Long-time Mac developer's apps pulled from Mac App Store because of automated system failu...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2020
Apple has now apologized for an error that caused developer Charlie Monroe's apps to stop working, despite still being available on the Mac App Store.

App Store
App Store


Charlie Monroe has told AppleInsider that the issue has been resolved. "Apple just called and apologized for the complications," he said. "The issue was caused by my account being erroneously flagged by automated processes as malicious and was put on hold."

Monroe's macOS and iOS apps were unable to run for over 12 hours. The original story, as first reported by AppleInsider, follows.

App Store kills developer's apps

As Apple continues to face controversy over its App Store policies and fees, software developer Charlie Monroe has told AppleInsider that the company has killed all his apps with no warning. Each of his ten macOS apps, and two that are also iOS, remain available to buy in the App Store, but Apple has stopped them launching.

"I woke up this morning only to find a full inbox of issues that my apps can't be launched and are crashing on launch," Monroe said in a message to AppleInsider. "Looking into it, I found that Apple revoked my distribution certificates, which generally kills the apps remotely."

"When I sign in to my developer account, it asks me to enroll to the Apple developer program and I don't seem to be in the Apple developer program anymore," he continued, "even though the apps that I have on the App Store are still available."

Hello everyone, today I woke up to my developer account being suspended without a single letter why which is why the apps are crashing. Please bear with me while I try to get this fixed with Apple. Thank you for understanding.

-- Charlie Monroe (@charlieMonroe)


He says there was no prior warning, nor any explanation from Apple since. "No one wrote to me any reasoning, no one called me, no one warned me prior to the certificate revocation."

Monroe says that he has tried all available ways open to developers of contacting Apple, but that none have worked, including telephone support that is supposed to be the quickest. "They offer contact by phone," he explains, "you fill your number, they say they'll call within a minute and nothing happened, no one called and it's been over six hours."

"It's not normal that you wake up one day with your business gone with no explanation or any warning," he says.

About eight and a half hours after he first learned of the problem, Monroe says he has finally managed to contact Apple.

"Got through to someone who said they know nothing about [it] and will escalate this to their internal team who will contact me further," said Monroe.

Antitrust and App Store certificate issues

This case comes in the week after Apple -- alongside Google, Facebook, and Amazon -- was required to testify to the US House of Judiciary over antitrust issues. The House, while its questioning was notably ineffectual, the issues it was intended to cover were significant.

In Apple's case, it was primarily to do with the company's App Store, and the way in which it works developers who sell apps through it. The allegations have included reportedly arbitrary rule changes and whether Apple has effectively created a monopoly.

From macOS Catalina onwards, Apple has implemented a security process that requires all apps to be notarized. The aim was to make it harder for malware to get installed on a Mac, even if it were bought outside of the Mac App Store.

"Mac apps, installer packages, and kernel extensions that are signed with Developer ID must also be notarized by Apple in order to run on macOS Catalina," said Apple in an announcement about improving its Gatekeeper security feature. "This will help give users more confidence that the software they download and run, no matter where they get it from, is not malware by showing a more streamlined Gatekeeper interface."

Apple can revoke such certificates at any time, as it appears to have done in Charlie Monroe's case. The purpose, though, is to allow the company the ability to switch off rogue apps -- and it has gone wrong before.

In 2017, a change Apple made, plus certificates expiring, caused high-profile apps such as 1Password to crash. Up to then, developers only needed to renew certificates when publishing a new version of their app, so few paid any attention until macOS began stopping existing ones launching.

AppleInsider has reached out to Apple for comment.

Updated 16:35 ET August 4 with the information about Apple reportedly escalating the support case.
Updated 02:45 ET August 5 with Apple's apology
JoeSmeets
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 42
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,724member
    Watching - hopefully a snafu...
    gregoriusmrazorpitcornchipmartinp13
  • Reply 2 of 42
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,899member
    iqatedo said:
    Watching - hopefully a snafu...
    Seems to be the most logical explanation. 

    So frustrating for the developer and users though. 
    gregoriusmrazorpitcornchipmartinp13
  • Reply 3 of 42
    His apps don’t look remotely controversial. Hard to imagine a government or somebody demanding they be taken down. 
    iqatedo
  • Reply 4 of 42
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,724member
    The apps:

    Outcome will be interesting.
    razorpitcornchipdocno42
  • Reply 5 of 42
    If this is what it seems to be, Apple has become the worst of the most evil phenomenon Steve Jobs attacked in 1984.
  • Reply 6 of 42
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    His apps don’t look remotely controversial. Hard to imagine a government or somebody demanding they be taken down. 
    I’m sure YouTube isn’t happy that people are able download videos faster than they can censor them...
    Beatsdysamoriadocno42cat52
  • Reply 7 of 42
    Hope he gets back up and running, that must be very frustrating!
  • Reply 8 of 42
    If this is what it seems to be, Apple has become the worst of the most evil phenomenon Steve Jobs attacked in 1984.
    Well, what it seems to be is a likely glitch. But hey, let’s insinuate there’s a nefarious reason while you can.
    dewmeBeatspscooter63dysamoriadocno42
  • Reply 9 of 42
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,724member
    His apps don’t look remotely controversial. Hard to imagine a government or somebody demanding they be taken down. 
    Some of the apps might be worth looking at when this issue is resolved.  :)
    chasmpscooter63
  • Reply 10 of 42
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,809member
    If this is what it seems to be, Apple has become the worst of the most evil phenomenon Steve Jobs attacked in 1984.
    Well, what it seems to be is a likely glitch. But hey, let’s insinuate there’s a nefarious reason while you can.
    Yeah, it’s very likely an honest mistake in Apple’s certificate revocation process. I was hopeful that Blockchain technology would have been used to make these issues less frequent or at least provide a mechanism to figure out exactly where and when the system failed. It’s probably a few years away. 

