Daniel Eran Dilger
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Banned iPhone Apps and the John Gruber Podcaster Defense

Daniel Eran Dilger
John Gruber’s Daring Fireball says the clearly articulated iPhone SDK limitations are completely unrelated to the the circumstances of the Podcaster app being denied from the iPhone App Store, and that it is therefore really no different than Evernote or AOL Radio. He’s wrong, here’s why.

Apple and the New Software Market
How Apple Is Changing the PC Software World… Back
iPhone Apps Store Growing Twice as Fast as iTunes Music
The Other iPhone Apps Store
SDK 3.3.3: The iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth
Banned iPhone Apps and the John Gruber Podcaster Defense
The iPhone Monopoly Myth
Gruber certainly knows a lot of things I don’t, and I usually agree with at least as much of what he writes as those few things I take exception to. In the realm of opinion, having a difference sometimes comes down to a simple matter of viewpoint, making argument pointless.

In this case however, he’s actually factually wrong in a number of areas that need to be clarified.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 09 200809141406

SDK 3.3.3: The iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth

Features Through a Distribution Mechanism other than iTunes.

I cited section 3.3.3 of the iPhone SDK as the most basic reason why Apple denied the Podcaster app from App Store distribution. Gruber disagreed, saying, “This section of the agreement is clearly not about content distribution. It’s about application distribution. It’s a way of saying that you can’t distribute your app through the App Store as a free demo and then charge to unlock the full version using a non-iTunes service such as PayPal or Kagi. Podcast downloads are neither ‘additional features’ nor ‘functionality’.”

The great thing about the Constitution is that you can take it to mean nearly whatever you want. The same applies to the legalese of the iPhone SDK. And certainly, 3.3.3 does address the scenario Gruber describes. Apple doesn’t want any apps that require users to go to a website and pay money in order to unlock or enhance them. Apple wants all revenues flowing through the App Store, where it can get its cut.

However, while Gruber dismisses Podcaster’s content distribution as neither features nor functionality, he seems to be unaware that the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.

Keeping the Pod in Podcasts.

Apple wants to be the central repository for podcasts. It doesn’t make any money on podcasts, but spends time and money building the infrastructure in iTunes to accommodate the RSS feeds, the upload tools for podcasters, and the iTunes podcast management tools for users. The reason Apple provides podcast tools is to establish iTunes as that “farmer’s market” of content that draws people to iTunes and subsequently, Apple hardware sales.

What happens if podcast distribution is run around iTunes? At some point, podcasters would stop listing their feeds in iTunes, or perhaps migrate toward proprietary codecs or metadata that was incompatible with iTunes and iPods and Macs. Apple is extremely defensive of what it has built in iTunes, and is not about to risk disassembling things when it has the power to keep podcast users satisfied within iTunes.

Remember that actual podcast content is served up by its source, not iTunes. Podcaster’s downloads are bypassing Apple, preventing the company from being able to track popularity and trends such as interest in audio or video or certain subjects. Refusing to allow Podcaster to bypass iTunes is pretty straightforwardly an obvious defense of the relevance and prominence of iTunes among podcasters.

If Podcaster were primarily a way to browse Apple’s iTunes podcast listings and subscribe to them directly, this would be less of a direct threat to Apple. But it’s not, it’s an alternative to iTunes podcasts that provides a download feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.

iPhone Apps Store Growing Twice as Fast as iTunes Music
How Apple Is Changing the PC Software World… Back

False Comparisons.

Gruber wrote that if content were a feature, then Pandora and AOL Radio would be in trouble. For starters, we don’t know if AOL or Pandora got “prior written consent” to do their apps, so this is entirely irrelevant to contravening 3.3.3. We know Apple knew about AOL Radio well in advance because it was demonstrated and awarded at WWDC before the App Store had even opened.

Had Podcaster sought written consent prior to building a “download feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes,” Apple may have worked out some sort of deal with the developer. But delivering an app that is expressly designed to erode Apple’s podcasting infrastructure and then being surprised to find a lack of support from the company for it is beyond naive.

On top of that however, radio and podcasts are entirely different. iTunes provides the ability to listen to radio feeds almost as an afterthought, but these aren’t tracked in the iTunes Store; they’re not promoted in the manner of podcasts; and Apple doesn’t provide any way to move radio feeds from iTunes to the iPhone in the way that it allows users to manage podcasts on their mobile players. There’s nothing really in common here.

Gruber also mentions FileMagnet and Air Sharing, which allow users to put files on their iPhone and then view them on the device. Again, neither of these provide any attack upon Apple’s iTunes business model, nor do they amount to a “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes,” because iTunes doesn’t distribute document files (or radio feeds) to mobile devices.

Any developer wanting to set up some sort of app that might act as a “distribution mechanism other than iTunes,” for example an alternative to MobileMe for data sync or a way to share or sell media files, would definitely want to pursue prior written consent. Apple has approved of a number of things that do compete with its business, from its own Exchange Server support to YouTube and Flicker and other integrations in its products.

Things That Podcaster’s Rejection From the App Store Is Not About


While also mostly irrelevant, Gruber also dismisses concerns about the restriction against whatever Apple might judge to be apps that “excessively use or unduly burden network capacity or bandwidth,” and cites YouTube, MLB At Bat, and AOL Radio as examples that stream audio or video non-stop when in use.

The problem is that those apps are all only using the network when the user is actively using them. Podcaster is designed to queue up huge podcast data files and truck them over the network nonstop in the background. With YouTube, you’re only pulling data over the network when you’re actually watching a clip.

Sure you can watch whatever clips you like, but nobody sits on their phone for hours watching YouTube nonstop. Similarly, while AOL radio pulls audio feeds over the network for potentially long periods of time, that level of traffic is nothing compared to a queued up tool that exists to download podcasts as a “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes,” using the full bandwidth available.

