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Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 04:10 pm PT (07:10 pm ET)

Apple issues review guidelines for Mac App Store

Heading off concerns that the Mac App Store might generate complaints about capricious rejections and unclear submission guidelines, Apple has issued an initial outline of what developers will need to do to get their apps listed in the new store.

"The App Store has revolutionized the way mobile apps are developed and distributed," Apple writes in the Mac App Store Review Guidelines document. "With over 300,000 apps and 7 billion downloads, it has been a huge hit with developers and users around the world. Now we are thrilled to be opening our new Mac App Store to the hundreds of thousands of Mac developers and tens of millions of Mac users around the world."

The guidelines further note, "to ensure that apps are reliable, perform as advertised, and free of offensive material, we will review every app on the Mac App Store based on a set of Mac App Store Review Guidelines that we are ready to share with you. These guidelines are designed to help you create and prepare your apps so they will sail through our approval process.

"We want to help you reach tens of millions of Mac customers with your apps. As with the mobile App Store, developers will earn 70% of the revenues. Please join us as we launch our Mac App Store within the next 90 days, and together we can surprise and delight our joint customers."

Functionality guidelines

Apple first lists a series of rules pertaining to how apps work, how they install themselves, how they update, and what technologies they use.

Apps that crash, exhibit bugs or do not perform as advertised by the developer will be rejected, as will be apps that are "beta", "demo", "trial", or "test" versions. Apps that use non-public APIs or include undocumented or hidden features inconsistent with the description of the app will be rejected.

"Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them. Apps that are not very useful or do not provide any lasting entertainment value may be rejected. Apps that are primarily marketing materials or advertisements will be rejected. Apps that are intended to provide trick or fake functionality that are not clearly marked as such will be rejected.

"Apps that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances, or encourage minors to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, will be rejected. Apps that provide incorrect diagnostic or other inaccurate device data will be rejected. Developers 'spamming' the App Store with many versions of similar apps will be removed from the Mac Developer Program.

"Apps must be packaged and submitted using Apple's packaging technologies included in Xcode - no third party installers allowed. Apps must be self-contained, single application installation bundles, and cannot install code or resources in shared locations. Apps that download or install additional code or resources to add functionality or change their primary purpose will be rejected.

"Apps that download other standalone apps will be rejected. Apps that install kexts (kernel extensions) will be rejected. Apps that require license keys or implement their own copy protection will be rejected. Apps that present a license screen at launch will be rejected. Apps may not use update mechanisms outside of the App Store.

"Apps must contain all language support in a single app bundle (single binary multiple language). Apps that spawn processes that continue to run after a user has quit the app without user consent will be rejected. Apps that use deprecated or optionally installed technologies (e.g., Java, [PowerPC code requiring] Rosetta) will be rejected.

"Apps that do not run on the currently shipping OS will be rejected. Apps that are set to auto-launch or to have other code automatically run at startup or login without user consent will be rejected. Apps that request escalation to root privileges or use setuid attributes will be rejected.

"Apps that add their icons to the Dock or leave short cuts on the user desktop will be rejected. Apps that do not use the appropriate Mac OS X APIs for modifying user data stored by other apps (e.g bookmarks, Address Book or Calendar entries) will be rejected. Apps that do not comply with the Mac OS X File System documentation will be rejected."

Metadata and advertising

Apple next outlines rules for apps related to how they identify and advertise themselves in the Mac App Store. Apps are forbidden from mentioning the name of other computer platforms, such as Microsoft Windows or Google Android.

Apps can't use placeholder text in the App Store listings, nor use irrelevant descriptions of their content and functionality. Also, app icons and screenshots must be appropriate and adhere to the 4+ rating to appear in the store, and be assigned correct Category, Genres, Keywords, and Ratings.

The company warns the any attempt to cheat in user reviews or app rankings with invented or paid reviews will result in a termination from the developer program.

Location Services

The guidelines also restrict how location data is used, forbidding apps from collecting, sending or using users' location data without notifying the user and obtaining consent. Apple also forbids the use of location data to control autonomous vehicles, or for use in dispatch, fleet management and emergency services.

Trademarks

Heading off the problems developers have complained about in Google's Android store, Apple insists that developers' apps must follow the guidelines for using Apple copyrights and trademarks, which forbids suggesting that third party apps are endorsed by Apple, creating confusion with Apple product names, misspelling Apple trademarks, or using any other third party trademarks without documented permission to do so.

