In a rare, and seemingly random, move for Apple, the notoriously secretive company has published actual guidelines for what apps will and will not get into the App Store. With 250,000 apps out there now, it appears that the company has finally decided to turn an eye to quality over quantity.

Apple App StoreApple’s App Store Guidelines (PDF link) went up today, and for the first time everyone has a clearer view of what the heck goes on behind the curtain that is the approval process.  To me, the gem of the whole document has to be:

We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.

You mean, Apple is actually going to start caring about what goes in the App Store?  Well, color me surprised.

As I have said numerous times and places, I think the App Store is in desperate need of a redesign.  One of my favorite examples to use is the Music category.  As I write this, there are 5,147 free apps and 5,047 paid apps in the Music section, and that is where categorization ends.  You are expected to sort through thousands of apps by hand to find the outstanding ones, and that is no small task.  In the free category especially it is just out of control with radio station apps that do nothing more than play the Internet stream for the station, and that’s it.  Sadly, these will be probably be protected by the new guidelines, but it is a shining example of the fact that Apple really did let App development get away from them in a rush to have the most.

Some other interesting highlights from the document include things such as,

Apps that crash will be rejected

Um … thanks?

On a more serious note, this one concerns me a bit:

Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them

Will there be any room for judgement here?  What if a new app is developed in an over populated app category such as photography or Twitter clients that is heads above the rest?  Will the reviewers simply go, “Oh, not another Twitter app” and toss it, or will they use a critical eye to give it some thought?  There is an appeals board, but that could still be a rough road depending on the category.  Hopefully this is one of those rules that’s there “just in case”, but it could have some serious implications depending on how often it’s used.

Apps that misspell Apple product names in their app name (i.e., GPS for Iphone, iTunz) will be rejected

I think it could argues that Apple misspelled iPhone, but that’s just me.

Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good it may be rejected

This one seems a bit objective to me.  As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so just because it doesn’t look “Apple like” doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It’s just like I never could understand the tales of woe I would hear from friends taking a particular art class at the local university as this particular teacher had decided comic book and album cover art weren’t art at all, and he would immediately fail you if you turned it in.  Just because he didn’t like the looks of it didn’t mean it wasn’t still beautiful in some way, so now Apple thinks everything must have an Apple design aesthetic?

The entire document is only seven pages, and at that it is all bullet pointed so it is a quick and easy read.  It’s well worth your time because this is one of the most open looks we’ve ever had into the thought processes of Apple.

What say you?  Did any rules in the document immediately pop out at you as interesting?