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Apple App Store gets a long-overdue scrubbing

When technology vendors do dumb things, you can pretty much count on reading a gleeful retelling of the sordid details in this space. After all, if there’s one thing I’m never short of, it’s opinions. Conversely, when those same vendors do something laudable, I feel obligated to play it both ways and say well done. Today, it’s Apple’s turn over a smart move it’s making in the App Store.

Starting Sept. 7, Apple is pulling the plug on apps that appear to have been abandoned, are multiple iOS versions behind in compatibility updates, or simply don’t measure up to Apple’s grand vision. That’s good news all around. In Apple’s own words, “We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps, removing apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines, or are outdated.” I urge you to visit that link and read the information carefully.

If you’re a lazy developer who hasn’t invested the necessary time to keep your app up to date for changes in screen sizes and resolution, or leverage features added to iOS over the last several years, you don’t deserve to have your app listed. If that’s you, it’s time for some Swift action lest your app get the boot. Existing users will not lost any app functionality, services will not be interrupted, and in-app purchases will remain enabled. As for new users, well, there won’t be any.

For developers who do invest the time, this is great news. With more than two million apps currently listed and roughly 100,000 new app additions or updates submitted weekly, culling the catalog should help make those that remain a bit more discoverable. And, as you know, the inability for apps to be discovered easily has plagued the App Store for years.

If the long arm of Apple reaches out to you, be warned. You have but 30 days to make it right. After that, the app is zapped. There’s also an even more potentially dire situation for you: If it’s discovered your app crashes on startup, it gets removed from the app store immediately with no grace period.

But wait, there’s more. In the letter that Apple sent to developers (and made public by iOS developer and good samaritan Jake Marsh) the company said app names can no longer exceed 50 characters in length. That means no more stuffing desirable search terms in an app name, regardless of what that app does. It’s a good way to bring some discipline to a Wild West app shopping environment.

Though I don’t know what pushed Apple toward this posture, it’s welcome, especially if you’re a developer hoping and praying you can generate a revenue stream from your beloved app that just can’t seem to get noticed.

Do you develop for the Apple App Store? What do you think of Apple’s desire to clean house? Are your apps up to date? If not, why not? Share your thoughts with us; we’d like to hear from you.

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