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App Store Uncertainty

I rarely link to Daring Fireball here because I assume that my readership is a subset of John Gruber’s, but I wanted to mention his follow-up piece about the App Store:

Schiller obviously knows what he’s talking about, but what he’s said seems to be outside the new written rules. So I think what Apple is trying to do here is discourage frivolous use of subscriptions. I think it’s obvious from Apple’s own description that while apps from any category are now allowed to offer subscription, that doesn’t mean every app will be allowed to. Like with many App Store rules, Apple doesn’t spell things out in detail in order to preserve control. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see” definition of “obscenity”, I think Apple wants to define “good use of the subscription business model” as “we know it when we see it”.

Given the history of Apple’s App Store guidelines, I understand why developers would be trepidatious about building an entire new business model for their app only to see it rejected by Apple. But like John, I read the descriptions of this system as being very much in the language of a WWDC session—in other words, it feels more like best-practices advice than an edict from the mountaintop.

Whether Apple would actually reject a subscription-based app that doesn’t offer any functionality outside of itself, I don’t know. It sure wouldn’t be the first time there was a baffling App Store rejection. But does Apple really want to take the position that ongoing maintenance of a web service has value, but ongoing maintenance and development of an app does not? I don’t think it does.