Archive for August 11, 2022

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Telegram Stuck in App Review

Sami Fathi:

In his Telegram channel, Durov says that an update to Telegram for iOS that will change how people communicate has been stuck in Apple’s App Store review process for over two weeks, with no communication from the company over why or when it will be approved. Durov points out that if an app as popular as Telegram receives this treatment, one can “imagine the difficulties experienced by smaller app developers.”


Update (2022-08-29): Jay Peters (via Hacker News):

“After extensive media coverage of my previous post, Apple got back to us with a demand to water down our pending Telegram update by removing Telemoji — higher quality vector-animated versions of the standard emoji,” Durov wrote on his Telegram channel on Friday.


Personally, I think the Telemoji look like a lot of fun. I love how they add some life to static emoji faces I’ve gotten quite familiar with. But I’m guessing Apple took issue with another company modifying its designs in this way, which might be why it asked Telegram to remove Telemoji from the update.

There is, in fact, a specific rule 5.2.5 against using Apple’s emoji designs:

Apps and extensions, including third-party keyboards and Sticker packs, may not include Apple emoji.

It’s not entirely clear what this means. Apple seems to have no issue with apps like MaskerAid using Apple emoji as design elements. I would have thought surely that embedding modified versions of Apple’s copyrighted images would be over the line, but I guess it’s not that far over because it took Apple several weeks to decide.

Durov had said that Apple held the app in limbo without any communication, however, AppleInsider writes:

Apple says it provided clear communications with Telegram throughout the review process, including that it would take longer for reviewing the app. In the case of Telegram’s rejection, Apple provided a written notice and a phone call, with the latter checking Telegram knew the reason for the rejection, and how to get back into compliance.

I initially read this as contradicting Durov, but that’s not necessarily true. Apple has a history of releasing carefully crafted statements that give the impression that the developer was lying. When you look closer, it often turns out that there is no contraction, just differing spins, or that Apple was the one lying. It could be that Apple told him up front that reviewing would take longer but never gave any specifics until weeks later, after all the press, when it finally rejected the update and explained its reasoning.

Ryan Jones (via Dave Wood):

I made an app called Animoji (yup) in 2016 for the launch of “iMessage App Store” that got rejected ~10x for this exact reason.

Basically they were too good. Even when we removed the “gloss” from the designs it was rejected repeatedly.

Kaleidoscope 3.6

Leitmotif (tweet):

The changeset window now sports a modern macOS look with a sidebar that can be hidden. The filter on the bottom now allows filtering files by type, in addition to the file name filter and the buttons that hide or show files that have been modified, added, deleted, or moved. Power user hint: try option-clicking items.


Beginning with the first update after Kaleidoscope 3.6, you should no longer need to update the ksdiff command line tool when we make changes[…] instead of installing the ksdiff tool by copying it to /usr/local/bin, we just create a link to ksdiff inside the app in /usr/local/bin.

To get the new changeset sidebar when using Tower, you need to uncheck Perform directory diff so that Kaleidoscope receives a list of file changes rather than the before and after folders.

It’s great to see Kaleidoscope getting regular updates. Unfortunately, it’s been stuck in Mac App Store review for 6 days.


Update (2022-08-26): Christopher Atlan:

I don’t know why there is a developer category in the App Store. App Review seems not to know what to do with it. @kaleidoscopeapp is now stuck in review for over 2 weeks without any communication.

Too bad Phil Schiller’s idea didn’t work out.

Christopher Atlan:

Dev Relations whispered that App Review doesn’t know what to do with the sandboxed command-line tool and its installation via Privileged File Operations Entitlement.

Maybe I should forward them this email from PFO? Ha! Can’t! Still “In Review” so no contact option.


Update (2022-09-14): Kaleidoscope:

After a month in App Review, Kaleidoscope 3.6 is now out on the Mac App Store! Enjoy the simplified ksdiff installation as well as the major changeset improvements.


