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Apple updates App Store to address developer misuse

post #1 of 33
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Apple over the weekend instated a series of changes to the way its App Store operates in an effort to knock out loopholes that were being exploited by some developers seeking an unfair advantage.

Reviews

In particular, the store now requires that users purchase or download an application before they able to post a review of that particular application.

Users attempting to post a review of application that they haven't downloaded are now met with a dialog box stating: "In order to write a Custom Review for this item you must have purchased or downloaded it."

Apple hopes this move will mitigate the number of bogus, or agenda-driven reviews that have been used to raise or lower an applications overall rating, sometimes at the hands of developers themselves.

App Updates

Similarly, and more critically, the company also made changes to the way applications appear on the App Store after receiving a minor update.



In the past, all applications were categorized based on their 'release date.' However, Apple had been determining release dates based on the last date the application received an update, rather than the first time it appeared on the store as a 1.0 application.

As a result, applications receiving updates would be pushed back to the first page of their respective category listing, often appearing on the App Store home page within iTunes as well, and the first page of category listings viewed on an iPhone or iPod touch.

The result was an immediate jump in sales, as noted by Krishna Vegesna, whose company TouchMeme offers three applications on the App Store. He posted the graph (below) illustrating this behavior, where each spike in sales coincided with the release of one of his app updates.



"With the latest update to the AppStore, the above behavior is no longer holds true (and I am glad it doesn’t)," he said. "This is because the applications are now categorized according to the ‘Actual Released Date’ rather that the last updated date."

Given Apple's changes, new version 1.0 applications will have a longer shelf life on the first page of category listings, as they won't be bumped down in the listings as quickly due to an influx of minor app updates.

The moves should also allow developers to shift their focus to "real innovation in functionality rather than focusing on who pushes the update first," Vegesna said. At the same time, however, he raises the concern that tactical developers may now focus on rolling out new apps to generate high profits rather than improving their existing ones.
post #2 of 33
One more thing they ought to change is the ability to "vote down" reviews. There was one app I was following that had some negative reviews due to a pretty major flaw. But, the flaw was corrected in an update, yet that negative review still resides at the top. Doesn't seem fair.
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post #3 of 33
I guess this also explains the disappearance of the "All Applications" link in iTunes.
post #4 of 33
This could actually be bad while good in theory, I have a feeling this means app developers will release useless updates three times as frequently just so they can be pushed back to the front page. Were going to have to begin downloading crap left and right just to get rid of the notice from the App Store.

On the other hand, it may push developers to put out real updates more often. Who knows?
post #5 of 33
Well, it's about time! Sheesh.
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post #6 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by stukdog View Post

One more thing they ought to change is the ability to "vote down" reviews. There was one app I was following that had some negative reviews due to a pretty major flaw. But, the flaw was corrected in an update, yet that negative review still resides at the top. Doesn't seem fair.

Reviews should be attached to a particular version of the software. You can already "vote them down" with the "Was this review helpful?", but why should we have to maintain that?

Also, popularity ratings should reset when the price of an app changes.
post #7 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimUSCA View Post

This could actually be bad while good in theory, I have a feeling this means app developers will release useless updates three times as frequently just so they can be pushed back to the front page. Were going to have to begin downloading crap left and right just to get rid of the notice from the App Store.

On the other hand, it may push developers to put out real updates more often. Who knows?

I think you've misunderstood the article. Apps are no longer sent to the front page when updated, so this will actually cut down on pointless 0.0.1 updates every other day. Since apps notify you when an update is available, this should work well on the app store, although obviously shouldn't be replicated in other software list, eg Apple's OS X application web pages.

The only catch is for the poor developer who makes a rubbish v1.0 followed by a brilliant v2.0 and doesn't get much recognition. Still, you win some, you lose some. Good to see Apple listening to comments on the App store.
post #8 of 33
Why does everyone need to live with this new policy to the exclusion of all other approaches? This is software after all.

