple’s announcement today that it has lifted restrictions on its third-party developer guidelines has direct implications for Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, a feature in the Flash Professional CS5 authoring tool. This feature was created to enable Flash developers to quickly and easily deliver applications for iOS devices. The feature is available for developers to use today in Flash Professional CS5, and we will now resume development work on this feature for future releases.

Read more…

For-Profit Automattic Gives WordPress Trademark To Non-Profit Foundation

It’s not often you see a for-profit company donate one of their most valuable core assets and give up control,” Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg writes today in a post announcing that the WordPress trademark has been transfered from his company to the WordPress Foundation. “This is a really big deal,” he continues.

What this means is that the key ingredient behind Automattic is now in the hands of the organization in charge of “promoting and ensuring access to WordPress and related open source projects in perpetuity.” So why do this? Mullenweg says it has been his goal since the beginning to blend a non-profit business, a for-profit one, and not-just-for-profit one under one banner. Now that he feels each of those aspects is stable enough, he wants that main banner, WordPress, to be “protected” as a “beacon for open source freedom.”

With a quarter billion people now using the product — and with other for-profit products doing well (we use WordPress VIP to host TechCrunch, for example), Automattic clearly feels they can afford to lose their biggest asset. And Mullenweg thanks Automattic’s Board for allowing this transition to go down.

I know in my heart that this is the right thing for the entire WordPress community, and they followed me on that. It wasn’t easy, but things worth doing seldom are,” Mullenweg notes.

This move ensures that WordPress will live on as a project no matter who is in charge of the for-profit business or what happens to it. If this is about legacy, Mullenweg seems to have just cemented his. Good move.

Mobile Video Streaming Service Qik Has 3.5M Users, Projects 75M Installs In Next Year

We’ve been tracking the progress of Qik, a service that lets you broadcast movies from your mobile phone directly to the web, for years now. But until now we haven’t been able to get an especially accurate grasp of just how well the service has been doing. Today, that’s changing: Qik is releasing some user stats, for what cofounder Bhaskar Roy says is the first time.

Roy says that Qik curently has 3.5 million users, and is adding nearly 500,000 users each month. The application’s userbase has grown sixfold in the last year, and Roy expects that growth to continue. Much of it will stem from the fact that Qik is included as a default application on millions of devices, including the HTC EVO 4G and Nokia N97. Roy says based on current and upcoming partnerships, Qik will be preloaded on a whopping 75 million devices in the next year.

Qik is not the only player in this space. While live streaming companies and Ustream didn’t begin as mobile streaming services, they’ve launched applications for iPhone and Android that enable this functionality.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Students To Be Subject To Week-Long Social Media “Detox” Experiment

The Provost of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Eric Darr, has decided to perform what will certainly be an unpopular experiment on the students at his school. Following some chin-stroking related to the nature of social media and its relevance to etc. etc., Mr. Darr decided it would be interesting to block all use of social websites and applications on school networks for a full week.

The school is far from technophobic; in fact, like most modern universities, it is extremely well-wired, and a huge amount of collaboration and communication takes place online. So in addition to blocking Facebook, AIM, Twitter, and Myspace, HUST will also be blocking its internal networks and tools. There’s a lot to like about this experiment, and a lot to discuss.

Continue reading this article…

Ex-MySpace Execs Quietly Building New Startup Called Namesake

One good thing to come out of MySpace’s slow demise: a bunch of former employees are creating startups left and right, mostly in Los Angeles and helping to grow the startup ecosystem there. We’re tracking Gravity, Mindjolt, Gogobot and Beachmint. And we’re adding one more to the list.

Namesake was founded by Dan Gould and Brian Norgard. The site is still in private beta and it’s not 100% clear what it will be. From the about page:

We’re here to honor, support and serve people who create. People who aren’t afraid to embrace risk. People passionate enough to challenge the status quo and win. People who push us forward despite all odds.

At Namesake, we wake up every day to build an infinitely curious and innovative company. Building a better Namesake means more creators can build and spread their creations faster — which makes the world better.

We’re located in Los Angeles, CA. Today, we call the humble 10′ by 8′ Founder’s Room home, which has also been the site of a number of practical jokes. The company is founded and funded by Brian Norgard and Daniel Gould.

Via email, Gould says “We believe there’s a better way to match and route opportunities that come across your desk everyday. Our whole purpose is to make creators more successful by helping match them with these relevant opportunities in real-time.” Which isn’t super helpful. The company is self funded for now, says Gould. Both He and Norgard have some money to burn, they got their jobs at MySpace by selling a company to them, Newroo, in 2006.

