A month ago, I listened to Tom Ashbrook of NPR, Tim O’Reilly, and Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine refer to Apple’s “curated” app store experience versus Google’s “open” experience with regards to mobile apps. Listen at 19:28. Many others have referred to the App Store as “curation”. It’s an interesting discussion, but it’s not curation. They are not the only ones who have referred to the app store as curation Tom Forenski of Silicon Valley Watcher did in April, Elliot Van Buskirk of Wired did it again in May, and most recently, Dayna Grayson of North Bridge Venture Partners referred to this last week.
I’m sorry, folks. The app store is not curation. It’s censorship. Let’s look at the definition of content curation Here’s my favorite definition from Rohit Bhargava: A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.
Let’s see if Apple is really curating:
Do they continually find new content? Yes, by of developer submissions to the app store.
Do they group, organize and share that content? Yes, via the app store and the various subcategories there.
Do they share the best and most relevant content? No, this is where Apple fails.
Apple is not moderating apps for their users based on relevance, or what’s best for them. Instead, they are moderating to maximize their revenue for themselves and their partners, namely AT&T, and to minimize exposure to vulgar content and viruses. The app store reviewers are simply following codified policy. Curation cannot have policies. Censorship can.
Curation requires thought, and good curation earns you authority and a following. In censorship, it’s just the opposite. If you are good at censoring, you assert your authority on a captive following, to control thought.
Just like how no one refers to the Great Firewall of China as curation, the Apple app store is also not curation. So let’s stop referring to Apple as a “curated” experience.
Update: After writing this post, I came across a post “There’s a difference between curation and censorship” by Lauren Michell of Publish2, where she astutely made many of the same points.