Why can't we have the choice of listing apps by release date or update date? Why can't we write a comment about an app without having to rate it? Why aren't reviews dated and why aren't readers given the option of sorting reviews by date? Why aren't reviews tied to the version they were written about? If a better app exists elsewhere (for more or less money), why should a knowledgeable person have to buy an inferior app (or a lemon) just to let the rest of us know?

I should hope updated apps see spikes in revenue! I often hold off on buying an app until I see its short-comings have been addressed by an update. How will I know this has happened if I can't list apps by update date?

Why can't we view all apps anymore, not just in categories?

Why are the issues Apple has tried to address in their new store front not such a big deal on sites like VersionTracker.com or MacUpdate.com?
post #9 of 33
These changes are all well and good, especially the one where you can't review something without at least trying it. However Apple would be much better served by changing the way they present the apps in the first place and the way they are categorised. As it is now there are huge amounts of not only "junk apps" but apps that while good have no relation to anyone in the mainstream market.

There are literally hundreds of apps that are only of interest to specific members of specific communities or countries or companies that should be swept out of the main store area. The categories are far too general and one can't search within them. You can search the entire store (including music, movies and a bunch of other junk you don't need), but you can't search just the apps. You certainly can't search just the games, and the only category for games is "games" so you can tediously flip through page after page of boring repetitive games, or you can search for the game *if* you already know the name. It's almost impossible to find anything.

Further, the categories themselves are not the easiest to find. I know several people, who have looked at the app store maybe two or three times before they even find the tiny category list on the left hand side. Two very intelligent people I know were surprised recently when I argued with them that there are over a thousand apps in the store, because they had been using the more prominent "show all" buttons on the main page and were only being shown a hundred or so.

The whole store is very poorly designed if you ask me. They would be better off taking it out of the app and putting it online a la Amazon at this stage. At least then you could do an intelligent search of the contents.

The perceived (but not necessarily actual) need for iTunes to remain "simple" is holding back the whole thing. The iTunes store is a big, big, world-wide media store and should be treated as such. This is in direct competition with the iTunes designers idea that iTunes should be a simple easy to use application. Both are right, but both cannot co-exist for long.
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post #10 of 33
Unfortunately, unscrupulous developers are still going to be able to stack reviews. It would be easy enough to pay a friend to buy the app and then post a provided "marketing review".

At the least, I'd like to see Apple go back and remove reviews from people that didn't purchase the app. These juvenile "First" reviews frustrate me. I'm sure these children wouldn't like someone to spray paint "First" on their car or house.
post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by iPhoneCoder View Post

Unfortunately, unscrupulous developers are still going to be able to stack reviews. It would be easy enough to pay a friend to buy the app and then post a provided "marketing review".

At the least, I'd like to see Apple go back and remove reviews from people that didn't purchase the app. These juvenile "First" reviews frustrate me. I'm sure these children wouldn't like someone to spray paint "First" on their car or house.

That doesn't make sense since Apple will get 30% of the that sale (Unless the developer is so desperate that he is welling to pay for a review). I've seen many reviews that people express their dislike about what the application does or the price and not how it works (clearly they did not try it out).
post #12 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by iPhoneCoder View Post

Unfortunately, unscrupulous developers are still going to be able to stack reviews. It would be easy enough to pay a friend to buy the app and then post a provided "marketing review".

Pay a friend? What kind of friends do you have? \ But yeah, I totally see your point. And I agree with others that some kind of mechanism needs to sort out reviews of previous versions of an app. Either a clear distinction of which version the review relates to, or a clean re-set.
post #13 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by NasserAE View Post

That doesn't make sense since Apple will get 30% of the that sale (Unless the developer is so desperate that he is welling to pay for a review). I've seen many reviews that people express their dislike about what the application does or the price and not how it works (clearly they did not try it out).

It is not a perfect world. Over the long haul, if the app sucks, people will say so in volume. I doubt any of us have the kind of money and the number of friends to write a nice review. Eventually, they both run out.
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post #14 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Pay a friend? What kind of friends do you have? \ But yeah, I totally see your point. And I agree with others that some kind of mechanism needs to sort out reviews of previous versions of an app. Either a clear distinction of which version the review relates to, or a clean re-set.

