Apple bans thousands of adult apps from Store

Developers react angrily to company's sudden U-turn on policy

Apple has made the decision to ban thousands of apps containing adult content from the App Store, prompting fury from developers who say the company is ruining livelihoods and exercising double standards.

The BBC reports that thousands of apps with adult-themed content have been removed from the store since Friday - a move that, according to Apple, came about as a result of complaints from parents.

"It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see," Philip Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing at Apple, told The New York Times.

He added that a small number of developers had been submitting "an increasing number of apps containing very objectionable content" over the last few weeks.

According to iPhone developer ChilliFresh though, which has seen its app Wobble removed from the Store, Apple needs to be clearer on what it will and won't permit.

"On Friday evening we got an e-mail out of the blue which basically said, thanks very much but we don't want you any more. Apple said it was removing all overtly sexual apps," developer Jon Atherton told the BBC.

He said the company had gone from making £320 a day from its apps to £5 since the ban and called on Apple to publish its new guidelines so that developers were clear on the content they could and could not use.

"My view is that this is a knee-jerk reaction. Apple is very controlling. These apps are getting popular but the App Store doesn't have an adult section.

"I'd have thought there was a technological way of fixing the problem rather than pulling the rug out from under people's feet," he added.

Atherton also questions Apple's logic in deciding what to remove from the store. While many of the apps deemed likely to cause offence have been removed, some - such as those from Playboy and Sports Illustrated - are still there.

"The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," explained Schiller.

However, Atherton said his explanation was "wrong on so many levels."

"What makes it worse is that a LOT of people now think that the store is a safe place for their kids to go to without supervision – it just isn't because Apple have applied their guidelines unevenly."

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Latest comments (26)

Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
Personally I think it's great. I don't associate Apple with this kind of crap, nor do I want to.

If people want porn (soft or otherwise) they have a browser.
If you want to sell porn setup a website. End of Story. Or go to Palm or Google until they kick you out. Or Cydia...

The Dev. who is very vocally complaining (in another article elsewhere) that his 50 "titty" Apps. used to make his company thousands of dollars a day and has had them all wiped out in one fell swoop gave me my one and only belly laugh this week. Tough "titties" I say. :) Same goes for the rest of the Devs. complaining.

More room, and more exposure for Apps. that are actually of use to people is the upshot of this. And an ecosystem that we want to publish in.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 23rd February 2010 5:27pm

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Richard DeBarry12 years ago
"More room, and more exposure for Apps. that are actually of use to people is the upshot of this."

LMAO! Good luck with that.

These same parents that are complaining now will only complain more when they see you can get to the same content, and even worse, by browsing the internet.

All of these devs are welcome in the android market.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
Rich, that's just a throw away comment of mine. I don't really believe it will increase exposure for anyone.
What I don't want (personally) is to walk into the equivalent of HMV or Virgin and see porn on the shelves.
Nor do I want to make software that is sold in that kind of environment.

If I wanted to make a few hundred quid a day I'd make those Apps in a heart-beat. But I have more self respect, and prefer to enjoy what I make. That's all. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 23rd February 2010 5:57pm

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Show all comments (26)
Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde12 years ago
Self-respect of the developer (and even the consumer) is not the issue here. Rather it is Apple applying a rather heavy-handed sanitation across their entire service simply because someone is upset about the content of apps they already approved.

My question is why they could not impose some kind of age-rating system or a disclaimer that would resolve this far more amicably. Given that the iTunes store allows for mature content in their songs and videos, why can't this be ported to their app store? This is something that was brought up before when the Nine Inch Nails app was rejected; while the app did not contain mature content it pointed to songs, in their own store, that did, and was therefore banned.

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This kind of mollycoddling should not be applied so haphazardly. Rather they should take steps to ensure that if people really want this kind of stuff on their iPhone/Pod/Pad/Slab, then they can have it. Otherwise, keep it out of reach from others who either do not want it or are too young to purchase it.
But hey, this is apple we're talking about. They do whatever they want and the world keeps on spinning.
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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 12 years ago
Why do we need those apps anyway? That's something I can never understand - some people's obsession with polygonic boobs. Can't they get a real life outside this virtual world? Or they really don't have a real life?
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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College12 years ago
Android FTW...posting from my G2! :-)

Apple should publish guidelines so that publishers know what is and isn't acceptable.

320 pounds a day for titty apps...seriously people need to get out more!
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Cobey Jones Studying Game development, University of Advancing Technology12 years ago
I don't blame Apple one bit for this, but maybe the move was too abrupt. We are talking about people's livelihoods afterall. Just notifying developers on the day you're going to drop them is really unprofessional, IMHO.
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Jordi Rovira i Bonet Lead Engineer, Anticto12 years ago
I am not am AppStore user but i assume that all that content was in a special section behind an age check or disclaimer. If that is not the case, please ignore the rest of my post.

