Yesterday we reported on Daring Fireball’s coverage of the Ninjawords Dictionary censoring incident, which, to sum it up briefly, is a dictionary app that was not only censored by Apple, but also slapped with a 17+ rating, creating mass outrage among developers and general users alike. Today, we got to hear Apple’s side of the story.
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber received a response from Apple’s Senior VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, regarding the incident. The entire follow-up article is a fairly long read, so we will just hit the main points.
Apple’s app approval staff discovered vulgar “urban slang” in Ninjawords Dictionary upon its second submission and recommended that the developers resubmit the app after iPhone OS 3.0 was released. This way the app could carry a 17+ rating and not be subject to censoring thanks to OS 3.0′s parental controls. Instead of waiting until iPhone OS 3.0 was released, since at that time the developers had no idea when it would be released and they didn’t want to risk losing precious time, they chose to strip the app of all objectionable content.
“I believe that the Apple app review team’s original recommendation to the developer to submit the Ninjawords application, without censoring it, to the App Store once parental controls was implemented would have been the best course of action for all; Wiktionary.org is an open, ever-changing resource and filtering the content does not seem reasonable or necessary,” Schiller wrote.
Matchstick Software, the developers of Ninjawords Dictionary, agreed with Schiller’s statement, but in their defense, they honestly had no idea when the new OS would hit and they didn’t want the competitors to “eat their lunch.” The sad irony is that the app still wasn’t released until well after iPhone OS 3.0 was launched.
This isn’t just an Apple love-fest, however. Apple still asked the developers to remove words that are already contained in other dictionaries, words that aren’t vulgar urban slang, and they still somehow gave it a 17+ rating after the app had been self-censored. They still need to improve on their communication skills with developers and users, which was outlined in Schiller’s closing comments.
“Apple’s goals remain aligned with customers and developers — to create an innovative applications platform on the iPhone and iPod touch and to assist many developers in making as much great software as possible for the iPhone App Store. While we may not always be perfect in our execution of that goal, our efforts are always made with the best intentions, and if we err we intend to learn and quickly improve.”