You can also already watch audio and video podcast streams live from the podcaster by hitting their RSS feed in Safari. But Podcaster is designed to download huge files in the range of gigabytes (video podcasts can be gigantic) back to back for later viewing.

Having a hundred users on a network segment who kick of a storm of automated downloading would be disastrously unmanageable to any carrier. It’s the difference between somebody using their Internet account to watch HD video on occasion, and a user who has their PC working 24/7 to pull down torrents.

Gruber recommends that the app could be made WiFi only, but it was not. This is all really immaterial however, because first and foremost, Podcaster was declined because it provides a downloads as “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

User Confusion.

Apart from bandwidth, another reason supporting why Apple wouldn’t want Podcaster offering downloads as “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes” is user confusion. As reader LuniticSX noted in the comments earlier:

Now, one of the major problems with [the jailbreak app] MobileCast is that it doesn’t (can’t) access the podcasts stored on my iPhone that were uploaded via iTunes. As a result, the listened/not listened state and playback positions of my podcasts would get out of synch between the ones downloaded via MobileCast and the ones loaded via iTunes. The only solution I had for that was to stop downloading via iTunes at all, and only use MobileCast.

Podcaster has this same problem.

Podcaster’s functionality is really close to the functionality of iTunes. Yet, it can’t access the same data on the device, leading to the synchronization problems I mentioned above. I can see how this could prove to be VERY confusing to end users. ‘I just loaded this podcast in Podcaster, so why isn’t it showing up the the iPod area of my device?’ ‘I just finished listening to this podcast in Podcatcher, yet when I synch my device with iTunes it didn’t mark it as read, AND it downloaded another copy! What gives??’“


Gruber concedes that ”the point isn’t about what Apple can do but what they should do,“ but only after suggesting that Apple’s SDK limitations amount to a religious authority with the phrase, ”thou shalt not hurt Apple’s music revenue stream.“

Seriously, no shit sherlock.

Can anyone read the iPhone SDK and not get the sense that Apple wrote it, not to fill out a bunch of wordy pointless nonsense, but as a legal agreement with developers in order to protect its own interests? Sure, a lot of the restrictions also protect users, Apple’s partners, and really even developers, but Apple is a corporation in business to make money.

It has to protect its ”revenue stream,“ not because it is an oppressive authority voicing its demands in King James’ English, but because it has a financial responsibility to its shareholders to earn an honest return and to prevent itself from being sued over copyright issues or being exploited by its non-altruistic partners, including third party developers who similarly only act in their own best interests.

Shared Self Interest vs Shared Wealth.

I shouldn’t have to remind users that the last major platforms Steve Jobs has released have been destroyed or damaged by developers acting in their own interests. The original Macintosh shipped without a Lisa Office suite of productivity apps because third party developers demanded that Apple provide them with a competition-free market to make money in.

Apple’s primary developer, Microsoft, then grabbed its Mac Office apps, created Windows on the PC and ported them over using Apple’s own intellectual property efforts, and then abandoned Apple. Other partners, such as Adobe, also eagerly abandoned Apple for Windows.

Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly

Microsoft refused to support NeXTSTEP because it wasn’t in its own best interests, and NeXT desperately tried and failed to find much support among other major developers. Nobody supported WebObjects just because, or even just becuse it was technically superior at the time, particularly not Dell after Apple bought NeXT.

Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC

Microsoft worked pointedly to destroy Apple’s QuickTime after lifting Apple’s code to create its own rival product on Windows. Third party developers didn’t make any altruistic efforts to support QuickTime out of friendship with Apple.

Microsoft’s Plot to Kill QuickTime

With Mac OS X, Microsoft, Adobe, Quark and others certainly didn’t go out of their way to support Apple’s interests. It wasn’t until the market demanded them to that they even provided nominal support for Apple’s new OS. Along the way, the Yellow Box and Rhapsody platforms died and Apple had to do a bunch of extra work to develop Carbon.

Cocoa and the Death of Yellow Box and Rhapsody

In the last few years however, Apple’s renaissance has attracted lots of new interest from developers to its platforms, from IBM’s Lotus Notes to video game companies to independent mobile developers. That’s not because they are friends of Apple, but because all those companies like to make money.

iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP

Gruber and the Trappings of Apple’s Moral Obligations.

Well guess what? Apple similarly doesn’t have a moral obligation to make developers rich or to cede them its business whenever they invent ways to potentially screw the company over. Apple is a business, just like very other hardware and software company, and just like every third party developer. All companies do what is in their own best interest.

In Apple’s case, its own best interests are often aligned with those of the consumer, because smart products, elegant design, and competitive innovation are things that benefit both. Developers benefit by catching the wave of Apple’s surging popularity.

For decades, Mac writers have been blaming Apple with ”moral transgressions“ for not providing third party developers a welfare handout for being smaller. This is inappropriate when addressing any rational, intelligent adult audience. Talking about what Apple ”should do“ is just more of the same.

Gruber said the original article was ”such bullshit it hurts my head.“ If he wasn’t so wrong on this issue, his simplistic morality play tirade would be easier to laugh at.

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  • sbm

    Nicely put. I only thought my jaw dropped when Gruber gave his viewpoint earlier. Damn, Daniel. Well done.

  • jodyfanning

    This is a total crock and wrong is so many ways I can’t even begin to explain.

    But needless to say, Apple can’t have their cake and eat it too. If they want to be a open platform they can’t dictate terms like this and expect everyone to follow like sheep. Either they allow all apps or they end up in a sea of tip calculators and games. Opps, looks like that has already happened.

    All the good developers with a real idea will find their way to other platforms where they can get rewarded for their efforts.

