By Todd Bernhard on Thu, 05/22/2014
Apple is an American success story. And 'merica is all about freedom. Free Speech. Free Press. Freedom of Religion. Even Freedom Fries. Lately, that includes the freedom to smoke marijuana in a few states. Mind you, drugs have never been for me, nor are games that glorify drug dealing, but they exist and give people a (vicarious?) glimpse into the underworld that is the illegal narcotics business. Breaking Bad made a ton of legitimate money off illegitimate activities. Likewise for The Sopranos or The Godfather. I love those movies and TV shows, and would hate to have had some censor decide not to let me watch them.
This week it was revealed that Apple did indeed censor a popular app called Weed Firm from Manitoba Games. Weed Firm took the familiar FarmVille concept and dialed it to 420, if you get my drift. The app became a top selling app in many countries before it was pulled. Adding insult to injury, similar apps have been on the App Store and continue to be there to this day. This highlights one of the scary things about Apple's walled garden. As a user (of apps, not drugs!), I appreciate knowing that the apps in the App Store have been vetted and are free from malware. This is a problem for Android users. However, I'm not sure I want somebody in Cupertino (or overseas) deciding which apps I should have access to. I'd much rather my guilty pleasure be a game about weed than actually partaking in illegal drugs.
As a developer, I'm even more worried. I've had iOS apps rejected for illogical reasons, and then had the very same app approved, without change, by a different reviewer. Perhaps the answer is a "Walled Garden" where users, once verified by credit card or other means, can browse apps of more adult content, which would keep the publicly facing App Store as "clean" (and drug free) as Apple wishes. In the meantime, customers will have to spend their time (and money) on Android if they want to exercise their freedom.