I am surprised to read so many comments against porn. Especially from British people who usually (i think) are quite respectful with individual freedom. Adult people is free to get whatever they want and developers can develop whatever they want to as long as they make sure it labeled accordingly and sold in the right sections. I thought John Stuart Mill's country was different :).
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games12 years ago
Apple should offer a separate section for this kind of apps if they were not already doing so it is THEIR mistake, and this is a wrong way to fix it.

These apps might be not of our interest, but they are still a product that many people are interested in.
Tomorrow if people decide that FPS games are too violent and apple removes them altogether from their apps you will not have the same reaction.

Removing them altogether is a very blunt solution, that is causing heavy damage to the developers of these products and ofc the people who work for them and their families.

And fine; let's say "we don't want this filth on our system"

This should be settled differently and in any case not by suddenly one fine day receiving a letter and removing them. Some transitional time should be given to move their products to different platforms. That would be the professional way to do it.
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Chris Wallace Studying Games Design, University of Bolton12 years ago
Not to reiterate everyone, but there's more porn on the internet than useful stuff... Surely people know how to use Safari for that kind of crap?

If I want an app, I want it to be useful, entertaining or gimmicky. And I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen above. I associate Apple with quality and functionality.

Most of the time. :)
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 12 years ago
Here's the thing: I don't like those apps. I really don't want them on my phone, not because I dislike adult content, but because 99.9% of the apps, I'm assuming, suck. I really wouldn't know! It's not like I go looking for them.

But... as a user, I at least want the ability to look for them. And as a developer, I would be pissed about the fact that I got literally no warning about this. Apple has shown absolutely no regard for the small developers that have made the App Store the goldmine it is. It's blatant disrespect for smaller developers like John Hartzog.

I associate Apple with quality, but that's a distant third in the word association game, behind "overpriced" and "totalitarian". They've shown time and time again that everyone plays by Apple's rules, or else. That goes for employees, developers, end users, etc. It's horrid to deal with, and turns me off of most Apple products.
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Pierre Vandenbroucke Assistant de production, Gorgone Productions12 years ago
I'm not a iPhone user nor porn app addict, but if the dev made £320 a day, I guess Apple made also a lot of money on those apps.

Apple is not dealing with this matter correctly, I'm sure the Playboy app shows a lot of tits too. They want a clean place, fine, but don't pretend to have a clean marketplace when you just don't.

The certification rules are not clear enough on this.
Apple should justify differently, if people buy apps with boobs, it might soon become a very well-accepted format...
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Lee Walton Co-Founder & Art Director, No More Pie12 years ago
I agree that this is wrong by Apple. To approve apps (regardless of anyone's Daily Mail opinions on the content) and let publishers earn money- and earn money themselves for months and months- then suddenly cut off all revenue to a publisher who had no prior knowledge they were doing anything wrong- is bullying business practice. It proves that signing up to develop for them becomes very risky- as the rules of what you can or can't develop are utterly vague and ever changing!

For those commenters that don't use the appstore- these "porn" apps are on the whole about as graphic as FHM magazine, which is of course available on every high street, and HMV has it right next to your Kerrang mag. You will be asked if you're over 17 to buy any apps like this and of course you also need a credit card (so are therefore over 18) and a password which any sensible parent is not going to give their child. A password is always needed when buying content on itunes, or on your iphone/ipod.

There is currently no adult category in the app store- so yes, it isn't great that these apps appear in lists along with every other app. This is 100% Apples mistake however, and it is again ridiculous that developers are being held accountable for this mistake. I'm really disappointed with Apple on this, as so far the app store seems such a step in the right direction- particularly for games developers wishing to avoid the pitfalls of working with established publishers. This kind of thing is rare at traditional publishers, as agreements to content are made prior to production even, so does this show Apple's amateur status in terms of being a content publisher?
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
So which other software companies / distributers out there publish soft porn applications at the moment for any platform; console, pc, or mobile?
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 12 years ago
Something else that I think was only somewhat touched upon:

Imagine you run a business. You've averaged out your monthly revenue to be X amount of dollars, so you can expend Y amount of dollars/pounds/whatever (sorry, I'm North American). You bank on these figures, and even if you're off, you don't expect them to be mind-bendingly off. In short, you have a little bit of wiggle room.

Now, all of a sudden, without warning, a company you were dependent on takes your app away. They take away a major - if not the only - source of your income, and they don't warn you. When you call them about it, if what the Wobble guy says is true (I'm taking it as somewhat exaggerated), then not only did they give you absolutely horrific, Draconian rules, they got pissy about it. As if you owe THEM a f*cking favour! Basically, you've been told to go forth and multiply.

