Wednesday, May 26, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Forced 5-Star Ratings

Kosta Eleftheriou (Hacker News, MacRumors):

The review: “This app forced me to give it a good rating before I could use it.”

[…]

If you think you can trust App Store ratings, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

This is the iOS system rating prompt, not a custom look-alike one.

The worst part? This trick is EXTREMELY easy for any developer to do, and not limited to this app.

This developer has more than 15M downloads and $MILLIONS in revenue.

[…]

Apple also says they conduct a “robust” review process - yet this fraud takes place immediately upon launching the app.

Francisco Tolmasky:

Tangentially related, I commented a while ago on what a missed opportunity the notch was to have a “Secure UI" for native dialogs to tell them apart from fake ones[…]

Guilherme Rambo:

It looks like the app is using the native review dialog, then observing windowDidBecomeVisible: for the container window that’s rendered in-process, and putting something on top of that to prevent interactions other than five-star reviews.

Stephen Warwick:

Apple has pulled an app from the App Store that forced users to leave a good review before using it.

Francisco Tolmasky:

I don’t even know why this API exists in the first place. It’s user hostile even when used “correctly”: I hate getting this stupid pop-up when I’m using an app. Not to mention that reviews, generally speaking, are the laziest way to “outsource” curation in a store.

[…]

A company that was actually laser focused on making “the best AppStore” would have thought outside the box for alternative ways of surfacing quality.

[…]

This is just one idea — but it highlights the unique features Apple could actually take of advantage of by controlling the “entire experience”. The ability to let you know that an app has a great support history would be killer for non-tech savvy users.

[…]

The crazy thing is that Apple is hypothetically correct about the advantages of top-down control. But ironically, once you start realizing all the cool things Apple could provide with their vertical integration, you notice the disconnect with the things they actually invest in.

Previously:

Update (2021-06-05): Kosta Eleftheriou:

Why buy your ratings when you can force your own users into helping you for free? 🤷

I have now identified multiple apps from multiple developer accounts with this type of ratings meta-manipulation.

9 Comments

This doesn't solve the forced rating issue... but if you don't like being prompted for reviews: Settings > App Store, uncheck 'In-App Ratings and Reviews'.

I’ve had that setting unchecked forever. Still get promoted for reviews regularly. Maybe it blocks some of them, but nowhere near all.

@Chris On an unrelated note, this setting keeps turning itself back on on macOS.

I bet Apple is plenty pissed at the security implications of this trick. Glad they took it down.

Apple may do a crappy job, but is the answer really multiple competing app stores? App stores all have the same profit driven motivation, and even a non-profit app store would have to come up with operating revenue.

EPIC is suing Apple because it wants to take that 30% cut, get more of the in-app purchase revenue and be able to exploit developers and users more directly. It's not clear how this benefits developers and users.

Multiple app stores sounds good, but we all know how well sprinkling magic free market fairy dust works. Instead of a monopoly, we'd have an app store oligopoly with 1-3 big players and a handful of others surviving in niches. Apple, if allowed, would be one of those big players, and EPIC clearly wants to be one of the others.

Perhaps it is time to ditch the app store model completely and go back to the just pay for and download stuff model. I don't see how this improves curation, but maybe the idea of trusting one's phone or tablet with secure information is past its sell date.

"EPIC is suing Apple because it wants to take that 30% cut, get more of the in-app purchase revenue and be able to exploit developers and users more directly. It's not clear how this benefits developers and users."

Epic doesn't take 30% in its store. Also, Epic's store is actually curated, 100% of the things in the Epic store are legitimate, safe, good products. As a user, I'd much rather have the option of using a store I can actually trust.

Also, a side-effect of having third-party stores would be the availability of stores that are *not* profit-driven, such as F-Droid on Android. This is not hypothetical, you can install F-Droid on your Android phone right now, and have a store that is not profit-driven.

@ Plume: I expect Epic's 12% share to go up if they ever become much more popular. Right now, it is in part a way to get a foot in the door.

Old Unix Geek

"The idea of trusting one's phone or tablet with secure information is past its sell date.".

No one is forcing you to install an App from an alternative App Store. Trust Apple's so-called vetting? Go right ahead and only use their app-store.

But if there were a number of niche App Stores, I could imagine one that actually does proper security reviews. I could also imagine another that only contains GPL'd software. And a couple that do real curation and proper search. It would even benefit Apple: no more state sponsored Uyghur surveillance Apps in their AppStore. Their only loss would be money.

"I expect Epic's 12% share to go up if they ever become much more popular."

That doesn't seem very likely to me. The reason Epic put its share at 12% is because there's competition, and being at 12% is a competitive advantage. Unless all other stores somehow go out of business, that's not going to change. It's more likely that other stores will be forced to lower their cuts, as has already started to happen.

Anyways, the future is unknownable, all we know for sure is that "EPIC is suing Apple because it wants to take that 30% cut" is false, because Epic isn't taking 30%, and because we know Epic's actual motivation: they don't want to give Apple their own 30% cut.

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