According to Nielsen, 89 percent of our time on media is spent via the use of apps. While apps occupy an enormous part of our digital lives, people still remain indifferent to the fact that such an integral part of our online experience is entirely controlled by two companies: Apple and Google. Two companies decide what everyone do online, where they will spend their time and who will be able to provide with sought-after content.
In their guidelines Apple states that the company “will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”
Where exactly is this line and which behaviors, according to Apple, are relegated to a place across it? Where will the line be in five years? As it currently seems, Apple has claimed a seat on the Supreme Court of our digital lives.
Both the Apple and the Google app stores control the flow of information. With every passing day, they tighten their grip over the content and delivery of our information. While this reality might seem harmless to many at the moment, in a few years time this could become a real threat over our freedom of speech and our freedom to create.
And it is already happening: Consider the example of a company named Tawkon which created an app that tells you when your phone is emitting high radiation so users can stay safe. Apple rejected this app. When Tawkon founders asked Steve Jobs for an explanation, he simply replied “no interest.” Why would Apple block something that is good for us? I have a gut feeling that with the low cellular coverage in the US 4–5 years ago, Steve didn’t want his customers to stop using the phone because technically it is always emitting high radiation! This app could potentially harm the carriers that have lucrative partnerships with Apple.
Another interesting example is the blocking of bitcoin wallet apps, a policy which was only recently changed. Too late for bitcoin. The average user would much prefer using ApplePay. Blocking bitcoin wallets halts the spread of usage while Apple is building their ApplePay strategy, allowing them an unfair advantage. The ecosystem survives and we are trapped.
Again and again, Apple rejects apps not on the basis of malicious activity, but on the basis of pure capital gain.