Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher interviewed Apple, Inc. CEO Steve Jobs during the All Things Digital D8 Conference. A live blog transcript published on Engadget caused a stir when within the transcript it was unclear whether Jobs had called Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Fiore a liar and trying to get his 15 minutes of fame after his app was rejected for the App Store.
Video of the interview has been published. I’ve embedded the video below. The part regarding Mark begins at about 52 minutes in. It’s clear that Jobs was not referring to Mark when he talked about people lying to the press. In face he called Mark a “nice enough guy.” It was unscrupulous application developers who were trying to apply pressure on Apple to approve apps that were not compliant to the app store requirements.
I’ve created a transcript of the exchange regarding Mark. The last paragraph (in bold) by Steve is the part with the meat of the conversation.
WM: I don’t know of any law that says any merchant, whether it’s you or Walmart or CBS or anyone has to carry anything they don’t want to carry, but isn’t there, as you become more and more popular – we started by talking about your market cap – which is a symbol of that and you’re selling every 3 seconds an iPad; there’s responsibility along with that… My question to is – you’ve talked in some things you’ve written about the responsibility to protect your consumers from malware and porn and things like that. Isn’t there a downside of you guys acquiring all this power and saying no to some political cartoonist or no so to some political candidate and also doing it in a black box that at least a lot of people on the outside have trouble understanding what the rules are
SJ: Let me tell you first of all, we have two platforms that we support. One is completely open and uncontrolled and that is HTML5. HTML5 is a set of standards set by independent standards organizations that are widely respected. So HTML5, CSS and stuff like that…
We then support a curated platform which is the app store that has over 200,000 apps in it. It’s the most vital applications community on any platform in the world. Today. So how do we curate this? It’s a bunch of people. Just like yo and me. come into work and doing their best every day. We’ve got a few rules. Some of the rules are: the app has to function as advertised, can’t crash, cannot use unsupported APIs because if a bunch of customers buy the app and we upgrade the OS and their using unsupported APIs that break, then the apps break and we have a bunch of unhappy customers. They have to use public APIs only, and those turn out the three biggest reasons we reject apps – is for those three things. We approve 95% of the apps submitted every week – which is many many thousands every week. We approve 95% in seven days.
WM: What happened in these cases of that political candidate who was mad and the cartoonist…
SJ: We had a rule that you can’t defame other people.
WM: That’s in your terms of service for developers?
SJ: Yeah, you can’t defame people.
KS: Determined by people that work at Apple? Correct?
SJ: Yes, but I think it would be determined pretty much universally among rational people, not some strange definition. You can’t defame people. And the problem is political cartoons got caught in that. ‘Cause by definition they defame people. So, we didn’t think of that. That was an untended consequence of a rule that says you can’t defame people. So this guy submits his cartoon late last year – the rule is still in place – he gets rejected. For other reasons we realize that this is an unintended consequence; we change the rule, I think it was in January. Except for political cartoons. The guy never puts his app back in again, he wins a Pulitzer Prize, somebody asks him – he doesn’t actually run to the press; but somebody asks him, “how come this isn’t on the iPhone?” He goes, “Oh I submitted it, they rejected it.” He was a nice enough guy about it; and then these flurious stories get written several months after we changed the rule because we found out about an unintended consequence. So we are guilty as charged of making mistakes. Because nobody ever done this before. Nobody has tried to set rules for 200,000 apps in two years in the most vital app community on any platform before; we’re doing the best we can; we’re learning as fast as we can; we’re changing the rules when it makes sense. But we think it made sense to have a rule that says don’t, you can’t defame people. Because we didn’t want these apps – you know – that did that. We didn’t think that was right. So, we’re doing the best we can; we’re making mistakes; we’re fixing them as fast as we can. And what happens sometime though is that some people, uh, lie. Some people use unpublished APIs and their app gets rejected. Some people submit an app that they say does one thing, but really does something else. They try to hide it from us, they get very clever about that. They try to hide it from us and we find it and we reject it. And they run to the press and tell a story about oppression and it gets written up and they get their 15 minutes of fame because they hope it will convince us to change our minds. It never does, but they keep trying to do that. And it’s unfortunate, but we take it in the chin. That part of what we do. We don’t run to the press and go, “This guys a son of a bitch liar.” That’s just not appropriate for us to do. So we take it in the chin and we move on.
WM: Well if there is a list you want to read out here…