    I was just thinking this morning to write a step counter (pedometer) application for the iPhone using the accelerometer like there is already for the Nokia phones, but no-can-do, because no background apps allowed and it probably competes with the Nike add-on… Count me out.

  • haapum

    I personally think that Apple could have handled this issue a bit better, but at the end of the day, it’s their call I guess.

    @ jodyfanning

    I don’t remember Apple stating that they want the iPhone OS to be an “open” platform (please correct me if I’m mistaken).

    Of course you’re right in saying “they can’t dictate terms” if they want to be an open platform, but that’s only if they do want the iPhone OS to be open; the impression I got (so far, at least) is that they don’t.

  • nelsonart

    Some developers are voicing concerns, some are moving on. Some are playing the waiting game, hoping Apple will refine their qualifications for approval.

    I have read many articles on this topic and I think Gruber is correct. On the other hand, Podcaster is out, so Dan is correct.

    Either way, developers are not feeling like they are being treated fairly and I want some of these cool Apps that they are talking about to be developed!

    It’s early in the game. Apple is excellent at refining. This will be fixed.

  • http://www.io-rocks.com CSimmons

    It’s kind of like going out with a gorgeous woman and then forgetting her name, and then wondering why she won’t call you back; had you paid enough attention to her name in the first place, your chances of scoring would have increased accordingly.

    I’m with Dan on this one.

  • oomu

    >If they want to be a open platform they can’t dictate terms like this and expect
    >everyone to follow like sheep.

    apple does not want to be an “open platform”.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir


    Interesting metaphor. Not sure quite exactly what you mean though, but it gave me a laugh!

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  • Jay

    I’m a big fan of both Daniel’s and John’s insightful commentaries, but I gotta give credit to Daniel on this one. A far too well laid out an argument…as we’ve come to expect. Nonetheless, a healthy volley.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    This article is a lot more effective than the original one which caught Gruber’s interest. Being pushed into a riposte seems to have done a world of rhetorical good.

    I think the opening part about differences of viewpoint rendering argument ineffective is particularly apt; because this is indeed a battle between could and should.

    Apple have something of a miracle on their hands right now. A platform which is fully secured by their own central authority, and which is thriving too. Conventional wisdom says: “tear down those walls!” But conventional wisdom said they should never have made a phone in the first place. 3rd party developers aren’t exactly unanimous in their delight to discover that Apple is playing by an all-new rulebook, but as you say: why would they be? Their self interet lies elsewhere.

    Podcaster has given us all a talking point about the shades of grey in Apple’s rules, at just the ideal time to be talking about it as the platform’s taking off with the App Store on all cylinders. But it is by it’s nature an obscure example thanks to the nature of it’s functionality: somewhere down and to the side of iTunes. A dangerous place to be, granted. Even if the content is all free.

    The anticompetition question raised at the very beginning still remains. As does the long term effect on more serious developers. Frankly: I don’t think Android is in the right condition to benefit from anything of a mood change here. You’ve already torn it apart, highlighting the challenges it faces to become the next DOS to darken Apple’s skies.

    Still: I’d much prefer such rules as “no podcasts outside of iTunes” to be 1. published so we can all talk about them without first having to weasel around the NDA and 2. clarified with a few practical examples so we don’t have to take up constitutional law in order to be developers!

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    The most problems I have is with the suggestion that there is one truth: that Apple is either good or evil. And that Apple’s being good, not evil, has te be defended for that matter.

    From my point of view using App Store policy for competitive limitation is both necessity and highly controversial. Of course Apple wants to protect their iTunes business model, which includes creating traffic through providing Podcast links. Of course telecom providers want to be protected against excessive data use caused by wireless podcast download.
    But in the same time competitive limitation is an open invitation to easy revenues in the disadvantage of consumers. The disadvantage can be theoretic and appear only after a next round of innovation. But in the case of Podcaster the disadvantage is quite clear: Why would a consumer have to wait downloading the latest edition of his favorite podcast until he is back at his own computer? Especially when he is on a business trip and has access to a hotel wifi this seems extremely unfair.

    My view is this: when you start this “one truth” paradigm, you end up with a rigid East Block economy with no innovation at all.

  • Joel

    “Nobody supported WebObjects just because, or even just becuse it was technically superior at the time, particularly not Dell after Apple bought NeXT.”

    I’d suspect that WebObjects wasn’t a great success outside of Apple because when it was launched the market for app servers wasn’t that large. Now the that the marketplace has expanded there are either open-source alternatives, or app servers that aren’t tied to one set of hardware.

  • Joel

    In my mind there’s not much of a leap from distributing via podcasts, to distributing music full stop. Podcasting just gives one a automatic, self-updating source for music. If you can use that, (and even better come up with a way for charging for the music), why bother with iTunes on a Mac…?

  • brucehoult

    I agree with why Apple might not be happy with PodCaster.

    However I strongly disagree that such unhappiness falls within the Terms and Conditions set out in the SDK.

    “That is a FEATURE provided through a DISTRIBUTION MECHANISM that is OTHER THAN ITUNES.”

    No, no it isn’t.

    This is confusing “provided through” and “using”.

    The feature is provided in the program code that you buy and download from iTunes. There is a distribution method other than iTunes, but it does not provide any features not already existing in the program purchased from iTunes. Non-executable content is not a feature. It’s what a feature eats.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    Thanks for the quote, Daniel. (I noticed the nod to my Constitution reference, too. :)

    I personally still don’t agree with section 3.3.3 of the SDK agreement being a core reason for Podcaster not being approved in the App Store, though. More importantly, I don’t think it’s an argument that either side can win.

    Moreso, confrontational language such as “He’s wrong, here’s why.” and “If he wasn’t so wrong on this issue, his simplistic morality play tirade would be easier to laugh at.” do more to create barriers than bridge rifts. This is especially true when the official stated reason for Podcaster not being approved has been mostly outside the focus of the majority of the discussion on it: “it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.”