There’s a place to sign up for the service once it launches for all you early adopter types.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Fingers Crossed: Google Voice May Be Returning To The App Store

On July 28 2009, a pair of iPhone applications that offered support for Google Voice were unceremoniously, and without warning, removed from Apple’s App Store. We then learned that Apple had blocked the official Google Voice application as well, which eventually led to an FCC inquiry. A year later, Google Voice was still missing from the App Store. Now it looks like there may be a glimmer of hope for getting Google Voice on your iPhone.

This morning Apple released guidelines explicitly spelling out for the first time what it would reject from the App Store. Sean Kovacs, the developer of third party Google Voice application GV Mobile (which was removed from the App Store over a year ago), read through each of the 100+ rules, and he concluded that his app didn’t seem to violate any of them. He emailed Apple’s approval board to see if he could possibly get his app reinstated. The response was encouraging.

I reached out to Kovacs, who says that an Apple representative responded that given the new guidelines released today, he was welcome to resubmit GV Mobile for review. Which is a much better response than he’s been getting before now (radio silence).

Of course, nothing is certain yet. This could be a case of an App Store reviewer stepping out of line and making a mistake. It’s possible that Apple will say this violates rule 8.3, which states “Apps which appear confusingly similar to an existing Apple product or advertising theme will be rejected” (this is similar to the “reducing functionality” explanation that Apple gave to the FCC last summer).

Or it could mean that Google Voice, albeit from a third party application, could finally be making its way back to the iPhone.

We’ve reached out to both Apple and Google to see if there has been a change and will update when we hear back.

Update: Google has given us this statement:

“We currently offer Google Voice mobile apps for Blackberry and Android, and we offer an HTML5 web app for the iPhone. We have nothing further to announce at this time.”

Ebyline: Why Is This A Business? (TCTV)

Earlier this week, Erick wrote about Ebyline – a new site, founded by some former LA Times-ers that promised to make it easier for talented freelance journalists to get gigs with legitimate publications. Or to put it another way, if Associated Content makes you want to kill yourself, Ebyline is the site for you.

But will editors actually use it? We invited Giga Om founder Om Malik to join us in the studio for this week’s ‘Why Is This News‘ to tell us whether he’ll be finding his next crop of writers from amongst Ebyline’s vetted and verified ranks.

Spoiler alert: no.

Video below.

Trying to Be Something You’re Not: Works for Drag Queens, not for Google

Contrary to popular opinion, the reason Yahoo’s metrics have been stagnant and its stock has lost half its value in the last two-and-a-half years isn’t because Google did search better than Yahoo. It’s because Yahoo turned its back on what it did well: Building the first online mass media content superstore. In doing so, it let the younger, sexier, faster-growing Google define what Yahoo wasn’t. It’s precisely the mistake that Jeff Bezos and Amazon didn’t make when eBay was the ecommerce, monkeys-could-run-this-train darling.

Yahoo was never going to win at search, just like Amazon never would have won at auctions. It wasn’t in the company’s DNA. Even after millions spent to build better search and search monetization systems (PANAMA!) there were obvious gaffes. Vinny Lingham, who used to have a business running massive offshore keyword campaigns for US companies, hated buying them on Yahoo because he had to separately purchase keywords for each international territory, but with Google, the purchase experience was all unified on one screen.

That’s because Yahoo was a company built on department-store like fiefdoms, with each country and division enjoying its own silo, vying for a slice of the front page with one another. When Yahoo was in the throws of its Microsoft take-over drama, I asked the head of one of Yahoo’s largest and most successful verticals what he thought about it. He answered, “It doesn’t really affect me, my division is basically a small business, and we can be the same small business inside of Microsoft.”

You could see this approach mirrored in Yahoo’s always cluttered front page vs. Google’s stubbornly Spartan one. Google as an organization was almost allergic to the idea of giving people anything else to do to keep them on its site, while Yahoo’s former-CEO Tim Koogle once bragged that search queries were going down, keeping people from leaving Yahoo. There was a basic DNA to the two companies that was at odds: One all about enabling discovery of the Web and one all about enabling discovery of….Yahoo.

It became fashionable to say Yahoo needed to be more of a technology company not a media company. But Yahoo was good at being a media company—it amassed an audience of half-a-billion people coming to its front page. When we launched TechTicker on Yahoo Finance it quickly got four-times the reach of CNBC. I’d love to take the credit, but that was the platform. Yahoo’s mistake was trying to become a Hollywood-style media company. Purple exclamation marks just aren’t Hollywood-cool no matter how many times Tom Cruise visits the campus.

