Monday, May 11, 2020

RSS Readers Rejected From the App Store

Brent Simmons (tweet):

NetNewsWire 5.0.1 for iOS is delayed due to an apparently new, or newly-enforced, issue: if an RSS reader includes default feeds, Apple will ask for documentation that says you have permission to include those default feeds.

The first RSS app that got tagged with this, that I know of, was NewsWave. We submitted NetNewsWire 5.0.1 for iOS for review a couple days ago and had the same issue.

I wonder how they expect you to document this permission. For what it’s worth, I hereby give permission for any RSS reader to include my feed URL.

Daniel Jalkut:

I think this is a really bad precedent. Sharing public information shouldn’t require permission.

Mike Rundle:

[I had this issue], years ago. They also said I couldn’t load URLs from Reddit within the app, I had to link out to open them in Safari. I said that makes no sense and they never got back to me. I stopped developing my news app Interesting after that, I didn’t see the point.


It happened the same to me more or less 3 years ago. If I remember correctly they disallowed me even to open link in Safari


If you publish an RSS feed on the internet, that should imply wide distribution. That’s how the thing works.

Jeff Johnson:

RSS is simply the web in XML format rather than HTML format. An RSS reader is simply a web browser that reads XML rather than HTML. RSS feed subscriptions are simply URL bookmarks.

It’s not quite the same, because some RSS feeds contain the full post content. But it’s not as if the apps are purporting to own the content or are altering and proxying access to it like Luminary (which is in the App Store).

Brent Simmons:

NetNewsWire 5.0.1 for iOS was approved this morning and is now up on the App Store. If you don’t see it there yet, it’s because it’s still propagating.

I did not have the chance to provide permission documentation before this happened.

I will assume that the permission issue I wrote about yesterday was mistakenly applied to NewsWave and to NetNewsWire.

I ended up switching back to NetNewsWire (syncing via Feedbin) sooner than planned. It works great and feels incredibly fast.


Update (2020-05-12): Brent Simmons (tweet):

I heard from Apple that, while this latest version has been approved, the app is now under further review for this issue.


I’m trying to figure out what bothers me. I think there are two things.

One is just that the App Store has always seemed rather arbitrary. The guidelines don’t even have to change for unseen policies to change, and it’s impossible to know in advance if a thing you’re doing will be okay and stay okay.


If a site provides a public feed, it’s reasonable to assume that RSS readers might include that feed in some kind of discovery mechanism — they might even include it as a default. This is the public, open web, after all.

Nick Heer:

I see very little difference between NetNewsWire’s default feeds and web browsers that include default bookmarks. Maybe popular web browsers like Firefox and Brave really have struck agreements with YouTube, Amazon, and Wikipedia to include their sites as bookmarks, but I doubt that, and I don’t think that ought to be a requirement. Likewise for feed readers.

If there is a good, non-arbitrary reason for this, Apple is apparently horrible at communicating it.

The options that Apple suggested for bringing the app into legal compliance make it even more of a mystery what the reason was.

Brent Simmons:

The issue with the default feeds reminds me that, at any time, even for a small bug-fix update, App Store review may decide that an app can’t be published as-is for some reason.

You’d be right to think that, with an issue like this, it would come up the same on both App Stores — solve it in one place and you’ve solved it in both. It’s not like I’d have double the issues.

But sometimes the issue actually is platform-specific. For example: NetNewsWire Lite 4.0 for Mac was held up by Mac App Store review for three weeks due to a bug in WebKit. (Yes, this was nine years ago.)

This is supposed to be fun. It’s work that I love doing for a great cause. And I just keep thinking that dealing with the iOS App Store is enough to ask of me, and there’s no requirement that I go through this with the Mac App Store too. The personal cost is just too high.


[The App Store is] arbitrary in ways that defeat its purpose, demean its constituents and take for itself the crown of only responsible grown-up.


It would take an incredible balancing act to actually run an app store well. Apple has done the best job of it so far, but it's still a tire fire that inhibits applications legitimate developers want to write. These events are not representative of every app review process ever, but they are representative of what happens when you have an app review process and you live in the real world. It doesn't have to happen in most of the cases to be a disgrace and an impediment.

Via Nick Heer:

It has been said before but I will say it again: the biggest problem that the App Store faces is in the communication of shifting expectations. If, for whatever reason, Apple wants to interpret default feeds in a feed reader as a potential copyright issue, they ought to notify developers of the change and give them a chance to make adjustments.

Right now, developers do not find out about a change in App Store rules or the interpretation of existing rules until they submit an app for review.


It is ludicrous that the App Store turns twelve years old in July and this fundamental problem remains unaddressed.

In this case, it sounds like Apple hasn’t even decided what the new policy is yet. NetNewsWire wasn’t just rejected for violating an unwritten rule but for violating a rule that doesn’t exist yet.

Update (2020-05-19): Brent Simmons:

I just heard that the default feeds in NetNewsWire are okay as-is, and I don’t need to collect permissions for Apple.

Brent Simmons:

I like to make a public record in order to make inconsistency more difficult.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

William Krueger

If it were me I would show Apple the publicity available RSS link And say this is the permission given by that website owner.

Just my $.02 worth.


> at any time, even for a small bug-fix update, App Store review may decide that an app can’t be published as-is for some reason.

> [The App Store is] arbitrary in ways that defeat its purpose, demean its constituents and take for itself the crown of only responsible grown-up.

And for this 'service', Apple demand you give them 30% of the revenue from your app, plus $99 per year.

An RSS feed is for the express purpose of syndication, to a news reader no less. I don't get it.

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