    I can understand how one might read this as saying that it provides the “functionality” of podcast “distribution…other than [though] the iTunes Store.” HOWEVER, if Apple truly did mean that Podcaster was violating section 3.3.3 of the SDK agreement, wouldn’t they have come out and explicitly mentioned that?

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    Additional followup:

    “Podcaster is designed to queue up huge podcast data files and truck them over the network nonstop in the background.”

    I don’t have personal experience with Podcaster, but: I don’t think it can do that.

    If it did, that would certainly be grounds for non-approval in the App Store, and I haven’t seen anything mentioned about that.

    The jailbreak app MobileCast, BTW, CAN do downloads in the background. It’s kind of a fragile thing, though, and it’s not surprising to find that a background download has failed due to a variety of reasons such as the foreground app or OS taking enough of the system’s resources that MobileCast is too starved to continue with the download. This is a simple example of one of the problems inherent in background processes on a resource-constrained device like the iPhone/iPod Touch.

    (Not trying to just rain on your parade, Daniel, merely trying to help you keep up the standards of quality in your analysis.)

  • DavidT

    I also read both Roughly Drafted and Daring Fireball.
    I certainly agree with you on this one, though I have a little sympathy for the developers who spend a lot of time producing an application which is subsequently rejected.
    Surely the solution is a mechanism for developer to submit a functional specification for a proposed program to Apple for prior approval.

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  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    “He’s wrong, here’s why” is classic RDM form. About half of articles have it here. The other stab at Gruber was retaliation for his “head hurts” line.

    Nice picture too!

  • Jon T

    @jodyfanning, when did Apple want iPhone to be an ‘open platform’?

    iPhone is always going to be a walled garden, a very pleasant one to live in. Play by the rules and Apple’s investment of BILLIONS is there for developers to make a shed load of money from.

    Great job Dan. You don’t let us down do you!

  • MooreChris

    I generally like the style of both your and John’s blogging. You are both however hyperventilating. Perhaps it’ll be easier for you to swallow if I slam John first.

    Yes, it hurts the developer community. So call Apple and ask about it first before canceling development if you think it may be questionable. And now we know: ask first. It sucks for those that didn’t, but don’t call off your killer app idea quite yet.

    I agree with John that apps like the fart app should be permitted; my suggestion would be to use a “mature” or similar label like the one for music of possibly questionable taste.

    Now for you, Dan. I think you are correct that Apple has the right to protect it’s business model. On the other hand, Gruber is correct about the clause you point to (There are other “blanket” clauses which make for a more powerful argument to back you up) and the fact that podcasts are not a core part of Apple’s business because there’s no money, which makes this a questionable example of challenging or working around iTunes.

    In this case, the *features* and *functionality* of the app (what it can do) _would_be_ delivered through the App Store. With regard to this word, “feature” allow me to quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” There is a fairly large gap between feature and content (unless we are talking about films).

    From the dictionary Apple put on my Mac: feature |ˈfitʃər| noun 1 a distinctive attribute or aspect of something : safety features like dual air bags…, content 2 |ˈkänˌtent| |ˈkɑntɛnt| |ˈkɒntɛnt|
    noun 1 (usu. contents) the things that are held or included in something … • information made available by a Web site or other electronic medium : online content providers.

    Clearly podcasts are an example of content and not feature. This is not to say that you are wrong on your other points. Simply that you are wrong to base your points on this clause.

    [Did you read the article? I didn’t call podcasts a feature. Downloading podcasts from the phone is the feature, and the only real reason you’d want to buy the app. You can already browse podcasts and play them directly from the web using Apple’s RSS helper web app.

    Also, just because Apple doesn’t charge for podcasts doesn’t mean that iTunes’ podcast farmer’s market has no value. There are lots of companies that would pay millions to own a podcasting system servicing 65 million subscribers. Arguing that it has no value and that Apple should give it away to any developer who imagines a way to divert Apple’s business to themselves is just silly. I’m not attributing motives to the Podcast developer, I’m just pointing out the obvious. Speaking of which, you don’t have to dramatically define common words for us, I think we’re all fairly intelligent here.]

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    @John Muir

    Indeed. John Gruber is hardly Paul Thurrott, Rob Enderle, or even John C. “dvorakdotorgslashblog,” though, who have built their careers and pageranks on throwing out misinformation to drive traffic from people correcting them.

    In fact Gruber doesn’t even HAVE comments on his blog. Not only that, he barely even has any advertising on it.

    I’d think it simply more appropriate for the “he’s wrong” style to be directed to where even the subjects themselves know that they’re wrong, but they’re just intentionally trying to incite controversy. (Not that Gruber doesn’t also do his share of trying to incite controversy. He just seems to do it through more honest personal opinions.)

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  • MooreChris

    >… I didn’t call podcasts a feature. Downloading podcasts from the phone is the feature…

    Perhaps you did not understand my assertion. This feature, “downloading podcasts” (and the ability to do so), is built into the program and would be delivered along with it by the App Store. The application accesses and downloads podcasts, which it seems we both agree are content, not new functionality or features.

    An example of downloading a feature, to make a contrast, would be the application downloading an extension with the ability to shuffle play or display more detailed meta-data from the feed.

    The clause you identify is part of a group. The group is related by the fact that they define the ways an application is restricted from altering its functionality and feature set (or potentially doing so to another application in 3.3.4) without passing through the approval process put in place by Apple. This seems to follow from their policy of quality control to prevent applications taking down the cellular network, as jobs infamously claimed was possible when he introduced his “sweet deal” for developing for the original iPhone.

    The clause restricts downloading of features . The clause does not restrict features related to downloading. If that were the case it could be applied to any application that accesses any data at all online, such transfers of data involving both uploads* and downloads**.