Which brings us (belatedly) to the point of this post: Google needs to stop trying to be Facebook and focus on extending and investing in what makes Google successful: The Algorithm. Social media is about people, not algorithms. In a weird, way we’ve gone from content being in vogue (early AOL, Yahoo) to algorithms being in vogue (Google and those weird ads) and now back to content—albeit the user generated kind. It’s just not Google’s strong point anymore than search was Yahoo’s. You can bet somewhere inside Google a manager is yelling that Facebook surpassed it today in time spent on site. But as the contrast with Yahoo shows, Google was never playing that game. That’s like me being jealous of Stephanie Meyer because she sold more books on vampires.

Google has spent billions acquiring social media companies between Slide, YouTube, investing in Zynga and other smaller deals. And yet, I don’t hear a damn bit of buzz about this new gaming platform. What are people excited about? Instant search and priority inbox.

Sure, as a public company Google needs to grow, but the best opportunity isn’t all this social nonsense, it’s Android. It’s clearly where Eric Schmidt’s heart is. And it’s where Google is using endemic advantages — a suite of cloud-based apps people love and a hoard of cash and market influence– to do something no one else could: Pose a threat to the iPhone. With social Google is working against its own endemic advantages. And with the billions of people bridging the digital divide via mobile, a low-cost, open smart phone strategy comes at the exact right moment, versus Google’s social strategy which comes way too late.

Google hasn’t gone the Yahoo way yet, but it’s on the precipice: Don’t let Facebook define what you’re not, continue to excel at what you do well.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Information provided by CrunchBase

Information provided by CrunchBase

Blippy Founder: 40% Of Shared Purchases Are iTunes, But Ping’s No Threat (TCTV)

Over the weekend Philip Kaplan, co-founder of social purchasing site Blippy tweeted out a link to Steve Jobs demoing iTunes Ping, with the added sly comment ,“Looks like Blippy.” Curious about what Jobs’ movement into the social sharing space means for Blippy, we brought Kaplan into the TCTV studio and grilled him on what exactly Jobs did or did not copy, how often iTunes purchases were shared on Blippy, and whether or not the concept of social shopping has hit mainstream.


“I’m not saying that anybody copied anybody.”

“If Ping becomes popular, those users will potentially be looking for something like Blippy. I don’t think it’s too much of a threat”

“While lot of people were expecting more from Apple [re: Ping], if you look at the first iPod by today’s standards it’s not so great. If there’s one thing Apple is really good at its improving their products.”

“If iTunes is the only place that you shop, Ping seems like the place to to do it.”

“There’s nothing that drives an entrepreneur more than ‘It can’t be done’ or ‘That’s never going to work,’ Those are the exact things we need to hear. The fact that Apple is now basically in the same business is a double-edged sword.”

Kaplan also reveals that Blippy users have shared over 1 million iTunes purchases thus far, which comprise about 40% of the total purchases shared on Blippy (around 2.5 million). While this proportion may seem high, Kaplan is not worried about Ping as a direct competitor, as iTunes is only one of 250,000 stores on Blippy (0.0004% of total merchants). He explains the 40% statistic thus, “People who buying things from iTunes, buy things from iTunes almost twice as often as they buy things from Amazon, Ebay, Starbucks, and Walmart combined.  Not surprising, considering it’s much easier (and cheaper) to buy stuff from iTunes than it is to go to Walmart.”

After privacy scuffles and many naysayers, it seems as though Apple’s foray into transaction sharing platforms is the sincerest form of flattery for Blippy and the burgeoning social shopping space which includes Woot, Swipely, and even behemoth Amazon.

“When we came up with the idea for sharing purchases and launched Blippy, the concept seemed crazy to a lot of people. But we knew that other companies would eventually adopt the model once users saw how powerful and fun it is.”

Ah. The sweet sound of “I told you so.”

Facebook Tweaks The Like Button: Like Things In Apps, Link To Pages, And Show Box Counts

Ever since Facebook rolled out their Like button in April, it has been spreading over the web like wild fire. Since then, they’ve been tweaking it a bit here and there to improve the layout and functionality. Today brings more improvements.

As they note on their Developer Blog, the new Like button gains three things: the ability to like items within apps, the ability to link the Like button to Pages, and a new option to have a “box count” layout for the button that shows the number of likes above it.

The most interesting change is the first one mentioned. Previously, you could only like applications themselves, but now you can dig into applications and like elements within them. For example, you can now like virtual goods in an app like Farmville if Zynga implements this (which they undoubtedly will). You can also now like things like individual movies within entertainment apps, or causes.

The next change is a little confusing. Facebook now has a URL field in the Like button creation tool that you can use to link the Like button to that page. What this seems to do is allow you to create a Like button for something elsewhere besides the actual page you’re liking. So, for example, I could make a Like button for TechCrunch and include it on another blog.

