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Apple's new developer guidelines will avoid a Facebook-style farce, reckons Tadhg Kelly

It's curation rather than a clampdown

Apple's new developer guidelines will avoid a Facebook-style farce, reckons Tadhg Kelly
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You can count on one thing when Apple adds a new rule to its arsenal of App Store terms and conditions: almost no-one will have been pre-warned as to its presence.

The Cupertino giant may currently be keeping tight lipped in regards to the ramifications of its update to its App Review Guidelines – an update that appears to threaten the practice of app promotion within other apps – but not everyone is fearful of such change.

According to game design, publishing, marketing and production consultant Tadhg Kelly, such changes are likely an attempt by Apple to ensure the App Store avoids "falling into the same trap that befell the Facebook platform".

No Facebook fumble

"While the revision of terms to reduce third party app promotion is probably a net negative for some developers, it's most likely being done with good intentions," Kelly, a regular TechCrunch columnist, told us via email.

"Facebook got gamed, and then it got stuck. One of the biggest problems that the Facebook platform has is its lack of editorial supervision. It means that the various channels become dominated by the same providers over and over.

"Dominated attention leads to the same games and apps being seen over and over, and that in turn leads to a lot of cloning, as those kinds of apps begin to be seen as the only ones which can be successful in the space. That's what Apple likely wants to avoid."

Kelly believes Apple is wary of developers being "left to run wild eventually figure out that it's cheaper to game a system than to make great games for it."

Some individual successes emerge from such a process, he clarified, but the "rest of the platform tends to go to seed, like a garden run amok."

A curated cure

"The platform gets overridden with the best apps designed to take advantage of its levers, but those are not necessarily - or even usually - the best uses of the platform," added Kelly.

"For that you need curation. Poor curation leads to platform-driven content policies, which always suck - Xbox Live's online offerings, for instance, is far too managed. However smart curation - which I personally think Apple has been brilliant at doing these last four years - leads to new shoots, new ideas and so on.

"Holding onto the gate keys but managing them in a neutral-but-forward-looking way is the key reason why iOS is the platform that it is today."

Kelly's principle view is that, while the change to the App Review Guidelines could catch out scores of supposedly legitimate app discovery apps – or even indies simply cross-promoting titles by their friends – Apple is trying to avoid apps riding hard in their charts on the power of promo tools alone.

Quality and innovation, he suggested, have to come first.

"What that means for developers is that there is no low road," he concluded.

"They are forced to innovate and create worthwhile apps which differentiate themselves from the competition and get noticed by the App Store. For many that means they fail, but the ones that do a great job - such as NaturalMotion recently - experience outsized success.

"It's not pretty, but that kind of approach improves diversity and quality in the long run."

Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on PG.biz, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.