This weekend, as hundreds of thousands of people explored their iPads for the first time, many of them tried downloading the iPad edition of the App Store’s most popular application ever: Facebook. What they found was an application called Facebook Ultimate, featuring a sleek version of the familiar ‘f’ logo. The application quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the App Store’s top selling iPad applications. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent to these users that the application simply wasn’t very good, and that it wasn’t created by Facebook at all. And now, two days after the application rose to prominence, Apple has removed it from the App Store.
Facebook Ultimate certainly had a good run. As All Facebook pointed out yesterday, the $2.99 application rose to become the #7 top paid app on the App Store. The app received many poor reviews from upset users, plenty of which warned others that this was not the app they were looking for, but that apparently didn’t stop people from downloading it. So Facebook decided to take action, citing trademark infringement.
We reached out to Facebook about the application’s removal (which apparently happened within the last few hours), and they gave us this statement:
The Ultimate Facebook App was a clear violation of Facebook Platform
policies around trademark infringement and affiliation, and has since been
removed from the App Store by Apple.
We ensure that applications that access Facebook user data adhere to
Facebook Platform policies. Those applications that do not comply are
subject to enforcement which can include disabling or limiting their access
to Facebook APIs.
It’s a logical move on Facebook’s part, but I’m surprised this was even allowed to happen in the first place — it should have been obvious to both Facebook and Apple that many users would be looking for a (still non-existant) Facebook iPad app.
Update: We’ve been in touch with the developer of Facebook Ultimate, who sent us her side of the story. In short, she says that she submitted her iPhone app months ago, ported it over to the iPad after some positive feedback, and wasn’t out to fool anyone with the new app (she also told me she had no idea Faceook would not release an official app of their own):
I am individual developer, mother of two working on this app on my spare time. I am a big facebook fan and me and my family use it a lot. After realizing that the free facebook client did not have a few features that I wanted, I decided to write my own ultimate facebook client for iphone. The app was released on iphone app store March 3rd. It took some time for the app to go up and show up in top 50 paid apps. I got a lot of good reviews from people which motivated me to keep updating and improving the app. To be honest I really love my app because it helps you organize your posts and to control your social media, I also added fun features like picture decoration and slideshow that unfortunately I don’t believe too many iPad users even got to experience because of the comparisons with the standard facebook client :(
I went thru the formal submit process and followed every instruction from apple’s and facebook’s development policy. I picked the name based on the precedence from facebook apps in the app store (facebook chat, facebook icons, facebook reloaded, facebook video uploader, facebook pixter and many others). I designed the icon myself trying to make it use a different ‘F’ than facebook because all the rest of the apps had the exact ‘F’ from facebook on their icon so I used a different shade of blue, a different font and made it italic and added some shading. I only used open APIs provided by facebook and even ran into issues because of API restrictions that did not let me do some of the stuff that the free facebook app can. When I received the call for iPad app submission, I decided to port the app to the iPad so that people that liked it on the iPhone could use it on their iPads (me being one of them). Granted that the app does not have the best iPad UI look but it has great functionality. Never did I dream that the app would end up in the 7th place after the first day.
The problem I see is that, people on iPad, did not read my description of the app and they got confused about this being the official facebook client, so then I modified the description to explicitly say that I was not related to facebook and pointed them to the video tutorials of the existing iPhone app on my website, but that still did not make any difference. I never had this problem with my iPhone users in the past month, but I did have the problem that users were not understanding how to use all the features, so I made video tutorials for the iPhone and that is when the app started moving up. Unfortunately, I did not port those tutorials to the iPad because I thought only my Iphone users would be the ones buying the app, so I can see that not a lot of users were even able to use the features that are unique to my app and they were comparing it with the official facebook app which was never my intention.
Now both my apps have been removed from the store, now I wish I had never ported my app to the iPad, I feel so helpless, I feel like I have been victimized and used as an example because of the success of the app. I found out that my app had been removed because I saw your post, I did not even receive any official/unofficial emails from anybody to any of my accounts about the situation so that at least I would have a chance to resolve it. I am just an individual developer trying to develop a cool app for myself and people that wanted to organize their posts like me. At the end of the day I had a few 5 star reviews of people that actually liked the iPad app and quite a few good reviews and five star ratings from the iPhone version. I even had two versions in review since last week that would bring Chat and Video playback capabilities (in response to my iPhone users’ requests) which they will never get to experience now. I am very dissapointed and deeply saddened by this situation.
I hope I will get a chance to make any modifications they ask me to make so that I can put my app back in the store.