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Gaming the App Store

David Barnard:

So, let’s talk about how developers are gaming the App Store and why it matters to the future of the platform. Any one of these tactics might seem somewhat bland individually, but when tens of thousands of apps deploy multiple tactics across many categories of apps, the impact can be measured in hundreds of millions of users and likely billions of dollars.

I’ve been focused on researching the weather category the past couple years as I’ve been working on my weather app, Weather Up, but these tactics apply to pretty much every category on the App Store.

None of this is news, but it continues to surprise me that Apple hasn’t cracked down on all of these scams, especially the ones that trick people into paying for subscriptions. That’s just outright theft. The apps that sell your location data to third parties are a head-scratcher too — surely Apple doesn’t want this going on.

Apple should put together an App Store bunco squad. A small team that polices the store for scammy apps and nips them in the bud. They could start just by combing the lists of top-grossing apps. It’s not just about protecting users and punishing bad actors — these scams keep good honest apps from rising to the top, and they undermine trust in the system. It’s in no one’s interest for “subscriptions” to be equated with “scams”. And I actually think it would be a fun and satisfying job — who wouldn’t enjoy busting bad guys?

Monday, 3 December 2018