Finally, Facebook has added a new view option for the Like button. The “box count” layout shows you the number of likes something has received above the button itself. This is a pretty standard view for sharing buttons on the web.

Update: Facebook clarified what they meant about the Like button linking a bit:

The URL field in the tool is not new and is for pointing to individual blog post URLs (TechCrunch actually does this with the Like button). The update is that you can now point a Like button to a Facebook Page, similar to how the Like box functions.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Don’t Blame Media, Blame the Media-Audience Infinite Loop

I’ve spent two days listening to and reading near-constant coverage of the wacko who’s planning to burn Korans in Gainsville, Florida, and increasingly the stories have been about whether or not all the press attention has been irresponsible. Whether constantly covering the outrage has made it a global one, versus something that only his fifty parishioners would have known about. If the events put American soldiers in danger—that’s a pretty real issue.

The media has long wrestled with how much it should give the public what it wants versus what it thinks the public needs, and it became more pronounced as the readership of stories became immediately measurable and comparable. Mad about Lindsey Lohan’s jail time being covered by serious news outlets? Groaning at another TechCrunch post about the iPhone? Well, then stop reading, watching, and commenting on them. Like a kid throwing a tantrum, the easiest way to get media you don’t like or think is irresponsible to go away is to stop paying attention. If a blog posts in a forest and no one is there to comment does it really exist? Not according to most bloggers.

But in the last year or so social media has made it more than an issue of we-write, you-read, so-we-write-more-until-you-stop-reading. Social media has given the world a persistent, open conversation. It’s no longer up to media to legitimize and publicize a story. On stories like this one, media has to choose to respond or not to a story that’s already been legitimized and publicized. This was a conversation before NPR, BBC or any other major news outlet weighed in. Once it has become enough of a conversation that world leaders were having to comment—how does the media not cover that?

There’s a lot of gray area and subjectivity surrounding the responsibility in being a reporter. Is it our job to tell the truth as we see it and damn the consequences or is it to be like Marty McFly in Back to the Future—observe but make sure you don’t do anything to affect the course of history! Social media hasn’t changed those questions—it’s broadened them from ivory tower press to anyone with a Twitter feed or a blog. The impact of social media to bring about world peace has been over-stated, but the destructive impact hasn’t. Distribution has been splintered into a million little pieces and so to as the responsibility for how you wield your own sliver of power.

Thou Shalt Not Chatroulette Or Russian Roulette: The Best Of The App Store Rules

This morning, Apple finally released a set of guidelines to iOS developers — a move which should go a long way in making the process seem less arbitrary. We’ve already posted the basics of what you need to know — those are, the high-level rules written in refreshingly non-corporate speak (“we don’t need anymore Fart apps” and “if you run to the press and trash us, it never helps”). But I’ve also gone over all the individual sections with the more specific rules, and found a number of interesting ones worth pointing out.

Behold: the best of the App Store rules. (As Apple notes, this is a “living document” subject to change at any time.):

2.9 Apps that are “beta”, “demo”, “trial”, or “test” versions will be rejected

No “beta” huh? Now we have another rift between Apple and Google.

2.11 Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them

This should stop the annoying trend of one developer making a hit app and dozens (if not more) of developers rushing to copy it and polluting the App Store. The Fart apps were a great example of this, but there have been many others.

2.13 Apps that are primarily marketing materials or advertisements will be rejected.

Good. But I hope Apple actually sticks to this with bigger brands as well.

2.18 Apps that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances, or encourage minors to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, will be rejected

So apps that encourage moderate consumption of illegal substances are okay? Oh, no wait, I must be reading that wrong.

2.20 Developers “spamming” the App Store with many version of similar apps will be removed from the iOS Developer Program

Also good. Many will recall when developers would release 30 different apps version of the same app for various states or colors or other nonsense.

3.1 Apps with metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected

He who we shall not name? Android?

3.10 Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program

Great; this has been going on far too often lately.

4.2 Apps that use location-based APIs for automatic or autonomous control of vehicles, aircraft, or other devices will be rejected

Um, what? Is this like unmanned drones?

4.3 Apps that use location-based APIs for dispatch, fleet management, or emergency services will be rejected

Also interesting. A number of apps were working on this a few months ago, but you don’t hear about them any more.

5.6 Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind

What does this mean for location-based apps that want to push deals when you’re close-by to one, I wonder?

