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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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