    Perhaps I was wrong to define the words as I did because it shifted attention to the podcast downloading part, being content outside of iTunes, away from my point, which was that the *feature*, _allowing_the_app_to_download_podcasts_, is part of the application itself and would be distributed *with* the app *through* the App Store.

    Perhaps this application broke 3.3.4 instead by attempting to access iTunes data to keep its podcasts synced with the ones in iTunes. Perhaps it was buggy and full of memory leaks leading to crashing of the phone. Perhaps the application included viral code for taking out entire cell phone networks. Perhaps Apple didn’t want an app competing with iTunes. We can’t know the reason for sure though because both the process at Apple and the developer’s disclosure of his denial are both opaque and relevant details may have been omitted due to hurt feelings***. This being the case, I think everyone should just take a big, deep breath.

    * Often these uploads consist only of small request headers, but I am talking about upstream traffic here.

    ** Even though you may disagree that downstream traffic constitutes a “download,” there are many other applications that do access data from the internet and store it on the phone that have been improved including everything from twitter apps to todo apps.

    *** Not that this is necessarily the case either. But there seems to be a lot of raw emotion being stirred up based on unverifiable facts. The only things we know with absolute certainty is the developer says he had his app good to go, and it is not available in the App Store now.

    [I see the point you make, but the 3.3 section is referencing what apps can do in general terms, not just “the ways an application is restricted from altering its functionality and feature set.” 3.3.3 specifically does say “additional features and functionality,” and one could argue that only refers to features that are introduced after the app goes on sale.

    However, this isn’t a court case involving law, it’s a contractual agreement. Further, the Podcaster app never went on sale, so there was no way to add additional features after the fact. Podcaster was SEEKING TO ADD additional features from those that already existed, and did so by working around iTunes. That got it rejected, as I pointed out, using the same logic behind 3.3.3.

    My point is not to belabor semantics, but rather to describe why this happened, and that it should have been no surprise to the developer or to the pundits who described the circumstances as being some out of left field random action by Apple. Gruber went out of his way to ridicule my explanation while going on about what Apple “should do” out of what, corporate altruism?

    You don’t have to agree with my take on 3.3.3 to agree with my stance on the whole issue. It’s not even my opinion really, it’s just how the facts line up. I would personally like to be able to browse podcast listings and download episodes from anywhere, and I would also like tethering (ha I have NetShare!) and other features that Apple is restricting for various reasons, but I have the intellectual capacity to distinguish between what I immediately want and what is limited by external factors.

    This results in my being mocked by Gruber and Welch and other people who approach every subject as a personal emotional outrage rather than with some rational curiosity. I agree with you that a deep breath all around is a good idea.]

  • jodyfanning

    @oomu, haapum

    And precisely why would anyone devote time and resources to a system where Apple can change the rules whenever they like?

    Also, there should be no need to comment about 3.3.3 clause. As far as I had seen elsewhere Apple had explicitly state that the application was banned because it duplicated functionality from iTunes. There was no mention at all about side loading content or anything else.

  • Silver_Surfer1931

    WOW! I mean, WOW! Excellent posts on both sides of the story. This is why I love this site. Both side can argue issues intelligently without having to resort to puerile tactics.

    I too read Gruber’s article. When I finished reading, I immediately went to Dan’s. Both sites did well in explaining their case. However, I have to agree with Dan on this case. It just makes more sense for me as a non-techie. Dan’s explainations were more clear.

  • chuckb

    Wow, two of my favorite (and smartest and most articulate) bloggers on opposite sides of an important issue.

    Actually, both sides have pieces of this correct. First, though, I have to agree with Bruce Hoult,

    “That is a FEATURE provided through a DISTRIBUTION MECHANISM that is OTHER THAN ITUNES.”
    No, no it isn’t.”

    And the key point, “Non-executable content is not a feature.”

    Bingo. Or, to put it another way, data is not a program. Clause 3.3 doesn’t apply to data, it applies to programs.

    So, I think Dan is wrong on 3.3 and Gruber is right.

    Both Dan and John agree—because it’s crystal clear in the terms of service agreement—that Apple CAN ban any apps it wants, the question is not so much what Apple “should” do, as to what is smartest for the future of the company and the iPhone.

    I’ve used Macs since 1984, and saw the long, slow, painful slide as Microsoft took over the world.

    The iPhone is a fresh start for Apple and even Paul Thurrott—no Apple fan–has stated that the iPhone can be the dominant post desktop computing platform. I do not want to see the history of desktop computing go to Microsoft because Apple couldn’t allow a little latitude in apps.

    So, in that sense, Apple “should” allow podcaster and things like it on the Apple store.

    [People keep repeating this idea that “content is not a feature.” Why? I very clearly stated that the feature is the ability to download podcasts, not the podcasts themselves. That is clearly a feature, supplied by the program.

    If you are going to disagree, you should look at both arguments before disagreeing.

    Everyone seems crystal clear on the fear that too many restrictions might cause Apple to lose control of the iPhone, but nobody seems to grasp that too much openness will cause the security, malware, and junkware problems that are on the PC and every other open mobile platform. The iPod didn’t have problems with being too closed.]

  • jmacrury

    @jodyfanning { 09.16.08 at 8:38 am }

    “@oomu, haapum

    And precisely why would anyone devote time and resources to a system where Apple can change the rules whenever they like?”

    Apple NEVER stated that the iPhone was going to be an open system. They always said that they will have full control over what can “officially” be done on and with the phone. Therefore, Apple will make the rules and change them as they deem necessary.

    The reason anyone would spend time and resources developing for the iPhone is simple… to make money. The popularity of the iPhone platform is unprecedented in a mobile device. This popularity would entice many developers to offer a product.

