'Dash' App Removed From App Store for Alleged Review Manipulation

Popular API documentation browser Dash was yesterday pulled from the App Store after a routine migration request. Dash developer Bogdan Popescu was given no explanation for why the app had been pulled aside from "fraudulent conduct," but after a conversation with Apple, he's been accused of manipulating App Store reviews.

Popescu received a "Notice of Termination" email yesterday and his iTunes Connect account was shut down. Apple initially declined to offer more information, but after Dash's App Store removal started making headlines, Apple told Popescu it was due to App Store review manipulation, such as paying for positive reviews, something he denies doing.

dashapp

Update: Apple contacted me and told me they found evidence of App Store review manipulation. This is something I've never done.

Apple's decision is final and can't be appealed.

Despite Popescu's denial, Apple appears to be adamant that some sort of fraud took place. Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller has stepped in and commented on the situation, through an email sent to Matthew Els, who asked him about the situation.

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for your email about this app.

I did look into this situation when I read about it today. I am told this app was removed due to repeated fraudulent activity.

We often terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers.

I hope that you understand the importance of protecting the App Store from repeated fraudulent activity.

Thank you,
Phil

At this time, Popescu says that Apple's decision is final and the app will not be returned to the App Store. The developer community seems to be surprised by the accusation, with many calling Dash a quality app that wouldn't have needed to boost its reviews.

It's not clear what's going on, and the App Store reviews for Dash are no longer visible as the app has been pulled. As developer Steven Troughton-Smith points out, if Popescu didn't manipulate his own reviews, it's possible he's been targeted maliciously by a third party or that Apple's flagging system made a mistake. With Apple's Phil Schiller having looked into the situation, the latter option seems unlikely.

Dash for Mac remains available outside of the Mac App Store, and Popescu is encouraging Dash for Mac users to migrate from the Mac App Store version. It is unclear if the iOS version will be reinstated.

Top Rated Comments

bitslap47 Avatar
99 months ago
Hmm... so if I hire a 3rd party to post fake reviews to a competitor's app.......
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rafterman Avatar
99 months ago
"Apple’s decision is final and can’t be appealed."

That is the particularly BS part of all this. Third Reich much?

But Apple cancels orders for no reason, so why not developer accounts.
Score: 43 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zaft Avatar
99 months ago
Really apple? You cant appeal lol. thats just wrong.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
99 months ago
Hmm...for an app that's so generally well regarded in the developer community, I really don't think this would have been a whimsical decision by Apple.

Especially if Phil looked into this personally, he'd have known the media fallout and confusion from this. Plus I don't just think it's a case of a competitor hiring fake reviews on his app — Apple would definitely have considered and looked into that.

Now, the email from Phil said: "including actions designed to hurt other developers". What if we're looking at this the wrong way? What if he was hiring bots to spam bad reviews on competitors' products?

There's something they're not telling us. The more I think about it, the more of a mystery it's becoming.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Cougarcat Avatar
99 months ago
Apple's kafkaesque communication to developers remains one of its biggest problems.
[doublepost=1475777722][/doublepost]
"Apple’s decision is final and can’t be appealed."

That is the particularly BS part of all this.
Especially when we're talking about developer livelihoods.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nagromme Avatar
99 months ago
Speculation: maybe they used a bulk review/rating service, or a marketing service that includes that, and then when Apple was able to detect that kind of bulk, all of that service's clients got canned? (Probably not just this one.)

Review spam and fake ratings are certainly a huge problem for App Store users, and I am not 100% certain that second chances are the way to go: then it's "may as well try the spam, no harm done if we're caught!" It's not as if there haven't been warnings against this for years.

Now, IF it's a straight-up error and this company never used ANY such methods, I hope the error is corrected (as Apple generally does with their review/removal errors, though the remedy gets less blog attention than the initial Godwin's Law hysteria). Seems like a worthwhile app that need not game the system, and Apple can have a stated "no second chance" policy, but they can ALSO bend their decisions when called for. It happens.

And if some fraudulent marketing company tricked this developer into not knowing what they were signing up to receive, I hope the dev can make a legal case against them.

Similarly, if an attacker is behind this, taking actions PRETENDING to be this dev, I hope that comes to light (and it probably will, because this won't be the only victim). I find that sadly plausible.

We may never know the facts. Won't stop us jumping to conclusions :)
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

Apple Announces 'Let Loose' Event on May 7 Amid Rumors of New iPads

Tuesday April 23, 2024 7:11 am PDT by
Apple has announced it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 a.m. Pacific Time (10 a.m. Eastern Time), with a live stream to be available on Apple.com and on YouTube as usual. The event invitation has a tagline of "Let Loose" and shows an artistic render of an Apple Pencil, suggesting that iPads will be a focus of the event. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...
Apple Vision Pro Dual Loop Band Orange Feature 2

Apple Cuts Vision Pro Shipments as Demand Falls 'Sharply Beyond Expectations'

Tuesday April 23, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple has dropped the number of Vision Pro units that it plans to ship in 2024, going from an expected 700 to 800k units to just 400k to 450k units, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Orders have been scaled back before the Vision Pro has launched in markets outside of the United States, which Kuo says is a sign that demand in the U.S. has "fallen sharply beyond expectations." As a...
iPad And Calculator App Feature

Apple Finally Plans to Release a Calculator App for iPad Later This Year

Tuesday April 23, 2024 9:08 am PDT by
Apple is finally planning a Calculator app for the iPad, over 14 years after launching the device, according to a source familiar with the matter. iPadOS 18 will include a built-in Calculator app for all iPad models that are compatible with the software update, which is expected to be unveiled during the opening keynote of Apple's annual developers conference WWDC on June 10. AppleInsider...
iOS 17 All New Features Thumb

iOS 17.5 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Sunday April 21, 2024 3:00 am PDT by
The upcoming iOS 17.5 update for the iPhone includes only a few new user-facing features, but hidden code changes reveal some additional possibilities. Below, we have recapped everything new in the iOS 17.5 and iPadOS 17.5 beta so far. Web Distribution Starting with the second beta of iOS 17.5, eligible developers are able to distribute their iOS apps to iPhone users located in the EU...
Apple Silicon AI Optimized Feature Siri

Apple Releases Open Source AI Models That Run On-Device

Wednesday April 24, 2024 3:39 pm PDT by
Apple today released several open source large language models (LLMs) that are designed to run on-device rather than through cloud servers. Called OpenELM (Open-source Efficient Language Models), the LLMs are available on the Hugging Face Hub, a community for sharing AI code. As outlined in a white paper [PDF], there are eight total OpenELM models, four of which were pre-trained using the...