User Interface

Apple insists that apps must follow the Apple Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines, including the user of buttons and icons, but says it will reject apps that that look similar to existing Apple products, including the Finder, iChat, iTunes, and Dashboard. It will also reject apps that change the native user interface elements or behaviors of Mac OS X.

The company says it sets a high bar for user interface quality, and "if your user interface is complex or less than very good it may be rejected."

Purchasing

Apple will reject apps that open up additional features or functionality outside of the App Store, except for apps that hosts plug-ins or extensions. Note that, in contrast, iOS apps are forbidden from using any sort of plug-ins or extensions at all. Apps also can't create a store inside themselves for selling or distributing other software.

Any apps that ask the user to pay to use to built-in features of Mac OS X (such as an iSight camera) will also be rejected. Apps are also forbidden from renting content or services that expire after a period of time. Insurance applications must be free and in legal-compliance in the regions distributed.

As with iOS apps, Apple notes that "the more expensive your app, the more thoroughly we will review it."

Scraping and aggregation

Apps that scrape information from Apple sites such as apple.com, the iTunes Store, App Store, iTunes Connect, and Apple Developer Programs or create rankings using content from Apple sites and services will be rejected, although apps can use approved Apple RSS feeds such as the iTunes Store RSS feed.

As with IOS apps, Apple warns that title that are simply web clippings, content aggregators, or a collection of links, may be rejected.

Damage to Products

Apps that encourage users to use an Apple product in a way that may cause damage to the device will be rejected. Apple also rejects apps that can rapidly drain the users' battery or generate excessive heat.

Personal attacks, violence and objectionable content

Apps that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected, although Apple notes that professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentary.

Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected. Apps that depict violence or abuse of children will be rejected. "Enemies" within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity.

Apps involving realistic depictions of weapons in such a way as to encourage illegal or reckless use of such weapons will be rejected. Apps that include games of Russian roulette will be rejected. Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content or that are primarily designed to upset or disgust users will be rejected.

Privacy

Apps cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user's prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used. Apps that require users to share personal information, such as email address and date of birth, in order to function will be rejected. Apps that target minors for data collection will be rejected.

Pornography

Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster's Dictionary as "explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings", will be rejected. Apps that contain user generated content that is frequently pornographic (ex "Chat Roulette" apps) will be rejected.

Religion, culture, and ethnicity

Apps containing references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected.

Apps may contain or quote religious text provided the quotes or translations are accurate and not misleading. Commentary should be educational or informative rather than inflammatory.

Contests, sweepstakes, lotteries, raffles, charities and contributions

"Sweepstakes and contests must be sponsored by the developer/company of the app. Official rules for sweepstakes and contests must be presented in the app and make it clear that Apple is not a sponsor or involved in the activity in any manner. It must be permissible by law for the developer to run a lottery app, and a lottery app must have all of the following characteristics: consideration, chance, and a prize. Apps that allow a user to directly purchase a lottery or raffle ticket in the app will be rejected.

"Apps that include the ability to make donations to recognized charitable organizations must be free. The collection of donations must be done via a web site in a web browser."

Legal requirements

"Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users. It is the developer's obligation to understand and conform to all local laws.

"Apps that contain false, fraudulent or misleading representations will be rejected. Apps that solicit, promote, or encourage criminal or clearly reckless behavior will be rejected. Apps that enable illegal file sharing will be rejected. Apps that are designed for use as illegal gambling aids will be rejected. Apps that enable anonymous or prank phone calls or SMS/MMS messaging will be rejected.

"Developers who create apps that surreptitiously attempt to discover user passwords or other private user data will be removed from the Mac Developer Program.

"This document represents our best efforts to share how we review apps submitted to the Mac App Store," Apple says, "and we hope it is a helpful guide as you develop and submit your apps. It is a living document that will evolve as we are presented with new apps and situations, and we'll update it periodically to reflect these changes.

"Thank you for developing for Mac OS X. Even though this document is a formidable list of what not to do, please also keep in mind the much shorter list of what you must do. Above all else, join us in trying to surprise and delight users. Show them their world in innovative ways, and let them interact with it like never before. In our experience, users really respond to polish, both in functionality and user interface. Go the extra mile. Give them more than they expect. And take them places where they have never been before. We are ready to help."