Apple Bans a Thousand Apps Over Review Fraud

A story that began 10 days ago with a blog posting at iPhoneography and a letter to Apple VP Phil Schiller has ended with Apple banning prolific developer Molinker from the App Store. The developer has been charged with review fraud (not to mention poor grammar).

Molinker developed a lot of travel apps, guides, currency conversion tools, translation software, as well as photo editing software. A few reviews from NightCam Pro can be seen above. Like other Molinker software, the reviews are good…a little too good.

A reader of iPhoneography, SCW, thought in the above example it was “a little odd that 42 of 44 U.S. reviews are poorly written & that all users have only written reviews for either All Molinker photography apps…or the same two apps.” Apparently, short, effusive, English-as-second-language reviews are common for Molinker apps. SCW goes further, too, asserting that it is likely the all-positive reviews are derived from apps redeemed with developer promo codes.

Seeing as Molinker has promptly disappeared from the App Store, this could very well be. As for the developer’s response, Appfreakblog contacted the company and received this reply:

Actually, we do not know what’s wrong so far. We had contacted Apple for such sudden changes, hope we can get quick response and actions from Apple.

Well, it appears Molinker got its wish, at least in terms of “quick response and actions,” though it’s not the first company to suffer a mass banning. Content aggregator Perfect Acumen was banned along with 900-plus apps in August for alleged copyright violation and other complaints. Going forward, it’s likely there will be more mass bannings if allegations regarding the use of promo codes and astroturfing reviews are found to be true.

While some will argue this is yet another “black eye” for the App Store, possibly with Schiller doing another interview defending the review process, maybe some new restrictions on promo codes, does it really matter? The App Store, backed by more than 60 million iPhone OS devices and counting, remains the place to be for developers of mobile applications. A thousand bans here or there just don’t add up to much next to that.

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