updated 01:00 am EDT, Fri April 19, 2013
Developer plans newsletter, HTML5 web app to skirt rules
AppGratis, which admitted that it had gamed Apple's chart rankings and whose CEO subsequently lied about its business model after getting its app pulled from the App Store, has now seen its push notifications to users shut down as part of a broader Apple crackdown on apps that attempt to manipulate iOS app chart rankings. The company, which charged developers a fee in exchange for promising to get and keep their apps into the charts, sent emails to its users informing them that Apple had blocked the push messages.
The company has vowed to fight back over what it sees as unfair treatment by launching a new email-based newsletter and an HTML5 web app in order to skirt Apple's App Store ban, reports CEO Simon Dawlat in a new blog post. The company apparently plans to go forward, despite claiming falsely that Apple's ban was "a complete surprise" (Apple has since provided documentation that AppGratis was warned about its infractions) and being exposed as having promised developers who paid $100,000 a fifth-place ranking in the US App Store -- a clear violation of Apple's rules against manipulating results.
In its initial response over the banning of AppGratis, the company said that the rankings in the App Store are meant to be a "meritocracy," meaning that they reflected genuine user ratings and popularity. Various app-discover and promotion programs have been caught over the years using fake reviews, promoter-purchased mass buys and other tricks to manipulate the charts in their clients' favor, and indeed some continue to operate today -- apparently violating the same rules that got AppGratis the boot.
In its decision, Apple also mentioned that AppGratis was also guilty of violating another rule about not using push notifications for advertising. The company had been sending out notifications about its "daily deal," usually an app that had been temporarily been put on sale for free. However, in light of the fact that developers were paying the company to promote the app, the push notification could be considered an ad.
It remains to be seen if Apple will bar any other programs that may also be violating Apple's rules. While app-discovery engines in and of themselves are fine, many simply notify users about price drops or new arrivals -- a practice that doesn't run afoul of Apple.