Apple goes after clones and spam on the App Store

Each time Apples developer conference rolls around we get a smattering of all changes to this App Store Outline guidelines. This corpus of rules could be, in turns, opaque and explicit, and has induced a decent quantity of consternation over time for developers as they try to read to the way Apple might interpret one rule or another.

I remember the crushing of programs like AppShopper and AppGratis, for instance, under the boot heel of rule 2.25, that prohibit apps from replicating the qualities of this App Store. AppShopper eventually returned, finding a way around the rule by inserting social features something that the App Store still largely lacks, by the way.

This year the big issue seems to surround rule 4.2.6, which states that Programs made in a commercialized template or program generation service will be rejected.

Sounds fine, right? Sure, until you start considering how many programs take advantage of growth assistance tools like PhoneGap or even programs that provide super-nifty app construction streams like TapJet. Heck, even Apple has a deal with IBM that enables it to build apps for business customers. These programs probably share many standard features and functions.

Basically, there are concerns about how far-reaching this rule could be when applied to this App Store. Was it just about enhancing quality by decreasing knock-offs? Or is it rooted in certain deeper protectionist play?

Given that there was still some curiosity about how it could be applied, I did a little digging. Apple had no comment. But it rarely does, unless a rule becomes an issue in the press or among developers. I was, nevertheless, able to glean an understanding of the rule and its program by asking about.

The very first thing to keep in mind is that Apple consistently had a do not clone guideline in the record. It was never OK to straight-up copy an program, changing names and pictures and re-posting it as yours. Unfortunately, the rise in prevalence of mass creation tools for programs, one-click templates and other enabling factors means that inexpensive junk programs have gone off the rails at the App Store within the past couple of years.

There are all kinds of schemes based about flooding the store with templatized programs. Some of them are apparent if a popular game like Flappy Bird or even Red Ball hits the charts, there will be hundreds of thousands or thousands of clones in weeks that try to capitalize on the initial wave of popularity. However in addition, there are other kinds of scams. Cloned programs that are essentially carriers to get one ad or conversion module or as a vessel to get a subscription honeypot that charges the most quantity to get a sub. There are hundreds of copies of music-streaming programs that shill pirated content to ensure it is harder to track them down one by one and also allow for single-shot bursts of sales capture before theyre found out or retired.

So, Apple decided to go on a bit of a clean and tear out the store. The new rule is more demanding and more explicit to be able to back up those removals.

Its my understanding that this cleanup has led to tens of thousands (yes, hundreds of thousands of thousands) of programs being removed from the store over the past year. That contains clones, but also things like programs that arent 64-bit harmonious, apps that are unused (havent been downloaded years) and also other scammy boat garbage.

Thats rather straightforward, but what’s the rule not about? What are the programs that seem as though they could be swept up in this dragnet but who are really probably safe? As far as I could tell, Apple is quite definitely not trying to kill app-creation tools that enable people to customize and publish programs without knowing or writing all of the code.

Thats significant, given where the industry at large is heading.

Fundamentally, if we get to a place where I or you could construct an original and customizable program that feels unique without writing one line of code, this rule would not prevent it. Given that the coding industry (especially in the AI space) is veering toward the practice of program synthesis, this future-proofs the App Store somewhat, while not diluting Apples protectionist powers.

So, assembly suites or app-creation tools probably dont have anything to fear from these new rules unless theyre in the company of pumping out nearly identical rubber-stamp programs.

One other signal that people in the making programs for other people space should probably look out for is accounts listings. Apple will very probably not be excited about you shipping programs for other people on the App Store beneath your own account. Separate accounts for every entity that is accountable for its own support is most likely your best-case scenario. Nevertheless, there are gray areas here where studios can publish games from many individual creators but ask yourself, who does the support?

Thats probably the best way to look at it.

So that the rule isnt always the doomsday scenario for program creators that it might have looked like, but it does give note to this clone factories that Apple is trying to end that specific plague.


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