Apple has issued a statement saying that they are relaxing sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2, and 3.3.9 of the iOS Developer Program License Agreement. Theoretically, Flash-based apps are now allowed, although Apple reserves the right to ban apps that “rapidly” drain the battery. More importantly, it is once again possible to use interpreters, alternative languages, frameworks, and developer tools. This is excellent news, although it’s important to note that it’s basically a reversal of the damage done in April, rather than an improvement over the status quo ante. By my interpretation of the guidelines, useful apps like Briefs are still forbidden because the interpreted code is not bundled into the app. iOS remains a restricted platform for developers.
They’ve also published the App Store Review Guidelines, though you’ll have to join the iOS developer program and pay $99 to read the official copy. John Gruber calls attention to some of the more interesting rules. I see this, along with Apple’s insistence that it wants to be “more transparent,” as a small positive step. Most of these guidelines were already known, but it’s certainly valuable to have them written down. It remains to be seen whether anything will be different in practice. Apple can still make up rules as they go along and hold apps in limbo without rendering a verdict.
Also, some of the rules are scarier now that they’ve been made explicit. For example, no third-party browsers, no apps that “duplicate” apps that are already in the store, no apps that are simply “content aggregators,” and restrictions on commentary unless you’re a “professional political satirist.” Some rules remain unwritten: there’s no mention of the prohibitions for “limited audience” or competing with Apple’s built-in apps.
Lastly, there are some veiled threats such as “If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.” Adam Engst writes:
Shining a light on situations like this is exactly what the press should be doing—the public does not have a right to know everything about Steve Jobs’s private life, but knowing that Apple is rejecting political satire from the App Store is absolutely in the public interest.
I continue to agree with Jesper about the bottom line:
I don’t think it’s unfair for Apple to have a list of the applications produced for its platform that it believes is decent and upstanding, and which it is proud to be associated with. I just don’t think that that list should be the same as the list of all applications that can run, ever.