Tweetie, Apple and the cult of control

Tweetie on the iPhone

Tweetie on the iPhone

My friend Tyler over at www.tyleringram.com today reviewed Tweetie – a Twitter application for the iPhone. Tweetie looks good – I mean REALLY good. In fact it looks more functional than many of the desktop Twitter applications that I’ve tried.

Unfortunately today was not a good day for the developers behind Tweetie. They released a new version of the software and, as you have to do with iPhone applications, they sent it to Apple for Apple to approve and add to the Apple Application Store so that iPhone owners can access it.

So far so good… except Tweetie provides a live view onto Twitter and Twitter isn’t necessarily a sanitized environment. As luck would have it, at the moment that someone at Apple fired up Tweetie, there was a rude word on the Twitter Trends page. Oh no! You can’t include an application in the App Store if it has rude words in it… and so Tweetie was rejected. Yep, rejected: http://twitter.com/atebits/status/1306229791

Say WHAT? Tweetie doesn’t control that… that’s just Twitter. What’s Tweetie expected to do – filter Twitter for rude words? No other iPhone Twitter application does that. And, if you look at http://cursebird.com/ you’ll see that some people’s tweets would be pretty barren if you took all the rude words out! And what about web browsers? Should they filter their content too or is this only an issue with Twitter clients? Oh wait – that’s web browser singular as Apple won’t allow anybody to install anything on the iPhone that duplicates the functionality they provide out of the box (because theirs is the best, right?). They provide Mobile Safari for web browsing and so you can’t have the choice of another browser. But still – does Mobile Safari filter the internet? No – of course it doesn’t. In Mobile Safari I’m sure you could pull up a page full of rude words, and worse, in a matter of seconds.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m actually quite an Apple fan. We have a MacBook in the house and, at last count, we’ve bought seven iPods (because strangely they all seem to break between the 12 and 18 month points… but that’s a different rant). Apple have done a lot of good in the computer industry. For people who just want something that works and don’t want to have to get their hands dirty with knowing HOW it works or having to fix things, their products are hard to beat. At times you almost feel sorry for other hardware manufacturers… lovingly designing nice hardware (or not – as is often the case) and then having to put Windows Vista on it. And in the cellphone market the iPhone has really kick-started the idea of the mobile internet. Would we be seeing the frenzy of mobile software development or the shiny new products coming out of Palm and RIM if it wasn’t for the iPhone? I strongly doubt it.

But Apple has always been a company of control freaks. And their increasing success and visibility over the last couple of years seems to have only heightened that tendency. Everybody with an iPhone wants to be able to cut and paste between applications, everybody with an iPhone wants an easy-to-type-on landscape keyboard and everybody with an iPhone wants the ability to leave applications running in the background so they can get some sort of pop-up event notification. But Apple knows best and so you don’t get any of those features, even nearly two years after the iPhone first came out.

To be fair, I suspect the Tweetie rejection maybe be just a misunderstanding rather than a new policy decision from Apple. I suspect Apple handed the new version of Tweetie to someone who’d never seen Twitter before and didn’t understand what they were seeing. Whilst that’s a ridiculous decision, it appears it’s then been compounded by not having the rejection confirmed by a second reviewer. But, misunderstanding or not, it’s an indication of the control over your own computing that you have to give up when you buy into the whole Apple ecosystem – either as consumer or as developer.

Update: of course a couple of hours after their rejection, the Tweetie developers resubmitted the same application and Apple quietly approved it. This doesn’t really solve the underlying problem though – the problem of lack of transparency and control for both developers and consumers. How can a developer write an application when the App Store approval process is a black box with no clear rules? How can a consumer get the best from the device they own when someone else is controlling what is and isn’t allowed on it?

4 comments to Tweetie, Apple and the cult of control

  • wow crazy that the moment Apple took a peak, that the trendy topics on Twitter weren’t up to snuff!

    Glad they were able to get past that issue though. Thanks for the link love too!

    So far i think I’m on my 3rd iPod Nano. Though not because mine have broke. The first one was a gift that the ex took away from me, the other one some lucky bugger in West Vancouver probably has it because I lost it between my car and Robyn’s car on a trip back from Tofino. Oh well, it was loaded with good songs haha. I’m onto iPod Nano #3 now and it’s actually a refurbished Nano from Apple. Works great, no cosmetic issues either, saved like $50 and didn’t have to pay shipping either!

  • Pam

    WOW is right, tweetie is amazing, i love it for my iphone!! there’s so much hype on this but for good reason.

  • “Everybody with an iPhone wants to be able to cut and paste between applications, everybody with an iPhone wants an easy-to-type-on landscape keyboard and everybody with an iPhone wants the ability to leave applications running in the background so they can get some sort of pop-up event notification.”

    Cut & Paste – DONE (3.0)
    Landscape Keyboard – DONE (3.0)
    Background Processes (PUSH 3.0)

    hmm…. control?
    Let me ask you a question. What do you like better?
    Myspace or Facebook? Why do you think?

    JohnnyCaraveo’s last blog post..The Last Lecture

    • Jon

      This post was written before 3.0 was announced and owners have been shouting for these things for a long time. If I was more of a Palm fanboy than I am, I might suggest it was sight of the Pre that raised the priority of these features in Apple’s corporate mind. In truth though, I suspect development started before the Pre was announced.

      As for MySpace/Facebook, I know exactly what you mean – MySpace’s blinking web pages look like a throwback to the ’90s while Facebook attempts to rise above that with an ordered and relatively simple layout. But to be honest I’m not a fan of either. Even if I could stomach it, there’s nobody I want to talk to on MySpace and Facebook turns me off with its endless “See how your friends rated you” bleating. Zuck’s arrogance is a turn-off too – and don’t forget the umm at best ‘unethical’ origins of the code. I’d rather do my networking through the organized chaos which is Twitter – I like the freedom to create and consume using my choice of application.