Creator of banned iPhone app goes his own route

As Apple continues to reject applications for its iPhone App Store without any apparent consistency, the developer of a mobile podcasting application has taken matters into his own hands by turning to a little known workaround.

After having squelched more controversial applications, including the "Murderdrome" comic book and a fart joke application dubbed "Pull My Finger," Apple turned around and banned Alex Sokirynsky's 'Podcaster' application from the iPhone App Store. Now, instead of just waiting and hoping that Apple will change its mind, developer Alex Sokirynsky is using a feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch called "Ad Hoc App Distribution" to distribute his "Podcaster" application himself.

Sokirynsky's application -- an iPhone version of Podcaster.fm -- streams podcasts over Wi-Fi and EDGE wireless networks, allowing users to download the podcasts for offline access.

The App Store has offered a hodgepodge of reasons for turning down certain apps. Apple claims that Murderdrome violated a section of its SDK agreement banning applications containing "obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content."

Then, curiously, Pull My Finger -- an application that produces five or six sounds of human flatulence -- got rejected not on the basis of offensive content, but on grounds that it is "of limited utility to the broad iPhone and iPod touch user community."

As the official reason for banning Sokirynsky's Podcast, Apple claimed that "since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes."

Sokirynsky says Apple's decision on Podcaster doesn't make much sense, since numerous other apps have been accepted for the App Store that also duplicate the functionality of other apps.

"For example, any calculator app is duplicating the functionality of Apple's calculator app. Any app that tells you the weather is duplicating the Yahoo weather app. Any app that let's you listen to music is duplicating the iPod portion of the iPhone," he wrote in a blog post last Thursday. "There are also several apps that simply allow you to listen to a podcast (Diggnation and Mobility Today just to name a few) that are not denied from the App Store."

Following the rejection of Murderdrome, comic strip co-creator Paul Jason Holden argued for the establishment of a rating system for the App Store, similar to the one used by the movie industry.

Sokirynsky, however, is believed to be the first developer to turn to Apple's Ad Hoc App Distribution. He contends that Apple had "nothing in the terms prohibiting developers from duplicating features currently available on desktop application," and that he "followed all the guidelines and made sure everything is in the correct place."

In informal debates on the Web, a lot of other developers are siding with the Podcaster developer. "I will never write another iPhone application for the App Store as currently constituted," wrote developer Fraser Speirs last Friday. "Apple is now selecting for anti-competitive reasons. It came to light today that an app that will deliver a capability I really, really want was rejected by Apple because it replaces a feature in Apple's own software."

Last month, Apple for a short time allowed a $999 application called "I Am Rich", before taking it down later. All that application did was to install a graphic on the screen proving the app had been purchased. About eight end users reportedly downloaded I Am Rich while the app was still available through the App Store.

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