Facebook Ads Manager Scam Removed From App Store

Sami Fathi:

Apple has removed an app that it was unknowingly hosting on the App Store that scammed Facebook advertisers and led hackers to use advertisers’ ad budgets to run possibly malicious ads on Facebook’s platforms, Business Insider reports.

The app previously ranked highly on the App Store when searching for “Facebook ads manager,” the app used by advertisers to control their presence and ads they’re running on the Facebook platform. The app presented itself as the legitimate ads manager for Facebook but was actually a backdoor that let hackers gain access to an account.


Apple said that the app was originally submitted to the App Store as a simple document manager with no ties or functionality to the Facebook platform.

It’s crazy how genuine bug fix updates keep getting held up in review, yet apps like this are able to completely change their functionality and become highly ranked, yet nothing happens to them until there’s a big news story. The App Store makes it easier for scams like this to gain traction because it’s easier to get discovery through App Store keyword SEO and fake reviews than it would be organically, and people assume that Apple must have vetted it or it wouldn’t be in the store.


French Publishers Make App Store Antitrust Complaint

Florian Mueller:

Well-hidden in a new 90-page U.S. antitrust complaint against Apple (even 251 pages with the exhibits (PDF)), filed on Monday in the Northern District of California, is a challenge to one of the most devious and ruthless schemes Cupertino has ever devised: App Tracking Transparency (ATT).


At first sight, Société du Figaro et al. v. Apple is just an extension of other U.S. class actions that app developers have previously brought against Apple in the Northern District of California over the 30% app tax. One might be led to think that the only difference is that previous cases--which merely led to a sham settlement the only major beneficiaries of which were Apple and both sides’ lawyers--pursued claims on behalf of U.S.-based app developers, and the Figaro case is now seeking redress on behalf of French legal entities under U.S. federal and California state law because the App Store is a global operation.


The term I just emphasized--“other policies”--does, however, include ATT. The prayers for relief include a request for “injunctive relief requiring that Apple cease the abusive, unlawful, and anticompetitive practices described [t]herein.”

Ben Thompson:

Apple doesn’t particularly care about or claim ownership of the content of an app on the iPhone, but:

  • Apple insists that every app on the iPhone use its payment system for digital content
  • Apple treats all transactions made through its payment system as Apple data
  • Ergo, all transactions for digital content on the iPhone are Apple data

The end result looks something like this — i.e. strikingly similar to Facebook, but with App Store payments attached[…]

Here’s the key point: when it comes to digital advertising, particularly for the games that make up the vast majority of the app advertising industry, transaction data is all that matters. All of the data that any platform collects, whether that be Meta, Snap, Google, etc. is insignificant compared to whether or not a specific ad led to a specific purchase, not just in direct response to said ad, but also over the lifetime of the consumer’s usage of said app. That is the data that Apple cut off with ATT (by barring developers from linking it to their ad spend), and it is the same data that Apple has declared is their own first party data, and thus not subject to its ban on “tracking.”

Nick Heer:

The actual figures tell a much murkier story. I do not think it is fair to suggest ATT does nothing, but its effect does not seem as pronounced as either its biggest supporters or its biggest naysayers suggest.


If ATT were so significantly kneecapping revenue, I would think we would see a pronounced skew against North America compared to elsewhere. But that is not the case.


Perhaps the most favourable evidence for ATT’s effects lies in the earnings reports from Publicis Groupe, which has acquired dozens of name-brand agencies — like Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi — and also runs a digital ad platform.


In theory, ATT is a very good option for users. Its biggest problem is that the company which makes it also has an advertising division, and it appears to have engaged in some quiet self-preferencing behaviours. Legal questions aside, it is disappointing to see such an obvious user benefit so easily undermined. These App Store ads give ATT’s critics a clear conflict of interest to point to, look tacky, and create an unpleasant experience. ATT’s reliance on a very specific definition of “tracking” that allows Apple to segment users based on what they read in News and what they buy in third-party apps is far more permissive than I think it ought to be for a company that so loudly trumpets its privacy bonafides.