Developers are more or less in the drivers seat here and I don't think that any of these iTunes changes will really alter that.

Sure, if all the apps are 2 bucks, then it's trivial for developers (making hundreds of thousands we hear) to pay for all their competitors apps and give them poor reviews. It may even be financially do-able to pay for hundreds of such negative reviews. There is not really much you can do about that without getting all 1984 on the reviewers.

I do like the change however, because it's fairly clear to me (at least at the moment), that this kind of thing is not a big problem. The major problem with reviews is the average dufuss who has nothing better to do other than go through the app store slagging apps that he never actually used. The other related problem is those that use a review to say something real original like "ITunes sucks" or "why should we pay for this when jail-breaking is free."

At least this change will eliminate those guys, because, lets face it, "those guys" are too f-ing cheap to actually PAY for anything.
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post #15 of 33
If they want to be in the front row... ok.. no prob.. apple sells them that space.. just like google ad words.. they can split another % of the sale price for adds.. thats simples and more ca$$$$HHH
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post #16 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Pay a friend? What kind of friends do you have? \ But yeah, I totally see your point. And I agree with others that some kind of mechanism needs to sort out reviews of previous versions of an app. Either a clear distinction of which version the review relates to, or a clean re-set.

When I said "pay a friend" I meant reimburse the "reviewer" for the purchase of the app. For the developer that means only 30% of the cost of the app to get the friend qualified to put up the review.

While it is true that for some apps the initial bogus reviews will be swamped with valid reviews, there are a lot of paid apps that have a very small number of reviews (2 - 10). In those cases, every 5 star review drives up the average and is more than worth the cost.

And before I get spammed, I'm speaking theoretically. I have never paid anyone to buy my apps or suggested to anyone to stack a review.
post #17 of 33
I wish this had gone in before I released my app 2 weeks ago.

Thanks to this nonsense, my game (Rogue Vertex), was released on Sept 14th but was immediately buried under a rush of new updates... so we never got on the first page of anything.

I submitted an app update on Wednesday (adds some new features and some polish) and I was hopeful that we'd finally appear on a "new games" list somewhere. Now, it appears on page 3 of the action games category. That's better but I definitely missed out on my moment in the spotlight due to Apple's slowness in properly categorizing my game and the rush of updates that pushed me back several pages before I was even visible on the store.

I agree with the above post though - users should be able to sort by update release dates, and the original release date.
post #18 of 33
I'm fairly convinced the 'update' date thing is a bug, not intentional.

For one thing the date has actually rolled back to the SUBMISSION date not the original RELEASE date. That makes no sense, given the variable queue length.

For another, this is a known issue going back as far as August that occurred for SOME applications when editing meta data. I'm willing to bet that when trying to fix the iTunes database after the weekend problems they've triggered it for all apps. See these threads for reference.

http://discussions.apple.com/thread....17099&#7917099
http://discussions.apple.com/thread....18774&#8018774
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post #19 of 33
Thank god... the review section of the app store was a mess. Got tired of reading "Should be free" or "Was free on the jail broken iPhone", blah, blah, blah... pretty much kept me from reading any of the reviews. Now hopefully, it'll be worth it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post

I often hold off on buying an app until I see its short-comings have been addressed by an update. How will I know this has happened if I can't list apps by update date?

If there is a particular application you're interested in, I suggest you remember the app or write it down somewhere, so you can look it up at another time. If you can't do this simple task, then the application really isn't all that important to you.

If I see an application I'd like to have at some point, I click the "Tell a friend" option and email the app store link to myself. This allows me to build a list of apps I'm interested in and check back on them in the future.

However I do agree, there should be an option to sort by update date.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post

Why are the issues Apple has tried to address in their new store front not such a big deal on sites like VersionTracker.com or MacUpdate.com?

