Apple’s Schiller addresses App Store and ‘Ninjawords’ iPhone dictionary app

“Tuesday’s piece on Ninjawords was really about two stories. The small story is that of a clever $2 iPhone dictionary app, the developers of which removed ‘objectionable’ words from its dictionary so as to get it published in the App Store. The big story is about the App Store itself, and whether Apple’s management is attempting to correct its course,” John Gruber reports for Daring Fireball.

“Yesterday afternoon I received a thoughtful email from Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller regarding Ninjawords and the App Store, and I think it bodes well for both stories,” Gruber reports.

With Schiller’s permission, I’m reprinting the salient portions of it here:

When I read your column last night about the Ninjawords dictionary application I immediately investigated it with our App Store review team to learn the facts of what happened.

Let me start with the most important points – Apple did not censor the content in this developer’s application and Apple did not reject this developer’s application for including references to common swear words. You accused Apple of both in your story and the fact is that we did neither…

…Apple’s goals remain aligned with customers and developers — to create an innovative applications platform on the iPhone and iPod touch and to assist many developers in making as much great software as possible for the iPhone App Store. While we may not always be perfect in our execution of that goal, our efforts are always made with the best intentions, and if we err we intend to learn and quickly improve.

Read the rest of Schiller’s explanation and Gruber’s reaction (“This is music to my ears”) in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “welfaremike” for the heads up.]


  1. If you read Gruber’s original post and his reaction you will see that Schiller didn’t actually address the issue that the developer of Ninjawords had with Apple. The app was rejected for very specific words which appear in other dictionaries and not, as Schiller said, because of “offensive urban slang” as Schiller says. “Offensive urban slang” was never put forward to the developer as a reason for the rejections of the app.

    I think Schiller is out to do a bit of damage control after the PR nightmare that this turned into for Apple.

  2. What PR nightmare? People belong to one of two camps: more vulgarity (out of my %&*#ing way) is good, or more civility (“pardon me”) is good. Besides, what moron needs a dictionary to tell them the meaning of any of these words? We knew all of them by 4th grade!!

  3. Actually, what Phil wrote doesn’t make sense. Or he’s trying to spin the issue like mad.

    First, to say that the developer should have just waited for the 17+ rating to become available, so he could release an ‘uncensored’ version is being disingenuous, because Apple wouldn’t tell him WHEN it would become available (perhaps other than sometime soon). Meanwhile, his competition, which also was uncensored (according to Phil), and with much lower ratings, was already in the app store being sold.

    Second, Phil’s claim that it rejected because of new ‘urban slang’ swear words, and not regular swear words doesn’t seem to match with the specific examples the developer claims the App Store reviewer sent him, namely screen shots with words like ‘fuck’.

  4. Apple is on the horns of a dilemma.

    A fully “open” app store would get tons of protest from parents and others worried about protecting minors (or just their own sensibilities). Any and all attempts to regulate the app store lead to cries of censorship. And any delay, to weigh the merits of programmers lead to complaints of the review process being too slow.

    There is no way to satisfy all concerned.

  5. @John Stubbs

    “If Steve ever steps down. Phil is an excellent choice. Way to go Phil”

    I agree, but as long as Steve has any say in his own secession plans (and there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t have 100% say), I doubt he would EVER put the marketing guy in charge.

    It isn’t about Schiller, who I think has done an amazing job. It’s about the permanent burn marks that Steve got the last time he let the Marketing guy take the wheel.

    It. Just. Won’t. Happen. Again.

  6. Make no mistake, Dave, no developer–NO DEVELOPER–has any inalienable right to a presence in the iPhone AppStore. Being marketed there is a privilege, and that only!

    Moreover, and in the same vein, you have no RIGHT to a position in my company. Because my firm is incorporated in an “employment at will” state, I can refuse your application at my firm without reason or consequence. Proving you were denied acceptance for racial, religious, or age reasons would be/and is nearly impossible, so do remember that relying solely on others’ efforts, genius, success, and good will is always risky. And it is best to be appreciative and cooperative at all times.

    People fall from their high horses all the time, Dave, and the result is always painful. No one owes you or the above developer ANYTHING. Let him create and market his own iPhone store and live off of those efforts. Good luck.

  7. @Dave, Phil’s trying to regain the “we don’t censor” moral high-ground with his response by coming up with his new on-the-face-of-it ridiculous arguments, instead of repeating the old ‘we can reject whatever the hell we want’ argument.

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