    Hopefully Apple will find a way to compensate the developer for his losses associated with this outage. 
    edited August 2020 cornchipmuthuk_vanalingamBeats
  • Reply 11 of 42
    1. In the noble and worthy pursuit of making omelettes, eggshells shall be broken.

    2. Similar to 1., people who prefer secure curated ecosystems to open ones, this is how secure ecosystems are achieved.

    3. Why any professional developer would restrict income streams to a single platform and company confuses me. Even if you don't have the time to do so yourself, there are plenty of reputable contractors - by reputable I mean they have a track record of not stealing people's code or algorithms - out there to port your products to other platforms. That way you aren't reliant on a single gatekeeper's decisions - be they arbitrary, bureaucratic or malicious - for your livelihood and your paying customers - which you need for your livelihood - have alternate means of accessing your services.

    4. Continuing from 3., if there was ever a case for platform-independent PWAs where your application is hosted in the cloud - and you retain the sources so you can quickly and easily shift it to another cloud provider should one make a decision - be it arbitrary, bureaucratic or malicious - to shut you off - then here goes.
    edited August 2020 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 42
    Whether or not this developer violated Apples recent rule changes for developers, this certainly is the wrong way to go about it. It makes Apple look bad and creates unnecessary frustration for the developer. I suggest the relationship manager at Apple requires some extra sensitivity training. This could have negative PR affects in the long term.  Not a shining example of effective corporate communication. 
    edited August 2020 caladanianunclemickpscooter63cat52
  • Reply 13 of 42
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,856member
    iqatedo said:
    The apps:

    Outcome will be interesting.
    Yeah. Actually look like really good apps. Will def be keeping an eye on this story. 
  • Reply 14 of 42
    I literally just paid for one of Charlie's apps on Wednesday for it to stop working (or even launch) yesterday. I did contact support and got a response late last night, but as a professional software developer, maybe update your blog? maybe instead of just having all the software downloads lead to a 404, have an explanation? I'm sure his business is turned upside down but so are the people that support and use the apps? It's just HTML, is it that hard to have an update to your page? The fact that it's featured here on AppleInsider must mean he's trying to garner so PR for his cause. It may go even further if you tell you own story on your site.
  • Reply 15 of 42
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    iqatedo said:
    Watching - hopefully a snafu...

    Sounds like it. These things happen.

    However, the real problem, I think, is that he can't get hold of anyone at Apple to tell him what the problem is, and when it's going to get fixed.

    If it is a snafu, then an apology and a year's free developer membership are in order. Six hours without a response is too long for something like this. There needs to be some way to escalate this so it gets taken care of quickly.
    edited August 2020 unclemickrazorpitBeatsiqatedopscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 42
    I wonder if Permute allows you to break DRM on iTunes content (movies, TV shows and such)? While there are a lot of apps that exist that do this already - and I say that you should have a right to do so with your content so that you can, say, store it on your own platform independent media server for your own use - I do not believe that any are in the macOS app store. (And the idea that they shouldn't be is perfectly defensible.) Just a theory anyways ...
  • Reply 17 of 42
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,256administrator
    I wonder if Permute allows you to break DRM on iTunes content (movies, TV shows and such)? While there are a lot of apps that exist that do this already - and I say that you should have a right to do so with your content so that you can, say, store it on your own platform independent media server for your own use - I do not believe that any are in the macOS app store. (And the idea that they shouldn't be is perfectly defensible.) Just a theory anyways ...
    It does not. It's a transcoder like Handbrake.
    dysamoriaRayz2016
  • Reply 18 of 42
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,525member
    1. In the noble and worthy pursuit of making omelettes, eggshells shall be broken.

    2. Similar to 1., people who prefer secure curated ecosystems to open ones, this is how secure ecosystems are achieved.

    3. Why any professional developer would restrict income streams to a single platform and company confuses me. Even if you don't have the time to do so yourself, there are plenty of reputable contractors - by reputable I mean they have a track record of not stealing people's code or algorithms - out there to port your products to other platforms. That way you aren't reliant on a single gatekeeper's decisions - be they arbitrary, bureaucratic or malicious - for your livelihood and your paying customers - which you need for your livelihood - have alternate means of accessing your services.

    4. Continuing from 3., if there was ever a case for platform-independent PWAs where your application is hosted in the cloud - and you retain the sources so you can quickly and easily shift it to another cloud provider should one make a decision - be it arbitrary, bureaucratic or malicious - to shut you off - then here goes.

    We don't support IP theft or knockoff devices that's why. Plus knockoffs are a bi*** to develop for because they have so many issues.
  • Reply 19 of 42
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,525member
    Rayz2016 said:
    iqatedo said:
    Watching - hopefully a snafu...

    Sounds like it. These things happen.

    However, the real problem, I think, is that he can't get hold of anyone at Apple to tell him what the problem is, and when it's going to get fixed.

    If it is a snafu, then an apology and a year's free developer membership are in order. Six hours without a response is too long for something like this. There needs to be some way to escalate this so it gets taken care of quickly.

    The fact they're an Apple exclusive developer, they should receive extra support from Apple. I would highlight their apps on the front page of App Stores as an apology.

    I always thought exclusive developers should receive incentives too.
    edited August 2020 cat52
  • Reply 20 of 42
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,311member
    I’m surprised the usual suspects haven’t claimed this is some kind of PR stunt by the dev yet. 
    docno42muthuk_vanalingam
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