Last week, Apple terminated the developer account of one of my favorite Mac apps, the Dash documentation viewer for programmers, for alleged App Store review manipulation.
Dash is a great app that many Mac and iOS programmers use (and that needs no help getting positive reviews), and developer Bogdan Popescu insisted he’d never engaged in such fraud. Since Apple has a history of controversial App Store decisions that often get reversed after public scrutiny, many developers (including me) came to his defense last week, assuming that someone at Apple had made a mistake, and yelled on Twitter for Apple to reconsider or provide more concrete justification. Michael Tsai has a good overview with more links.
Apple just issued the following statement to a handful of sites, included in this great write-up on iMore about the issues (which you should read in its entirety):
Almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps for this developer so we removed their apps and accounts from the App Store. Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful. We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers.
This isn’t enough proof for some, but it’s enough for me. (Some quick searches support Apple’s position, if you’re still unconvinced.)
Like any controversial decision involving people’s livelihoods, Apple probably needs to be careful to avoid potential legal issues, and it would be in poor taste for a huge company to sling more mud than necessary in public against a tiny opponent.
I’m glad our community assumed the best of another developer and pressured Apple to justify this severe action. We should now accept that they have.
The public often doesn’t get the full story behind decisions and changes they see, but it’s usually not for sinister reasons — it’s often just someone taking the high road and letting another party save face.
Bogdan Popescu responded with his side of the story and a recording of a phone call from Apple (without their consent, which is illegal in California, but apparently not in Romania). In summary, he bought another developer account for a relative with his credit card and using his old test devices, which made Apple’s fraud team consider them the same entity (seems reasonable), and that account engaged in the fraud.
His post makes Apple sound pretty bad. But if you listen to the call (which I was torn about whether to do), it’s clear that Apple was being incredibly reasonable and going above and beyond to help him get reinstated and clarify what happened in a public statement, but Popescu didn’t seem to agree with Apple regarding the wording of key facts.
We don’t know what happened between that call and Apple’s statements tonight. I’m guessing Popescu and Apple couldn’t reach an agreement over the wording of the public story, but I think what Apple asked for in that phone call was extremely reasonable.
It’s also notable that Apple investigated this and tried to resolve it as well as they did. If it were any other company — say, Google for a suspended AdSense or YouTube account — I suspect the amount of effort devoted to it would be much lower.