The App Store Shoots First, Ask Questions Later

Come on Apple, I thought maybe we were past the days of completely bizarre App Store rejections. I thought that putting Phil Shiller at the helm of the Store would change things and we wouldn’t have these stupid stories every few months. Well, Apple proved me wrong last night where they removed all third party Reddit apps from the App Store.

The move seems to have come out of nowhere, as all apps were removed at once and none of the developers seemed to have any warning it was coming. The Narwhal developer talked to Gizmodo and explained the takedown from his perspective:

Today, we received notice that our new update with a lot of great new features was rejected under the App Store rule 18.2: “Your app contains a mechanism to enable or disable Not Safe For Work (NSFW) content, including pornographic content. Apps with sexually explicit content are not appropriate for the App Store.” About 15 minutes afterwards, we received notice that the current version of our app has been removed from the app store.

So basically Apple took down all Reddit clients because they had the option to show NSFW content and that goes against the App Store guidelines. Based on the developer’s comments it was specifically due to the fact that the app had a toggle to show or hide NSFW posts in the app. Narwhal is back on the App Store today and has been updated to remove the toggle1.

I can kind of understand Apple’s position. You can find quite a bit of content on Reddit that Apple would find objectionable, but there are two things that really make this feel like an idiotic move:

One: The official Reddit app was not removed even though it has the exact same option as the other apps. It seems shady to remove all third party apps while not punishing the official app.

Two: Is Apple going to remove Chrome next week because you can get NSFW stuff there too? Maybe they’ll ask Google to have users set a toggle in their Google settings to allow Chrome to see NSFW websites.

Ultimately I think that this was a poorly executed takedown that doesn’t make much sense. It seems like Reddit apps got singled out for providing NSFW content due to Reddit’s reputation, not based on any rule that they’re making every app that has internet access follow. And the fact that Reddit’s official app, which has the exact setting that Apple objected to, is still on the store with that setting makes it look like Apple us squeezing out all third party clients, which they have no reason to do.

EDIT: Upon investigation in the App Store, Narwhal has a rating of 17+, while the official Reddit app has a rating of 12+. 👌


  1. It will now use whatever setting you have selected in your account settings on Reddit.com