    The app store has only been open for about 2 months. As with any new venture, there will be growing pains. As someone else stated above, Apple will refine it’s policies as we move along. One thing that I cannot see changing though is Apple’s control.

    quote “Also, there should be no need to comment about 3.3.3 clause. As far as I had seen elsewhere Apple had explicitly state that the application was banned because it duplicated functionality from iTunes. There was no mention at all about side loading content or anything else.”

    Let’s totally forget about clause 3.3.3 as it simply doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Apple said no. It’s their phone, their platform, their distribution network. If you don’t like that, develop for something else or offer your product to the jailbreak community. By doing this however, you will be isolating your product from the majority of users, and this would most likely affect your bottom line….. a.k.a. less money for you.

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    How about writing innovative software instead. I mean, I already download podcasts with iTunes. Give me something I need!

  • limey

    “…confrontational language such as “He’s wrong, here’s why.” and “If he wasn’t so wrong on this issue, his simplistic morality play tirade would be easier to laugh at.” do more to create barriers than bridge rifts.”

    is no less confrontational than Gruber’s “This is such bullshit it hurts my head.”

    but this is their individual styles. I don’t like it from either writer, but I’ve come to accept and expect it from both. Of course this style emphasizes the fact that they are opinions and not news (the blogger/journalist argument.)

    Of course no-one does opinion like John C. Welch whose use of language makes me wonder what he says when he’s really pissed off!

    Anger is a terrible thing to waste.


    [Yes, I have to say that John Welch is the most freakishly f-ed up person in the sphere of Macdom, and that includes Rixstep.

    Welch writes about fantasy rape scenes of women that he thinks are too stupid, and killing and then raping the bodies of men he has agreement problems with. After he wrote up a tirade about me, I wrote him back to point out that his fantasy sex tirades (which all focus on his great hate for people who supposedly “know less than him”) was probably not the best thing to be posting online under his real name, but he’s back to to talking about gay porn as his substitute for an argument in the link above. What an absolute nutcase. I’m pretty sure I met him once and thought he was a pretty normal guy, but it seems Middle America has driven him batshit nuts. ]

  • mcloki

    The question is would Apple retroactively apply the “Banhammer”.
    It is possible that Apple will create another iApp that competes with a current program. They’ve done it before. Maybe they make their wiki program in server available as a mobile me app. Or a VOIP over wifi app. Will they then use this clause to ban competing programs retroactively. Effectively freezing out competition and potential revenue streams.
    I think the suspicion here is that Apple may only start acting in the interests of the big guys. T-Mobile Germany as an example. And it is this hidden fear that developers are rallying against. iPhone developers are for the most part, small independent shops, with only one or two programs to support them. I can see their fear.

  • jmacrury

    @mcloki { 09.16.08 at 11:25 am }

    quote “The question is would Apple retroactively apply the “Banhammer”. It is possible that Apple will create another iApp that competes with a current program. They’ve done it before. Maybe they make their wiki program in server available as a mobile me app. Or a VOIP over wifi app. Will they then use this clause to ban competing programs retroactively. Effectively freezing out competition and potential revenue streams.”

    This is something we’ll have to wait and see if it happens. If it does happen, we’ll have justifiable reason to complain. Until it happens, there’s no reason to go around yelling that the sky is falling.

    quote “I think the suspicion here is that Apple may only start acting in the interests of the big guys. T-Mobile Germany as an example. And it is this hidden fear that developers are rallying against. iPhone developers are for the most part, small independent shops, with only one or two programs to support them. I can see their fear.”

    As far as T-Mobile Germany goes, Apple is only following court orders, and that case was against users who jailbroke their iphone to install the Sipgate application for VOIP calls. It was the fact that they jailbroke the iPhone, which was against T-Mobile policy, that won the case. How can anyone blame Apple for following the rules and laws set down by the court system?

  • Jay


    Best comment yet!

  • Ziggamorph

    Sadly, I think you’ve missed the point. John Gruber wasn’t talking about whether Apple could reject this app, but if they should. Apple is providing a hostile development environment and this is a BAD THING for the platform. This article reads has a level of shill on par with Paul Thurrott’s.

    [did you read either article?]

  • puggsly

    Think about this.

    Apple intentionally held back wireless podcast subscriptions.

    So the question is why and I can see only a couple possibilities and most make no sense.
    1) Not enough time to implement.
    2) Holding back a desired feature to make a future update look better.
    3) Excessive load on wireless network.
    4) Contractually bound by carriers.

    Ok, so item one makes little sense because they already do all the same things in the iTunesApp and the AppStore. It is just different content. So, it seems unlikely.
    Option 2 has some merit but at best seems like a contributing factor not the main reason.
    Option 3 also holds some water as we are now seeing the networks stressed by the load. Others have said that other phones support similar things but the difference is that iPhone users actually use their phones.
    Option 4 is most likely and probably includes some of option 2 and 3 as to why. The way I see it is that Apple had to limit certain high bandwidth things to get the carriers to agree to terms. These limitations should be lifted as the carriers increase revenue and build out infrastructure.

    Bottom line as I see it is that the carriers are not ready to allow this type of application yet and that it will be allowed at a future date. Apple should be more upfront about these things but that is probably part of the contractual limitations as well. IMHO.

  • JulianT

    Personally I don’t see how Apple will ever implement podcast downloads on the iphone simply because they are not able to verify the quality of files delivered in this manner. There are just too many podcast sites for Apple to verify. Only through itunes would Apple be able to ‘know’ what the downloaded files are. Who knows someone could very well load an iphone virus via a podcast.

    [Apple doesn’t really verify anything in iTunes podcasts. Apple’s podcast business is a lot like Google’s YouTube business: it’s not making any money, it’s just holding onto control to prevent anyone else from taking it over and destroying their other businesses. The only thing Apple or Google will do is to take some action if someone complains about copyright or indecent content.

