Apple Announces App Review Board, Reveals Approval Guidelines

Apple announced a new App Review Board Thursday that will allow developers to challenge app rejections for the App Store. The company also published its App Store approval guidelines for the first time Tursday morning, allowing iOS developers to read from the same playbook as the App Store approval team. The company announced the move at the same time it reversed its policy on third-party compilers for developing iOS apps, all significant changes in the way Apple deals with its iOS developer community.

The Guidelines and details on the App Review Board are available only to registered developers, but the company’s developer site said that the App Review Board will provide developers with, “an opportunity to appeal the rejection of an application if you believe that the functionality or technical implementation was misunderstood.”

In other words, as launched the App Review Board’s role is not to reverse decisions based on whether an app violates the newly-released Review Guidelines, but will instead examine claims by developers that the technical specifics and/or functionality was interpreted improperly.

“In addition,” Apple said in a statement, “for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps. We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store.”

The Guidelines are available only to developers, as of this writing, but according to a report at ZDNet, the guidelines stipulate that Apple is looking out for kids, despite the presence of parental controls because many parents simply don’t turn them on. The guidelines also warn developers that the App Store has enough frivolous apps, and that with more than a quarter million iOS apps on the App Store, the company would be taking a stricter stance on approving apps offer value to customers.

Apple also warned developers to put forth their best work, and that the company would be rejecting apps that appear hastily assembled. Interestingly, the guidelines openly acknowledge a gray area by stating that apps that cross the line for behavior or content will be rejected, and the company likened this stance to the (in)famous Supreme Court ruling that obscenity is hard to define, “But you know when you see it.”

Apple warned developers that those who go to the press when they get rejected don’t enhance their chances of getting a favorable ruling from the App Review Board.

Lastly, the Guidelines point out that new situations are likely to arise that will cause the Guidelines to be changed or updated to reflect that new situation.

Publishing these guidelines and providing a Review Board for anything represent sea change shifts for Apple. The company is known for its secrecy, and for running things by a book that only its own executives were privy to. The review process, in particular, has provided many situations where rejections seemed to lack rhyme and reason, and this in turn lead to complaints that no one knew precisely what the rules were.

As of today, they do.