June 15, 2012
A new, sure-to-be-controversial Apple policy is requiring all Craigslist apps to censor any images located within the site's personals section. Now, make no mistake: Craigslist personals are a sleazy, scummy, raunchy affair. Just about every image shared in the space is an X-rated crotch shot, and -- for all intents and purposes -- the section is little more than a crowd-sourced porn gallery. That said, Apple might be making a mistake by requiring such apps to comply with this new standard. Most of us understand and accept why Apple doesn't allow dedicated, adult-themed apps in the App Store, but Craigslist doesn't completely fit the spirit of that bill. And, in reality, Apple knows it. But this is largely about appearances. With an Internet browser, whether it's the stock Safari offering or a third-party app like Atomic, users by and large understand that the app is -- in and of itself -- completely content-free. It is a tool we're all familiar with, and it is entirely intent-driven. That distinction, for many users, is less clear with apps that limit themselves to singular corners of the Internet. In this sense, a Craigslist app may seem like a packaged product with content that -- via built-in, pre-defined links -- leads folks to a sea of smut. Look at it this way: If a developer submitted an iOS browser to Apple, and the app's default homepage was a big banner ad for a series of porn sites with links aplenty to T&A, would Apple approve it? Of course not. And that's effectively the approach they've employed with Craigslist apps. Personally, I think it's taking things a step too far. I'm all for keeping porno portals off the App Store (the industry's doing fine with HTML5), but Apple's assault on appearances could backfire this time. No doubt the move will be popular with parents, but users who already accept Apple's ban on adult apps are likely to be offended and upset at this Big Brotherish move, if for no other reason than it shows Apple's big black bar is slowly expanding in scope. After all, that "age-restricted material" popup should be plenty warning enough, right?