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'Rogue Link' In Dropbox SDK Leads To App Store Rejection

May 2, 2012
Any recently-submitted app including Dropbox functionality has been seeing rejection from Apple's review staff. Apparently, the SDK published by Dropbox to help developers support the technology includes a link for users sign up for paid Dropbox accounts. Naturally, that's a big no-no for Apple, as the company doesn't allow direct circumvention of its IAP mandates. Rule 11.13 of Apple's App Store Review Guidelines explicitly states:
Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected.
[caption id="attachment_296828" align="aligncenter" width="2048" caption="Tsk-tsk."][/caption] Naturally, when reviewers (who, for once, weren't asleep at the wheel) saw the above on-screen prompt during Dropbox' in-app sign-up procedure, they threw up the red flag and banned all incoming offenders. Dropbox has since been made aware of the issue, and they've removed the link from their latest SDK. Of course, lots of folks are annoyed that Dropbox even had to go that far. The Next Web's Drew Olanoff, who broke the story, complains that
[w]hile Apple is acting within its rights as an application platform, this rule is a pretty ridiculous one. I'm not sure how companies are supposed to make money if every single door to do so is closed, and developers are basically forced to flow money through Apple.
(It's a little ironic that The Next Web wouldn't let me use my iPad to copy and paste the above quote for this article. I had to type the darned thing myself!) Well, there are a couple of things to consider here. One, this particular link doesn't represent "every single door" for Dropbox' financial model. The service is platform agnostic and not even remotely reliant on third-party iOS app sign-ups to pull in the majority of their profits. Two, Apple must take an all-or-nothing approach to their 30-percent policy. Indeed, it's such hard and fast adherence to that very rule that may let Apple off the hook in its current price-fixing suit. Unfortunately, like naïve Mr. Olanoff, lots of folks misunderstand the implications of Apple's stance on the matter. One of the commenters to Olanoff's original post wrote the following, with which Olanoff hilariously agreed:
So surely every web browser app or every app which contains a web browser functionality (eg Facebook app, twitter apps etc), even this news reading app which just allowed me a way through to google and hence the whole Web all should be rejected immediately because not only could you pay Dropbox money, but you could by books from Amazon, pizza from pizza express, or heaven forbid a Mac from Apple. Someone at Apple needs to get some common sense on this issue. (sic)
Now, I don't know if that comment is just blatant, willful ignorance or what, but there's a distinct difference between a service using iOS apps to directly offer their own digital wares without allowing Apple its requisite 30-percent cut and an app that merely opens a web browser. Yes, you can use that web browser to manually navigate to some page to purchase whatever digital product or service you're looking for, but Apple doesn't want developers or service providers taking advantage of what amounts to free advertisement space within the Apple ecosystem. If the Dropbox link in question opened a blank browser page, it would not have been rejected. It's really very simple. Think of it this way: You own a small parcel of land with a billboard on it. You lease the billboard ad space to anyone willing to pay your price. If someone doesn't want to lease said space but instead comes along and erects a second sign on your property without your permission, you would take it down. Simple. That said, there's no way to stop passers-by from looking across the street at another sign on another lot, or opening a magazine, or checking out the classifieds, or going to the mall, or stopping in at a garage sale, and so on. Again, there's a pretty simple distinction at play here. I, for one, am glad to see Apple actually enforcing its rules.

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