Apple has made a small, but important change to its App Store guidelines that could have a profound impact on the apps available in its marketplace.
Following the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this month, Apple changed its App Store review guidelines to now ban “apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service,” according to TechCrunch, which found the change. In other words, any apps that are made with tools that produce copycat programs could be rejected from Apple’s marketplace.
While most apps available to the company’s iPhones are originally designed using traditional design tools, like Apple’s own XCode program, there are thousands that rely upon templates. In most cases, the template-based apps are designed by developers who don’t have formal coding knowledge or simply want to get a program to the App Store quickly to capitalize on a trend. For instance, after the simple game Flappy Bird become an overnight success in the App Store, thousands of clones that used a similar template flooded the App Store in hopes of attracting users to their similar gameplay.
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However, the new App Store guidelines would allow Apple (AAPL) to ban certain apps that egregiously use templates to deliver software. The revised guidelines will ostensibly help Apple manage spam apps that are designed with templates to quickly get programs into the App Store that serve ads or perform unnecessary functions for developer financial gain.
There are several legitimate template-based app services available to users, allowing them to quickly create programs for Apple’s iPhone. They include services like PhoneGap and TapJet, as well as Apple’s own app suite with IBM, which allows corporate customers to create programs for their operations using pre-defined features.
So far, Apple hasn’t targeted those companies, and although the company cites commercialized templates in its new guidelines, it’s unlikely it will turn its attention to those services. According to TechCrunch, which has been analyzing the change, Apple has removed “hundreds of thousands” of apps as part of a broader App Store scrubbing over the past year. But Apple has left popular template-based services alone and is instead focusing on less-useful services that quickly produce lookalike apps for users to scam or spam iPhone owners.
For its part, Apple hasn’t commented on the how the change might affect developers and users, and the company doesn’t share its app removal tally with the public.
Apple did not respond to a Fortune request for comment on the report.