    There is also no real risk related to uploading viruses as podcasts, as the iPhone doesn’t execute AAC or H.264, it merely reads them, and any imagined content-based attack exploiting a vulnerability in QuickTime could just as easily be delivered over the web than via a podcast episode.

    Apple also already allows you to download podcasts, you just have to do it through iTunes and sync them over. The company can either add WiFi syncing of content (to replace USB sync from the PC) or add podcasts to the WiFi Store (cloud sync, although with podcasts, the actual content data would come from podcasters’ servers, not Apple’s).

    The problem with the second option is that it prevents the WiFi Store from ever being the “3G Store,” as Apple’s mobile partners would incur significant new traffic without any profit motivation to carry it. Currently, Apple’s WiFi Store infrastructure is throttled by users having to pay for content. At some point, it should make sense for Apple to expand that to include podcasts, just as it already allows YouTube content, even over EDGE.

    Obviously, when Apple rolls that out it doesn’t want Podcaster there complaining about why it was “Confabulatored,” and the media boo-hooing about Apple taking the next obvious step after it allowed a small developer to walk out into the path of its roadmap.

    But again, I’m not taking a moralist view of what ought to happen, I’m saying what is. Still, I don’t see why Apple is obligated to allow third parties to impede its own goals. Most critics don’t seem aware that Apple has goals in place already.]

  • Chris Breen

    Daniel, I’m afraid that when you say this:

    “However, while Gruber dismisses Podcaster’s content distribution as neither features nor functionality, he seems to be unaware that the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime.”

    You’re unaware of what Podcaster really does. In fact, streaming podcasts is one of Podcaster’s strengths and advantages. If you’re connected to the Internet you can search for and stream podcasts and over Wi-Fi it happens very quickly — audio as well as video podcasts.

    So yes, it will download podcasts, but it’s not *limited* to doing that. Streaming is as important a feature.

    [Yes you are right that Podcaster also streams. But the iPhone already does that, so Podcaster’s real value add was downloading podcasts in a queue, which it prominently featured as its selling point.]

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  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @JulianT – the iTunes Podcast Directory just lists podcasts that have been submitted to it; Apple doesn’t actually host the files as far as I know.

  • benjamintm

    “the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

    Wow, using this definition, any application that downloads data and stores it locally should be banned from the iPhone. On my phone right now is a stock application and a weather app, both of which download data and store it locally outside of iTunes and are developed by third parties; they provide duplicate functionality to applications already installed by Apple. Additionally, I use 1Password, which communicates via WiFi with an app running on my Mac to exchange password information, never once going through iTunes. NetNewsWire also provides RSS download capabilities which is similar to PodCatcher, just with text.

    This was a bad decision by Apple and smacks of a monopolistic approach to the iPhone. They could easily decide to stop carrying an application (i.e. NetShare) because they develop a partnership with a third-party company for additional revenues.


    [Does iTunes present stock and weather information (or passwords or RSS feeds)? If so, where is this functionally, and how does it fit into Apple’s iTunes business model? If you are going to comment on my article, do us both a favor and actually read what I said before you begin tearing into your strawman, because I specifically addressed this.

    Also, when you say “monopolistic approach to the iPhone,” are you under the impression that there are multiple entities selling iPhones? The iPhone is proprietary to Apple. Calling the iPhone a monopoly is like saying the US should consult the UN when passing domestic laws.

    If Windows Mobile decreed that all phones could only do this and that, and Windows Mobile ran on most phones, and it was difficult to find or use an alternative phone that didn’t run Windows Mobile, then you’d have a monopoly. There is no monopoly held by the iPhone over any market, any more than BMW has a “monopoly” on its own 5 series. Are you demanding an M5 from Chrysler?]

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @Dan – sorry, but I’m completely with Gruber on this one. If you read the language of the clause carefully (and in the surrounding context of the other clauses), it’s clearly designed to prevent apps from updating themselves with code from sources outside the App Store.

    How does the phrase “unlock or enable additional features or functionality” apply at all to an app that manages podcasts? You’re not “unlocking” or “enabling” anything by downloading an audio file. Rather, it’s talking about software that provides an internal method of updating itself with “additional features or functionality” *from outside sources*, thereby circumventing Apple’s approval process. It’s quite clear to me.

    If this were the reason why Podcaster was blocked, Apple would have said so. But they’ve made zero mention of this clause as far as I know – instead, the only official explanation is that Podcaster “duplicates iTunes,” but that doesn’t hold water given how many apps in the store duplicate other features of the iPhone.

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  • roz

    Setting aside for a moment the rest of the discussion. I still think you are incorrect in this point:

    ” …the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

    I don’t think you are incorrect here. The feature is the ability to download podcasts. That feature is part of the app Podcaster. iTunes is the intended mechanism to distribute the app and therefore the feature would be distributed by iTunes, not by any other means. The podcasts are not a feature, they are content. I don’t think 3.3.3 is a reasonable basis to disallow the app. Not that Apple needs to use that clause, I just think you are wrong to say it was itself a warning to the developer not to proceed. 3.3.3 provides no such warning.

    Now for the rest. As someone who has ran several developer programs I think you are wrong on a lot of points above. If developers are unhappy that is not good for the platform. When developers are unhappy on a widespread basis it is usually a sign that there is something wrong and it should be addressed. The issue is not what power does Apple have – the issue is what conditions should developers expect. You want developers to have clear expectations about what they can and cannot do so that before they invest time and resources they can know what is a reasonable app. True, developers can seek permission but that is not an idea circumstance for developers. First, its humiliating for developers that they would not have the freedom to develop and release freely, they might just choose another platform. Second, given that Apple is in a competitive posture with developers it is not in the developer’s interested to have to reveal to Apple product ideas long before the app has completed development.

