Phil Schiller, the senior VP of worldwide product marketing at Apple, has written a lengthy letter to Daring Fireball about the recent Ninjawords Dictionary censorship mishap. The application, an iPhone dictionary, includes some curse words (like many dictionaries do). Apple, after giving it a rightful 17+ rating in iTunes, completely censored the application from the iPhone App Store. Needless to say, the internet people weren't happy. Here's the story, and Phil Schiller's explanation.
When Ninjawords Was first submitted for App Store approval, Apple rejected it because curse words were seen in the screen shots. After resubmitting two more times, Apple told the developers, Matchstick Software, that the app must be awarded a 17+ rating. After the developer unhappily agreed to the 17+ warning, Apple still forced them to remove all inappropriate words. The people of the web were infuriated, even though in reality this particular iPhone application would not be a "hot seller" anyway. It's just a case of people wanting to stick it to the man.
Anyway, after hearing about all this, Phil Schiller decided to investigate…and he did. He wrote a lengthy email to Daring Fireball, explaining that this is not what happened. So, what does Phill Schiller say occurred? Short story: It was a major misunderstanding. Long story: Apple wanted the application to be rated 17+, but to keep the dirty words. However, since the app was submitted before 3.0's parental control settings and app content ratings began, it got stuck in a sort of loop hole. The pre-parental control approval process wanted them to censor, but the post-parental control wanted them to be rated 17+.
It's a mistake on Apple's behalf, but it's certainly forgivable. Censoring dictionaries, however, would not have been. Phil Schiller chose a good time to make a public statement, because the Apple iPhone app review process has been a hot topic in the tech world lately. With the news of Apple rejecting the official Google Voice and kicking out the unofficial version, a lot of people have been pissed.
The bottom line is, it's good to see that Apple is actually listening to the crowd. Despite the whole Ninjawords Dictionary misunderstanding, the most interesting paragraph in Schiller's letter is the last one:
Apple‚Äôs goals remain aligned with customers and developers ‚Äî to create an innovative applications platform on the iPhone and iPod touch and to assist many developers in making as much great software as possible for the iPhone App Store. 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.
In all reality, this whole event ended up being a marvelous commercial for Ninjawords Dictionary, an application which otherwise would've probably slid under the iPhone community's radar. If you're curious what the application is, here's a brief overview.
Ninjawords provides access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a spellchecker. It works offline, and has a ninja theme. It's a simple app. Matchstick Software are certainly happy to have received this kind of attention, because now lots of sites place a link like the one you're about to see in their articles.
To download Ninjawords Dictionary, go here (App Store Link), and pick it up for $1.99.