The App Store “Gatekeeper” – Arbiter or Observer?

Before we explore this idea further, I’d like to point out that Apple’s App Store is unique as an entity, but hardly any different from Handango or BPlay. These portals which supported many mobile devices and PDAs aggregated downloadable software offerings for users to load onto their (sometimes, at the time) connected devices. With this context, it is interesting that this Wall Street Journal article discusses two distinct issues that the interactive community has faced for a while: What is the line that moderators/gatekeepers/administrators must adhere to, and who determines that line?

The “what” is particularly tricky, since the “who” is actually composed of a larger public mindset whose perceptions of acceptable behavior, taste, and content continuously change. What is innovative can become intolerable very quickly. Consider the following example, bottled water. Earlier in the millennium (by the way, has society agreed on a name for this decade yet?), bottled water was very popular. Now, it’s shunned as wasteful and damaging to the environment.

Recommendation: The best way to meet this challenge is to adopt an all (versus the alternative “nothing”) approach. Making an implicit contract regarding censorship and moderation with the wider public is a futile effort if the objective is to broaden appeal to the widest possible market. Thus, letting everything in based on a very small and specific functional criteria set is probably the best and easiest method for Apple’s goals. Otherwise, you’ll have to adopt a continuously evolving (and large) censorship filter that adapts to users on the fly, based on sentiment analysis and international thinking (one common fallacy is that the US should be the arbiter of taste, but what about every other country that has access to the App Store?), which is the alternative. Apple is definitely in between a rock and a hard place.

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