    No one can argue at this point that this is an open platform, clearly Apple has an unusual amount of control over the whole iPhone ecosystem. There is also no question that even given the closed nature of the platform there are advantages to it for developers. The question is how will Apple use the power that comes with owning this closed environment and the key question here is how Apple deals with competitive apps. Certainly, as long as Apple makes apps for the device, they will frustrate developers unavoidably in this area. Apple will either block apps they want to compete with as they seem to have done in this case or at a later date, when the new version of iTunes is ready, one that has a competitive feature, Apple will frustrate developers by releasing a core app that renders a developer’s app redundant. In both cases developer will be unhappy and feel shorted by Apple. I would rather though see Apple take the approach where they accept competition. Allow developers to break new ground and then if Apple is determined to roll a feature set into an existing or new Apple app, either do it cleanly and openly or, better, offer to buy out the developer when its clear that the developer’s app has contributed to the feature area significantly.

    I don’t think it is a question of morals, its more a question of etiquette. What kind of host is Apple? If you bring a cute date to the party does Apple let you both in? Just her and not you? I think Apple should let you both in, but ok it she is really hot she will probably get chatted up at the bar. Its that sort of issue and given the position that Apple is in – they own the device, the OS, the tools, the store, really all access to the platform and most importantly the best development and creative team in the industry, why wouldn’t they be magnanimous and let a few companies compete? Nothing stops Apple from making its own Podcast app in the future if it wishes.

    And if there is a real practical basis for denial such as network usage, just clearly, publicly stated the requirements for downloading so that all developers know what to expect.

  • geeknews

    his is the second podcast application that was rejected by Apple. Another was rejected a week earlier..


    Note: We have stopped our companies development of a podcast application due to Apples Actions. I am no way associated with either app that was rejected.

  • benjamintm

    I did read the article and my arguments (IMO) are not a strawman. The area I believe you are referring to is:

    “the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

    I think it can be best answered with your comment:

    “Does iTunes present stock and weather information”

    No, but iTunes doesn’t present calendaring or address book functionality. It does provide a conduit for other Apple applications. Apple also provides built in RSS reading on the iPhone via Safari bookmark syncronization, but still allows NetNewsWire to download and display RSS information. Apple has made a decision that “podcasts” are bad, text is good. To say that Podcaster duplicates functionality means that Apple will have to remove NNW and other RSS readers to be consistent. Instead they singled out Podcaster for exclusion because of “duplicate functionality”.

    And you are right, monopolistic is the wrong word. Draconian (NetShare), subjective (PullMyFinger, IAmRich), and ambiguous (Podcaster, NetNewsWire) are probably better terms to describe the poilcy for app acceptance.

    I like my iPhone. I find it incredibly useful, but I don’t agree with the decision that Apple made for Podcaster.


    [Yes it’s fine that you have an opinion.

    iTunes does provide cal/contact sync via MobileMe (quibbles about UI placement aside, or whether Apple own frameworks are part of “iTunes” on the Mac side). It also provides podcasts. There is an obvious business model behind both.

    “Apple has made a decision that “podcasts” are bad, text is good” Well no, Apple has a business around podcasts that does not really extend to syndicated text. ]

  • bc

    Yeah it sucks that Apple seems to be rejecting apps for no clear reason. But forgetting about trying to analyze each letter of the SDK to find (guess) the actual reason they rejected Podcaster,… I think the reason it’s not in Apple’s interest to allow it is very simple

    iTunes is the center of stored-content distribution for iPhone/iPod, whether free, or paid, or even end-user supplied (i.e. their own music) – and by stored-content distribution I mean specifically: distribution of music, video, audio and software apps to be stored locally on iPhone/iPod.

    if Podcaster gives the user less reason to use iTunes — or heaven forbid, avoid using it altogether — then it’s not hard to imagine why Apple might not like that idea. and not hard to imagine them worried about what other doors that might open.

    it has nothing to do with simply “duplicating” other apps or features already on the iPhone. It’s not about streaming content. It’s ALL about iTunes. After all, Apple’s business model doesn’t revolve around a Sports Scoring app or Calculator or Notepad app. (if it did, we might have a Notepad that syncs with the desktop!!, but I digress… :-)

    On the other hand, even a user who NEVER purchases a song, or movie or app via iTunes Store… even if they never _intend_ to do so, by using iTunes for syncing even just podcasts, then that user is still a potential customer of the iTunes store. That’s probably Apple’s desire.

    that said, Apple really should make the rules crystal clear – if developers are complaining that Apple seems to be making arbitrary decisions to reject apps, then that’s a real problem. Apple could easily fix the problem by better communication with the developers – they shouldn’t have to guess what they’re allowed to develop.

  • nat

    GwMac said:

    “Not only with this one particular iphone application that they in their wisdom decided not to approve, but the whole way they seem to be pissing off developers trying to make some really cool and innovative apps. Apple just seems to want to much control. ”

    Just to note, Apple is not and never has impeded iPhone SDK developers’ freedom to create cool and unique apps. You can create a porno-serving, podcast-downloading, P2P-file-sharing, farting iPhone app and there will be no hell to pay (unless you count your concerned friends and family). You can even sign up for an Enterprise license to distribute your monstrosity to 100 people (or just give people the authentication file with your app). Don’t forget about the JB community either.

    It’s at the point of making that app available to all the iPhone and iPod touch users in the world through the iTunes Store that Apple steps in.

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    In case the nay-sayers haven’t noticed. Apple has a program that competes with the app in question. It’s called iTunes.

  • ttueric

    Wow – ONLY if you read it outside of its historical context and believe it’s a “living, breathing document” – meaning it’s changeable:

    “The great thing about the Constitution is that you can take it to mean nearly whatever you want. “

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