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Apple Explains Why Dictionary Required Mature Rating

At Daring Fireball, John Gruber doesn't attempt to hide his entirely justified outrage at the news that Apple repeatedly rejected the Ninjawords dictionary app for the iPhone until the developers excised "objectionable" words, many of which have entirely common senses (consider the synonyms for "donkey," "grab," "cat," "rooster," and "rotate").

Even after removing these words, Ninjawords had to be given a 17+ rating to be listed. The worst part? You can find all these "objectionable" words, with definitions, in the built-in dictionary in Mac OS X.

After publishing this article, Gruber received a response from an unlikely source: Apple's worldwide marketing head, Phil Schiller, a generally straight-shooting and blunt fellow, especially within the Apple corporate environment. (That said, MDJ's Matt Deatherage believes that Schiller doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt with regard to the veracity of his statements.)

Schiller told Gruber, who shared parts of an email with Schiller's permission, that the timetable and directions from the App Store program reviewers were a bit garbled in the Ninjawords account. Ninjawords submitted its dictionary before the iPhone OS 3.0 software with age-restriction categories had a release date, and made some changes in order to try to get the dictionary out without knowing when that release would come. (It turned out to be within a few weeks of the dictionary's first rejection.)

Gruber agrees with some of Schiller's points and not with others, and gets a response from Ninjawords as well. Read Gruber's full article for the details, but it's notable that a senior Apple exec finally made some statements publicly about the process, including, "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."

Let's hope Schiller isn't merely saying what we want to hear as a form of damage control, and that we'll see a drop-off in the number of nonsensical app rejections and ratings.


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Comments about Apple Explains Why Dictionary Required Mature Rating
(Comments are closed.)

I don't think Phil is being entirely truthful, as the developer claims the Apple reviewer specifically noted several 'common' swear words as being the reason why the app was rejected, not so-called 'urban slang'.
Glenn Fleishman  2009-08-06 14:37
I agree with you (and John Gruber) here that the Apple app reviewer stated different objections than what Schiller said was the issue.

What I continue to be surprised by is that the app reviewers seemingly don't have a book of guidelines, given that different apps with similar contents are accepted or rejected for different reasons.
The word you are looking for is "lying through his teeth" not "[not] entirely truthful". Schiller is trying to cover for the backward and broken and capricious review process. Everyone at Apple has to know it is totally completely broken, but they seem to be doing nothing about it.
Glenn Fleishman  2009-08-06 17:32
That requires a lot of assumptions that I am not willing to make. I try to observe and infer from facts available to me. You, of course, are welcome to speculate as you choose!
George  2009-08-07 07:39
Apple is making absolutely no sense on their censorship of apps. Almost everything that they object to is available via Safari
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2009-08-07 07:43
MDJ's Matt Deatherage has a piece discussing Phil Schiller's credibility in the past.