Home Apple Kicks Cheating Developer Out of the App Store

Apple Kicks Cheating Developer Out of the App Store

Apple has just booted a major iPhone developer out of the iTunes App Store along with their catalog of 1,000-plus apps, a number so high it represented almost 1% of all the apps in the store. The developer, Molinker Inc., has been accused of attempting to game the ratings system where application users are allowed to review the various programs using a five-star system. As discovered by an unnamed Internet user and a reader of the iPhoneography blog, the ratings scam involved a set of iPhone application reviewers who only rated Molinker apps, giving them each a five-star review. Most of the apps in question ended up with 50 or so of these five-star reviews, representing what was clearly an attempt to boost sales by pumping up ratings through artificial means.

According to the user who unearthed the scam, the highly ranked reviews were poorly written and the reviewers in question had only rated applications from Molinker. Despite this fact, one of the applications (“ColorMagic”), had made it to the front page of the App Store where it was featured under the App Store “Staff Favorites” section. (On a side note, this makes us wonder whether those “Staff Favorites” are genuine picks from Apple employees or if there’s some sort of automated algorithm that simply highlights high-rated applications.)

In a detailed letter to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, the accuser noted that the developer was likely using their promo codes (every developer receives 50 per app) on 50 of their own accounts to create the reviews. Shortly after receiving the letter, Schiller confirmed that this was indeed a scam and the developer apps “have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either.”

Cheating Won’t Get You Ahead, But What Will?

While obviously we don’t support unscrupulous developers who attempt to game the system in order to get ahead, we do understand the temptation. At present, the Apple iTunes Store houses over 100,000 applications and development shows no sign of slowing down. Developers who have invested their time, energy and money into building an iPhone application business are becoming desperate for ways to make sure their apps get noticed.

The problem has become so bad that an entire ecosystem of “app discovery” services and websites has risen up to fill the void. Although Apple recently launched an “Apps for Everything” section on their website to allow for category-based discovery, and back in September extended their “genius” recommendation technology to include the App Store, none of these solutions have really addressed the discoverability problem.

For some developers, it has become a case of “desperate times call for desperate measures,” apparently. We wouldn’t doubt for a second that this ratings scam is the only one of its kind. It probably won’t be the last one either; developers will just be more careful to not be as obvious as Molinker was. Unfortunately, the real losers here aren’t the cheating developers, but iPhone owners. Without a trustworthy ratings system in place, it’s harder than ever to pick out the best app from a handful of similar applications. Can you count on the stars as an indicator? Are the reviews out-of-date? Are the complaints referring to problems fixed ages ago through updates? Is the download count a true indicator of popularity? As more and more applications fill the virtual shelves, users will need a better ranking system than what’s currently in place. We hope the geniuses at Apple are working on something like this right now.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.