Meanwhile, you have a business who's revenue has just been eliminated. Again, with no warning. Oh shit, the bills are due! Now what?

While I'm sure this pleases selfish prudes like Mr. Northcott who enjoy laughing at the misfortune of others, Mr. Walton is more on-the-money: this really eliminates Apple as a company that can be trusted, as they just not only took a lot of small developers for a ride, but they also showed a hypocritical streak by leaving on the Playboy app (they've also left the paid version of the only semi-racy app I own: a Suicide Girls slideshow app). Granted, Apple could never be trusted in the first place, but if you're a developer for them, do you trust them *at all* anymore? Even if all of your applications are Northcott Approved™, they've shown that they can - and will - take away your livelihood at their convenience, and will leave you in the lurch.

All because a few women complained. We don't even know who. Just "some" women with kids. If I'm a developer, I'm running as fast as I can.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
Yes, Chris, great points...

If only you were lucky enough to actually know me, then you'd know I am no prude!
But your invite to my Christmas party is now in the bin. :)

Insulting people always tends to bolster an argument, especially when coming from an unknown hack. Don't you find?

I reiterate my question directly above your insulting post.
Show me a reputable software company that has this kind of business model.

To answer your "point" : I can really see these guys walking into the bank and leveraging their entire firms future on a massive expansion plan which sees them crippling themselves with enormous loan repayments so they can expand their "Tittie App" empire and take over the world! Spreading their cultural influence to all those spotty 12 years olds that get their rocks off to squeezing virtual boobs...

The writing was on the wall for a looooong time....
If you were so stupid as to believe this was going to be tolerated forever by Apple and allow you to build your own Microsoft style empire then more fool you.

I am glad these guys made out like bandits. Really. Good luck to them.

But don't expect me to fall on the ground weeping for the loss to our industry when they can't ply their trade anymore on iTunes.
I am sure they'll all jump ship to any other platform that will have them, and make money there too.
In fact I would be surprised if they are not already muddying the waters in other App Stores...

And if you are sad you weren't able to buy these Apps, then there is always Cydia... Or your web browser. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 24th February 2010 11:28am

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Sergey Galyonkin Marketing Director, EMEA, Nival Network12 years ago
Stephen, problem is not if softcore porn should be allowed or disallowed on Apple iPhone. Problem is that Apple banned previously approved application, thus losing trust from developers.

Are you sure they will not ban some useful application next, just because Steve Jobs changed his mind?

Remember that story about Google Talk on iPhone? :) Any application that contradicts Apple current goal can be eliminated. And problem is, that it will be eliminated without prior warning.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
Sergey, I totally understand your point.

To be clear:
Yes, the precedent that this sets is something that any developer should be wary of.
Yes, the lack of warning is something that is alarming.
Yes, keeping the Playboy App is hypocritical. Perhaps they are more scared of Playboy's lawyers? Perhaps Playboy can argue a case in court that they are a social entity rather than a bunch of bedroom Devs looking to cash in on a gold rush?

If this was perhaps a cull of Apps which were not already in a grey area then I would probably be firmly on the other side of the fence. It's not though, and it's hard to feel much sympathy when the Apps in question are very obviously a cynical attempt in themselves to cash in on a seedy market. They truly offer no real value to the eco-system, and in many cases are just like a bunch of soft porn mags from a multitude of different publishers, with a different set of pictures in each issue. *yawn*

When / if "Steve" decides to start culling games or Twitter Apps, or any other "more worthwhile" product from the store then I'll be right there with you. For now I am afraid I find it hard to work up any empathy for these Devs.
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Damien Robson Studying Games Software Development, University of Sunderland12 years ago
Decision-swings such as this make me glad that a) I don't own an iPhone or other app-store-reliant device, and b) I'm not an app developer. Apple might have got away with this had they made an announcement that they were planning on banning certain types of content from the app store, but they've really dropped themselves in it by imposing a ban pretty much out of the blue. It's going to cripple the devs. who rely on such content to provide them with income.

An announcement about a month or two ago would have at least given devs. a chance to prepare for the hit, and given them the opportunity to build an app which would replace the income they have just lost.
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Georges Paz Programmer, technical director and CEO, Psychoz Interactive12 years ago
First of is Apple fault. For not having an Adult section (with parental control) and two, they all accept any kind of apps. Third, removing the app without any warning to developers...
Apple should start to clean up a bit the App Store image, there's a lot of garbage app out there, is hard to find a good app in a crowded zillion pool of crappy apps. If Apple do not stop a bit, those crappy game submissions, the App Store will blow in a moment or two.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Georges Paz on 25th February 2010 4:24am

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Tony Johns12 years ago
I thought that the ESRB had rated the games on the Apple store?

