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Mobile app download bots compromise Apple's App Store

Google's Android Market is immune
Wed Feb 15 2012, 15:07

DOWNLOAD BOTS have been exposed as the cheating way to get apps to the top of the charts on Apple's IOS App Store.

The bots, which repeatedly download an app, are offered to developers to get their apps better exposure and market presence. Developers might not have been fully aware of the method, but the secret is out.

Inside Mobile Apps brought up the issue at a conference it held, where developers admitted using marketing services involving bots. It appears that many developers might have known about the bots for months or possibly even years.

However, the developers became suspicious when a surge in downloads didn't bring a matching increase in active users. Many developers have now opted out of the practice including Fiksu and Tinyco

Micah Adler, CEO of Fiksu said, "We were approached by these services many months ago. It was presented as an ad network, but it became obvious to us that users weren't even launching the app. So we stopped using it after that."

"It's been this well-known secret in the ecosystem," he added.

It's unclear how long Apple has been aware of the problem and done nothing about it, but it recently sent out a warning by way of its IOS app guidelines.

Apple said, "Once you build a great app, you want everyone to know about it. However, when you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts. Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership."

Perry Tam, CEO of Storm8 said, "As a developer, I'm glad Apple issued a warning. It shows that they're dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the App Store. The ultimate goal is to get the best content to users."

In contrast, Google's Android Market is effectively immune to such techniques. Its ranking algorithm doesn't rely on numbers of downloads but other factors such as whether the app remains installed on a device. µ


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