Did Apple remove sex-themed apps from iTunes to protect its “brand”?

Fri, Feb 26, 2010


John Gruber lays down some interesting thoughts on Apple’s recent decision to instantaneously remove over 5,000 sex-themed apps from iTunes.

I think what Apple was getting squeamish about wasn’t the sexy apps themselves, but the cheesiness that the sexy apps (and their prominence in best selling lists) was bestowing upon the general feel and vibe of the App Store. One thing I wasn’t aware of before the recent crackdown was the degree to which these apps were seeping into various non-entertainment categories. E.g., like half the “new” apps in the “productivity” category featured imagery of large-breasted bikini-clad women.

The App Store is never going to be like Apple’s retail stores, and Apple knows it. Apple’s retail stores, branding-wise, convey an image sort of like between the Gap and Banana Republic — friendly premium. The App Store is more Old Navy, or maybe even Target. But these sexy apps were casting the App Store into something junkier, bordering on the skeevy.

What iPhone users choose to access through MobileSafari doesn’t reflect on Apple. But what is listed in the App Store does reflect on Apple. What you see when you peruse the App Store effectively is the App Store.

It’s a solid theory that answers two of the more puzzling questions regarding Apple’s moves.

1) Why kick out smut from some developers, but keep scandalous apps from Playboy and Sports Illustrated on the app store? Well, and as Gruber points out, though smut they may be, Playboy and SI are established brands that don’t carry with them the same aura of filth and skeeziness typically associated with an app called “iBoobs.”

2) What about Safari?! Users can access an inordinate amount of explicit material from their iPhones already. Again, Gruber’s theory address’s this point. Rightly or wrongly, the app store is an extension of Apple, whereas the content found on the mobile web is clearly not.

A lot more on the topic over here at DF.


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