The iTunes store is a market place, those other sites you mentioned are update aggregates, specifically designed to let you know of updates, they are not responsible for fair listings or sales, there is no liability.
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post #20 of 33
This is just a continuing improvement on Apple's part to spray weedkiller on the craplets out there. Remember that this is still a work-in-process and I'm sure Apple has more things up it's sleeve to clean up the store.

Developers do have the upper hand though. I really hope Apple implements some sort of fair refund-policy or developers should provide a "lite" version that is free so the user can try it out. I purchased too many apps out there that should never have been released in the first place and it just makes me hesitant to want to purchase anything from the App store.

I don't understand how a really wonderful videogame that takes hundreds of man-hours to develop can be put out there for $5-$10 (very reasonable) yet other developers put absolute crap that looks like it's been put together in 30 minutes and hope for a quick buck and vanish.

I'm curious how the Android market will be. I suspect it will be far worse than the red-light district in Thailand compared to Apple.

I know certain developers tend to whine about the approval process that Apple does but personally, I think Apple should do more to crack down on wannabe developers putting useless junk out there. It really diminishes the experience.

I know that one developers crap is another user's treasure. I also know that one cannot define "offensive" stuff but I could spot it when I see it.

If you make solid high-quality software, it will always sell well. If you get upset that Apple decides to reject your app for being utter crap, it probably was. I'm surprised Apple is approving so much nonsense out there. 90% of what is out there is junk.
post #21 of 33
I have noticed that the apps in the free category are not always free. Was this like this before or did this just happen since the update? I don't remember it being like this last week but I could have missed something.
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post #22 of 33
They also need to get rid of the whining cry-babies that complain about the price of a $9.99 or less application. The price is not a review of the application!
post #23 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by sesnir View Post

I wish this had gone in before I released my app 2 weeks ago.

Thanks to this nonsense, my game (Rogue Vertex), was released on Sept 14th but was immediately buried under a rush of new updates... so we never got on the first page of anything.

I submitted an app update on Wednesday (adds some new features and some polish) and I was hopeful that we'd finally appear on a "new games" list somewhere. Now, it appears on page 3 of the action games category. That's better but I definitely missed out on my moment in the spotlight due to Apple's slowness in properly categorizing my game and the rush of updates that pushed me back several pages before I was even visible on the store.

I agree with the above post though - users should be able to sort by update release dates, and the original release date.

I have similar feelings about the commenting system and my little toy Jack In The Box app. It amuses my kids to no end and I'm sure there are customer out there that would like it, but it immediately got a one-star review from someone saying "It's not a game!" (I'd filed it in Games:Kids). Ahh well. I wasn't expecting to get rich off of it.
post #24 of 33
User reviews are to be totally ignored by anyone with half a brain. They should not even exist and are too easily manipulated by anonymous posters either with personal agendas or vendettas to push. Just take a look at the normal Apple Store, VersionTracker, C|Net or any other site that allows user reviews. The whole concept is a cruel joke.
post #25 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

Thank god... the review section of the app store was a mess. Got tired of reading "Should be free" or "Was free on the jail broken iPhone", blah, blah, blah... pretty much kept me from reading any of the reviews. Now hopefully, it'll be worth it.

That's where a little software on Apple's end could have helped us all out. Instead, you've gone along with their proverbial "throwing the baby out with the bath water."

Several other options--none mutually exclusive--were available to Apple, such as banning overly prolific commenters, monitoring postings and deleting the junk, allowing people to post comments without reviewing, providing viewing options, etc.

Quote:
If there is a particular application you're interested in, I suggest you remember the app or write it down somewhere, so you can look it up at another time. If you can't do this simple task, then the application really isn't all that important to you.

Sorry, I already own all the apps I care to own. I browse to see what might pique my interest, and I buy if an app looks to be good enough. Your suggestion of taking notes and such is really out of the question.


Quote:
The iTunes store is a market place, those other sites you mentioned [versiontracker.com and macupdate.com] are update aggregates, specifically designed to let you know of updates, they are not responsible for fair listings or sales, there is no liability.

