'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

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Avatar
53 months ago
Hmm... so if I hire a 3rd party to post fake reviews to a competitor's app.......
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 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)
Avatar
53 months ago
Really apple? You cant appeal lol. thats just wrong.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
53 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)
Avatar
53 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)
Avatar
53 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)

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