When The Cracked and The Cracker Meet: An iPhone Tale

Imagine sitting down to talk with the guy who just broke into your apartment and stole your TV. You might ask him, “Why did you steal my TV?” and he might answer “Because I wanted it.” or “Because I wanted to sell it.” In the real world, a thief’s motivations are generally not very complicated. On the internet, though, those who crack or otherwise pirate software usually aren’t after money, since they generally give away the fruits of their labour. Since that’s the case, a conversation between thief and victim might prove a little more useful.

And it did, for iPhone developer James Bossert, who together with his wife, Constance, developed the Whack’em All game, which is based on the concept of the popular carnival Whack A Mole game. According to an article at TorrentFreak, James took matters in to his own hands when he noticed one day that his user base had spiked, gaining over 400 users in one day, compared to the usual ten. Excited, he looked into the purchasing numbers via Apple, only to find out he’d only sold 12 copies, which was pretty much par for the course.

As it turned out, Whack’em All had been cracked and distributed to users with jailbroken iPhones. At this point, most people would’ve just sighed and gone about their business, but James contacted the cracker responsible for pirating his app via email and asked him why he’d done what he’d done. The answer was an outright condemnation of the App Store, and suggestions as to how, as a developer, James might avoid being cracked by offering free trials or ad supported releases. Here’s a quote from the cracker, via TorrentFreak:

As many iPhone and iPod touch owners have discovered, Apple’s iTunes App Store has many flaws which render it useless to the common user. Apple has chosen to allow a multitude of ridiculous, worthless, poorly-represented applications through its ’strict’ screening process, nearly all written by mediocre programmers with a dream of getting rich quick. Many of these programmers game the reviews system, misrepresent their application in the description, and generally try to swindle the honest buyer.

Regardless of what you think of his methods (i.e. stealing and distributing stolen software), the pirate in this case makes a number of valid points. He goes on to point the finger at Apple for refusing to allow users to download apps for an initial free trial period to test out the game and see if it’s worth the money. And we’ve seen review gaming in action.

Do you see this kind of thing as a valid form of protest against the sometimes tyrannical App Store? Or is this software cracker just going out of his way to justify what is still essentially just the basic desire to get something for nothing?

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