You didn't really answer the question. I would point out that Apple has a conflict of interest, with an interest in promoting sales of bad software by suppressing bad reviews. Apple is not 100% on the consumer's side in this.

And there is always the potential for liability, even for mere update notification sites. As long as a plaintiff wants to try to take you to court, you're subject to being screwed.
post #26 of 33
All good news indeed. Was needed.
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post #27 of 33
it's a solution, but personally i don't feel like it's necessarily a good solution for either apple or developers. Not only does it not solve the problems it was meant to solve, but I think it will lower sales for the 'long tail' which is bad for both, right?

first off, was developers leaving their own reviews or having friends do it /really/ that big of a deal? If you are making a purchase based on other peoples opinions and then you didn't like the app, that's really your own fault... second, I dont' think this will stop developers leaving their own reviews (which will only be more visible now that only people who bought the app can leave reviews). Apple only takes a 30% cut, so if developers find that comments really do boost sales by enough, they might find it's worth it to spend a few bucks and get 70% of that back to boost their reviews. I think it has some positive and negative effects, but overall I don't think it's going to help much.

Also, the update thing- I only see that as bad for everyone. Small developers (which are probably most of the store) will now only be focused on getting apps out as quickly as possible, and will never support or update them after that, because it simply won't be worth it. Even if they want to, they might not have the time since they need to be putting new apps out to keep the money coming in. All those old apps will just be getting stale at the bottom of the lists, not generating money for the developer or apple. It may be good for the large companies with many people employed that can take time on making large apps, but not for the smaller developers. At the very least I agree with the other people here who say users should be able to sort based on different factors including latest updates etc. Anything that gives developers incentive to keep supporting their apps would be good for everyone
post #28 of 33
Would it be so bad to give the user the option to sort through by date released, and date updated? I agree with the making comment on app you only purchased, but feel the other move - Removing the sort by free app category, and forcing just release date app sorting will cause developers to bring out just new apps instead of updates, and the customer less freedom to browse.

Why is it apples going down the road of less freedom for customers? NO option to roll back Upgrades on ipod and iphone updates that don't work for some models and now no option to sort by update and removal of the free app category on the left hand side nav box.
post #29 of 33
I would agree that the App Store still needs a lot of work, and many of the suggestions already mentioned in this thread are good ones.

Even so, I'm glad to see Apple has blocked reviews from people who have never downloaded an app they're submitting a review for. This will, at the very least, get rid of people who don't understand the difference between "review" and "forum", and post 1 or 5 star reviews to ask questions or complain that you can't buy apps with iTunes gift cards in Canada (as if that's a shortcoming of a particular app!), not to mention the "price trolls" who immediately post a 1 star "review" of anything over $10.

If anything, this change does more to stop misuse by users than developers. Admittedly, some of the developers releasing iPhone apps are complete retards too (like these idiots who put an "a" in front of their name to cheat and get their app listed first -- in case you hadn't noticed, when sorting by "Release Date", everything released on the same day is sub-sorted alphabetically). But by and large, the users are the bigger problem, app reviews are not meant to be a message board, and this will help stop that nonsense.

One thing I wish they would also do is go back and retroactively delete all the reviews posted by people who have never downloaded the app, before this rule went into effect.
post #30 of 33
What's wrong with having both "new releases" and "recently updated" as separate categories? Both provide useful information when trying to wade through thousands of apps.
post #31 of 33
also, apple has been known to reject apps for some pretty ridiculous reasons, but for some reason they don't know how to reject worthless updates?? Rejecting updates that dont' add much and were obviously done just to bump the app up would have been a much better solution than completely removing incentive to update.
post #32 of 33
I agree with the review policy but I think Apple is only 'punishing' its good customers by taking away the option to review all applications in the app store.
post #33 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

If I see an application I'd like to have at some point, I click the "Tell a friend" option and email the app store link to myself.

I do the same thing, but only because the brain dead iTunes store doesn't let you save interesting songs, movies, and applications to Wish List.
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