Over the past few days dozens of developers have received messages from Apple essentially letting them know that their apps, which had “originally believed to be suitable for distribution”, were no longer considered appropriate and had been removed from the App Store. Apple has yet to come forward publicly regarding what can only be seen as a sudden and stringent crackdown on applications that feature “overtly sexual” content. Instead, Apple continues to maintain that it reviews problems on a case-by-case basis whenever they receive customer complaints about objectionable content.

App Store Removals

AppShopper, a website that closely tracks the App Store, made public some very intriguing information on the number of apps removed from the App Store. As is made clear by the bar graph, the number of applications being removed daily from the App Store rocketed on the 17th and continued its new trend in the few days following. Speculation from industry insiders raises the idea that Apple may be trying to clean up its App Store before the launch of the iPad.

These latest developments would hardly be news if Apple was straightforward with its developers concerning the rules and regulations of the App Store but the fact is Apple has remained silent through most of the drama leaving developers to scratch their heads and pray their app is accepted. In yet another example of Apple’s confusing review process Daisy Mae’s Alien Buffet, an iPhone and iPod Touch game, has been removed from the App Store, allegedly because the cartoon heroine wears a bikini. At the same time, the official Playboy app, featuring a plethora of scantily clad playmates, remains on sale.

At this point developers can do little but sit back and wait for Apple to play its hand. It’s likely these changes are indicative of Apple trying to stamp out the “smut” of the App Store once and for all. However, if this is Apple’s end goal, they will at some point have to publicly lay out some guidelines rather than leave their developers guessing at what Apple is going to deem appropriate.

Update: Phil Schiller has commented on the situation in a New York Times article published today (2/23/10). In a nutshell: Apple has decided to crack down on the general population of crappy, smutty apps and the only reason applications like the official Playboy app and the SI Swimsuit app are remaining is because they come from “well-known companies with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format”.