I love my iPhone and I love Apple (cue images of flag pins and “I love muh countray!”), but I believe they’re blowing it with the App Store gate keeping. That’s of course not a new opinion. Developers left and right have been decrying the broken process. But there’s nothing like feeling it on your own bones to make the point.

We have a couple of new features in the wing for Campfire. They’ve been done for more than 10 days now. Why haven’t we released them yet? Because the iPhone app Ember needed to have a simple regular expression updated to support the features. We really like Ember, so we decided that holding back the features until this pro forma update went through was prudent. We’re still waiting.

This has made me think about all the ways the app store process sucks and how little we get back in return. The argument I keep hearing for why this terrible process is worth it is quality control. Here’s a breakdown of each argument:

  • Applications will be more stable: No they won’t. Echophone still crashes on me all the time. It’s not like the iPhone is immune to crash bugs. And why would it be? You’re writing native Objective-C here. Shit is going to crash every now and then. No 10 minute look-over by a App Store clerk is going to help that.
  • The App Store will be free of malware: That’s certainly no given. If you really wanted to be evil, you could very well hide your malice underneath a cute game and have a time bomb or a remote trigger installed. Do you think the App Store clerks are combing through source code to look for security issues? Ha!
  • Only good stuff in the App Store: Ha! The App Store has some 140K+ applications. I can guarantee you that the bulk of that is less than average. There are some 100 fart apps for christ sake!

We’re paying for the inconvenience of quality control without the quality part. In fact, lots of software has lower quality because of the App Store process. Developers can’t easily get bug fixes out and they certainly don’t release new versions as often as they otherwise would. This harks back to the era where software was really cumbersome to release on CDs, so you did it much less frequently.

Contrast this with OS X and the web. Both platforms are much more open and on a mac you have very little trouble with stability or malware or even quality. In general, the market is pretty good at sorting this stuff out. If you make a crappy application, people don’t buy or recommend it. And OS X seems to be holding up well as a secure platform compared to, say, Windows, so malware isn’t much of a concern either.

What I think Apple should do instead is to reserve the power to nuke apps that prove troublesome. Have a “if you fuck it up, we’ll yank it” policy rather than a “we’ll review everything poorly and slowly and still not catch it all” policy. They’d be able to get by with a much smaller App Store clerk staff, developers would be thrilled to escape the needless gate keeping, and consumers would enjoy more applications updated more frequently.

What’s there to lose except for the feeling of powah?