As the old mantra goes, “Cheaters never prosper”. In this digital age, it may be time to revise that saying. Granted a veil of anonymity by the Internet, cheaters surely prosper from their cheating; it’s just that when they get caught, they go down hard. Alas, “Cheaters may temporarily prosper – but if they get caught, they’re totally boned” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Such was the case earlier today, when the development company behind over 1,000 iPhone applications was busted scamming the review system. In a flash, the developer — and all one thousand of their applications — have been pulled from the store.
On Saturday, a friend of the iPhone photography blog Iphoneography reached out to the blog for a bit of help pooling details on what he believed was a review scam. While looking through the applications offered by Molinker, he noticed that as many as 90% of the reviews on some of their applications appeared to be written by a group of people who only reviewed Molinker applications. On Molinker’s “NightCam Pro”, for example, 42 of the 44 5-star reviews appeared to be fake.
Once they’d managed to accumulate enough data that the tomfoolery was almost undeniable, iPhoneography and the original sleuth both sent a 5+ paragraph report of their findings off to Apple’s VP, Phil Schiller.
At first, there was no response. Had their complaints gone unheard? Was Phil Schiller’s inbox but a brick wall in disguise? Then it happened; in the blink of an eye, all trace of Molinker was gone. Not only had the reviews been pulled, but the entire catalog of Molinker’s 1,011 applications had disappeared.
Schiller later responded via email, saying “Yes, this developer’s apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either.” (There’s gotta be some joke here about Phil Schiller doing away with a mountain of shilled reviews, but I’m not going to be the one to write it.)
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a developer with many hundreds of applications in the store feel the crush of Apple’s banhammer, but it’s the first time to my knowledge that Apple has ever made a huge blow against review fakers.