I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Bang With Friends--that sort of thing just gets a married man into trouble--but I’ve always appreciated the earnestness of the Facebook app. So what if it had all the branding prowess of a 12-year-old boy’s spiral notebook? Bang With Friends solved an age-old problem: How do you turn a good friend into something more?
The solution was a “down to bang” button.
Crass? Yes. Clear? Absolutely. Now, Bang With Friends has made its way past Apple’s standards and practices. The service has been rebranded as an iPhone app called Down.
The name Down stands for the phrase “down to bang,” but you won’t spot that explanation anywhere inside the app (the only hint comes from a Facebook authorization screen). Following a claim of trademark infringement from Zynga, the BWF team reports that language like the name “Bang With Friends” and the clickable action “down to bang” was flagged by Apple as “excessively objectionable or crude content." The BWF team spent months in attempts to get clarification and slip their app through the Cupertino censors. What they settled on was a brand-neutered solution. As you swipe through full-screen pictures of your friends--including family, minors, and always the worst sight, your friend’s babies they’ve swapped in for their own profile pictures--you can select “Up to Hang” or “I’m Down.”
That doesn’t even rhyme!
The change was a mistake on Bang With Friends's part. They shouldn't have made this concession to their brand, but they weren't really given a choice. Apple’s superficial prig-washing of apps forced the branding move, and that's a shame, because functionally, Bang With Friends might be less of a risk to use than other dating apps in the App Store. Tinder, for instance, allows you to meet up with every stranger within a five-bar radius. Bang With Friends only allows you to hook up with a friend you’ve already vetted.
The irony is that Bang With Friends--for all its lurid branding--is probably a safer dating app than Tinder. (At least there’s a direct, pre-existing Facebook friend relationship connecting BWF users. And both parties know what they’re getting into when agreeing to a “hang” or “bang” date.) But Apple’s prude patrol cares more about a silly word said by 12-year-olds than how the public may actually use or be used by these apps.
So Bang With Friends is in the App Store today thanks to a wink and a nod, but the app is worse for it. Now that “down to bang” has been shortened to “I’m down,” a new user could easily miss the coy subtext and proposition a friend under completely wrong pretenses. In rejecting the Bang With Friends branding, Apple has broken an experience and put their own users at unnecessary risk. The company should be promoting safe sexual discourse, not obfuscating the intentions of our apps and those who use them. Given that banging has single handedly proliferated the entire species of iPhone users, it really can’t be so bad, can it, Apple?