Apple Weeds Porn from the Store — The Lessons


From VHS to the Internet, it’s just a fact that porn drives growth of new technologies.  One of the ways it does that is by pushing on boundaries so the rest of us know where the lines are.  In today’s (Feb 22, 2010) NY Times, Jenna Wortham has a great article: “Apple Bans Some Apps for Sex-Tinged Content.”

While the nature of Apple’s decision is pretty obvious and logical, there are some lessons to be learned from Wortham’s article.

Lesson 1) Participation in an ecosystem can be a risky venture, especially if you are one of thousands of companies in the pool.  Here’s a quote from Fred Clark, President of On the Go Girls: “It’s very hard to go from making a good living to zero,” he said. “This goes farther than sexy content. For developers, how do you know you aren’t going to invest thousands into a business only to find out one day you’ve been cut off?”

Lesson 2) Platform owners (Facebook, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Apple) expecting to generate revenue from a wide variety of channel partners must take steps to make sure they and their partners are delivering an experience that their customers can trust.  To do otherwise can be disastrous for customer sat and long-term revenue.  Here’s a quote from Wally Cheng, founder of Donoma Games, welcoming Apple’s policy changes:

“There just seems to be too many of these really simple applications that do nothing but show pictures of girls in bikinis or in suggestive, adult poses.  It’s cluttering up the App Store.”

Lesson 3) In a free market, there will always be alternatives.  And there will always be new outlets for porn: “A Google representative said the company wanted to “reduce friction and remove barriers that make it difficult for developers to make apps available to users.” To that end, Android applications are treated similarly to YouTube videos, which are not screened before they are posted. Apps can be removed if they violate various policies, and users can flag material that they deem inappropriate, giving guidance to others.”

Oh yeah, did I mention that the iPhone vs Android war looked like the Beta vs VHS porn story?  Yes I did, about a month ago.

3 responses to “Apple Weeds Porn from the Store — The Lessons

  1. The question in all of this is whether “ease of use” becomes the death of the open web.

    We’ve ceded how our monetization works to Google; which apps are ok for our phone to Apple; and whether we’re behaving properly on the social web to Facebook. Google pays you whatever they feel like when you use Adwords – there is no open algorithm. Facebook bans you whenever your usage is “improper” – nothing clearly defined. And we see what Apple does.

    Big companies will all, always, eventually, try to wall the garden. Lets hope enough start-ups keep swarming them shouting “Tear down this wall!” :)

  2. Nigel — great point. There is a line here, not too well defined, and not too fine, that the channel operators need to manage. The channel partners and customers should be vocal, but it is super hard to tell if the operators are listening these days.

    So if we want to yell, it had better be loud and clear.

  3. Peter, great post on the lessons here. It seems to us, at MiKandi, the first app store that treats you like an adult, that companies who try to limit consumer desires are destined to fail over the long term. As you talk about when referring to the Beta vs VHS story, technology’s history is littered with companies who mistakenly believed that their views on acceptable use could supersede consumer actions. When someone buys a phone, they understandably expect that the phone is theirs to do with as they’d like. From what we’re seeing at MiKandi, respecting that point of view is very important and resonates quite a bit with consumers and developers. We’ve been talking about this a bit on our blog, in case you’re interested:

    http://www.blog.mikandi.com/2010/02/apple-says-no-to-sexy-our-official-pov/

    http://www.blog.mikandi.com/2010/02/apple-rejects-overtly-sexual-content-from-app-store/

    Thanks for the great post!

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