7.3 Apps that are designed predominantly for the display of ads will be rejected

There goes my iAd Pro app idea…

8.2 Apps that suggest or infer that Apple is a source or supplier of the app, or that Apple endorses any particular representation regarding quality or functionality will be rejected

This is interesting in that a number of developers now pitch us that “Apple loved our app” — this kind of stuff now clearly isn’t allowed in the App Store.

8.4 Apps that misspell Apple product names in their app name (i.e. GPS for Iphone, iTunz) will be rejected

Read: it’s “iPhone” morons, show some respect.

8.5 Use of protected 3rd party material (trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, otherwise proprietary content) requires a documented rights check which must be provided upon request

Goodbye 500 apps with the name “Twitter ______”

8.6 Google Maps and Google Earth images obtained via the Google Maps API can be used within an application if all brand features of the original content reamin unaltered and fully visible. Apps that cover up or modify the Google logo or copyright holders identifications will be rejected

Apple specifically protecting Google here, interesting. A lot of developers use Bing maps now too, but there’s no mention of them (though I think Google Maps may be easily accessed through the iOS development process).

9.3 Audio streaming content over a cellular network may not use more than 5MB over 5 minutes

So I assume Pandora and the like comply with this.

10.1 Apps must comply with all terms and conditions explained in the Apple iPhone Human Interface Guidelines and the Apple iPad Human Interface Guidelines

The first rule of the App Store: you do not make apps that look like crap.

10.4 Apps that create alternate desktop/home screen environments or simulate multi-app widget experiences will be rejected

Apple has been rejecting these for a while, but now it’s explicitly stated.

10.6 Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. The take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good it may be rejected

The second rule of the App Store: you do not make apps that looks like crap.

11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected

So no Facebook Credits? Or you’ll just have to use IAP to buy them?

11.3 Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected

So no using a Starbucks app to buy a cup of coffee?

11.8 Apps that use IAP to purchase access to built-in capabilities provided by iOS, such as the camera or the gyroscope, will be rejected

This is good — kills off many bait-and-switch possibilities.

11.9 Apps containing “rental” content or services that expire after a limited time will be rejected

This, of course, doesn’t include Apple’s own iTunes app which has rental movies and TV shows which do expire.

11.11 In general, the more expensive your app, the more thoroughly we will review it

This is another one of those always-understood-but-never-stated things.

13.1 Apps that encourage users to use an Apple Device in a way that may cause damage to the device will be rejected

Damn, there goes my SMASH THIS iPHONE app.

14.2 Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentary

This one may cause some issues still. What exactly constitutes a “professional” here? Apple has obviously run into this issue before.

15.1 Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected

Just kind of humorous the verbs they included. Why not “blown up”?

15.3 “Enemies” within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity

I assume this doesn’t include Nazis.

15.5 Apps that includes games of Russian roulette will be rejected

My favorite specific rule of all. Was there a problem with people submitting these? Why on Earth is this so specific?

16.2 Apps that are primarily designed to upset or disgust users will be rejected

There goes my “100 Best Vomits” app idea…

18.1 Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “explicit descriptions or displayers of sexual organs or activities intended to simulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”, will be rejected

Interesting that we get a specific definition when earlier, Apple’s overall wording is “We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it” — a quote which is in reference to pornography.

18.2 Apps that contain user generated content that is frequently pornographic (ex “Chat Roulette” apps) will be rejected

Sort of funny that Apple wants to make sure you get the spelling of their products right, but they butcher “Chatroulette”. Also, that sucks for Chatroulette. Also, what’s up with Apple’s obsession with “roulette” (see: 15.5)?

19.2 Apps may contain or quote religious text provided the quotes or translations are accurate and not misleading. Commentary should be educational or informative rather than inflammatory.

So, no Fox News app then?

20.3 It must be permissible by law for the developer to run a lottery app, and a lottery app must have all of the following characteristics: consideration, chance, and a prize

So no rigged apps. The Quiz Show rule.

21.1 Apps that include the ability to make donations to recognized charitable organizations must be free


21.2 The collections of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS

Interesting. I assume this is so Apple doesn’t need a loophole around the IAP stuff.

22.5 Apps that are designed for use as illegal gambling aids, including card counters, will be rejected

Card counting isn’t technically illegal, but card counting aids probably are.

Apple concludes the guidelines by noting:

Thank you for developing for iOS. Even though this document is a formidable list of what not to do, please also keep in mind the much shorter list of what you must do. Above all else, join us in trying to surprise and delight users. Show them their world in innovative ways, and let them interact with it like never before. In our experience, users really respond to polish, both in functionality and user interface. Go the extra mile. Give them more than they expect. And take them places where they have never been before. We are ready to help.

Fair enough.

[images: Paramount Pictures]