Isn't these ratings meant to mean something and not for Apple to ban things that other people don't like.

Porn is a huge industry but when it comes to videogames it seems to nobody ever wants to touch it.

Sad really, I may as well go to Japan, they understand that adults play videogames too.
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Jeff Wilson12 years ago
I agree with the comments that Apple should have made it clear beforehand what the guidelines were as regards adult content, rather than just pulling the rug from under the developers feet and telling them to piss off.

One could argue that if there are any movies, TV shows or music on the iTunes Store that could, in anyway, be considered raunchy, then this action is hypocritical in the extreme. Either apply the rules consistently across the whole spectrum of Apple Services, or don't bother.

But, in hindsight, Apple were right to draw the line somewhere, otherwise we would get more and more explicit garbage that is so profound today. But, I reckon Apple will relax these guidelines somewhat in the next 3 - 6 months, you watch. At the end of the day, consumers either buy their content or they don't. And, anything that restricts sales, restricts Apple's profits.

Personally, I don't have a problem with big tits or nice chicks in video games. That's soon forgotten when there is a good storyline, level design and gameplay structured in the app.

Lara croft, we love you.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Jeff Wilson on 25th February 2010 12:04pm

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Colin Pearce Studying Computer Games Technology, University of Abertay Dundee12 years ago
@Stephen Northcott

Did you have a good belly laugh when many lost their jobs due to the economic climate too? No money for them - I wonder how they'll pay their bills NOW! Haha! Maybe this move from Apple will even cause the developers' companies to collapse, and/or force them to move house because of the income change. FUNNY.

You say they "truly offer no real value to the eco-system", and imply that these particular games are a waste... isn't that true of ALL games? All our industry does is try and create an entertaining way to waste time. Some are entertained by strategy, others by shooting games, others by bouncing boobs. What makes the latter be of "less value" than the alternatives?

1-2 weeks notice (the minimum required by law in the UK for employers**) would be harsh for these developers, but no warning at all? Very unprofessional, and it must be especially infuriating given that the "big brand" porn from Playboy is still there. The correct approach would have been to create an Adult section in the store so that these apps could be segregated from the "clean" majority. This just seems like yet another case of "public surprised/shocked/outraged that not all games are for kids".

** I realise that these people are not Apple employees, but they've still been effectively "fired" by Apple.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Colin Pearce on 25th February 2010 5:22pm

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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
Hey Colin,

I think drawing a comparison between people losing their jobs / careers because of the economic climate and certain cynical "developers" not being able to make between £350 and several thousand dollars a day from selling multiple cookie cutter copies of procedural porn mags is a little tenuous, to say the least. But whatever floats your boat.

Personally, I think that games are a definitive art form. It seems you don't. I am sure some of our fellow hardworking and creative developers out there would be dismayed to hear your view on the blood, sweat and tears they put into creating original entertainment for people, rather than cynically peddling pictures of boobs to earn a quick buck!

It's hard to see how a set of pictures or videos of girls having their clothes removed against a timeline is "art". The girls themselves may be, but the "developers" who peddle this cynical stuff are no better or worse than people who run porn web sites, or sell skin flicks IMO. And that type generally tend to survive anyway simply because of the law of supply and demand.

They will certainly not find themselves unable to make money (unlike people who have lost their actual career), because people always want this stuff. I am just glad that (for now at least) it's not being sold in the same place I choose to do business.

As for these people being defacto employees of Apple. Well good luck with that argument. Do you honestly think Steve (or you) would be happy with this kind of product being made in offices they pay rent on?
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.12 years ago
As a matter of business practice, it's a bad move. Either provide more notification or establish an age restricted section of your market.

Would a mall operator quick out a whole segment of retailers without any notice? Would Wal-mart pull products from their shelves with no warning to the suppliers?

Being that it is their market they do have a right to regulate the content they wish to host. But as a host they have an obligation to their content providers to be a bit more prudent in their execution of corporate designs.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
@Andreas Gschwari of CodeMasters,

You have a view but you're not willing to discuss it in a public forum..... so you'd like to continue this discussion / argument / debate privately... so you contact me in an unsolicited way, and then refuse to take a reply from me via PM! LOL!

I think that in itself answers your question!

If porn companies in general, and these Devs specifically are so reputable and "produce quality work" then come out in public and say that, and stand up for them. Don't skulk about in the PM system sniping at people, it's not polite. ;)


Edited 2 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 27th February 2010 4:24am

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