Nick Heer:

Meta said, quarter after quarter following ATT’s release, that its ability to make money from iPhone users would be crushed, even as it raked in higher ad sales. Finally, earlier this year, it posted some disappointing figures more reflective of inflation and a strong U.S. dollar. But it still blamed Apple for some of that loss.


Update (2022-08-12): John Gruber:

In my spitball theory here — which I think Heer shares — App Tracking Transparency is not the cause of Facebook’s troubles, but just an extra kick in the pants as they stumble downhill toward legacy media irrelevance — a decline that was in the making years before “Ask App Not to Track” was in our vernacular.

Patrick McGee:

Basic answer: the apparent lag was one of perception.

When Apple introduced sweeping ‘do not track’ changes 16 months ago, the economy was booming. Covid had caused spending habits to experience a once-in-a-century shift away from services and towards goods.

Nick Heer:

This is the most convincing argument I have seen for the discrepancy between the booming financials of ad tech firms in the face of App Tracking Transparency which should, some analysts say, have destroyed much of their business. What it does not necessarily explain is the often better performance some of these companies saw in areas where the iPhone has a stronger market presence.

Update (2022-09-09): John Gruber:

The two paragraphs above encapsulate a lot of the skepticism I expressed yesterday regarding the economic profoundness of ATT. I think only a fool would argue that ATT has had no effect on the surveillance advertising business. But I think the other extreme — the argument that everything we’re seeing in the financials for Facebook, Snap, Twitter, and YouTube is attributable largely, let alone solely, to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency rollout last year — is nearly as foolish. I think ATT is being scapegoated, and is, at best, one significant factor among many.

Nick Heer:

On Meta, I think the amount of blame to ascribe to ATT remains murky. The amount of noise created by TikTok’s rapid ascendancy and its ability to take younger users and, therefore, ad dollars away from Meta is an astonishing coup. Is ATT really the thing holding back the growth rate of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, or is it more likely that big advertising dollars are following users’ eyeballs?

Proposed Political BIAS Emails Act

SuretyMail (via Hacker News):

Named the Political BIAS Emails Act of 2022 (BIAS is short for “Bias In Algorithm Sorting”), a/k/a HR 8160 and SB 4409, the new law would require that email receiving systems such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and all the others, deliver political campaign email directly to your inbox, and they would be expressly forbidden to run it through their spam filters at all. We also include the full text of the proposed law at the end of this article.


Even though the intro heading says it applies only to email that people have elected to receive, the law would actually require [email providers] to deliver political campaign email directly to your inbox unless, and only unless, you personally mark it as spam. And we all know how effective marking something as spam can be; you can mark some email as spam until you’re blue in the face and it will still end up in your inbox.

Now, this might not be so bad if political campaigns actually followed best email practices, and only put someone on their mailing list if the person asked to be, or at least gave consent to be, put on the mailing list. But everyone in our industries knows that political campaigns are the worst violators of best practices.

I don’t understand how this would be implemented. Presumably it would only apply to US-based mail providers. If the e-mails have to be signed by one of a list of approved private keys, maybe this would actually make it easier to get rid of unwanted political e-mails.

Nick Heer:

In a way, there is consistency in the FEC’s draft position: U.S. politicians are already exempt from most rules governing unsolicited phone calls and texts. They do not have to respect the Do Not Call list. It is sort of fitting for them to be excluded from spam filters, too, though it is maddening.

Makena Kelly:

While Google did not need the FEC to approve the plan before rolling it out, it sought a vote earlier this summer to ensure the program wasn’t at risk of breaking current election regulations. In its Thursday ruling, the FEC confirmed that Google’s plan was legal.

Update (2022-09-26): Makena Kelly:

Google told Axios on Monday that it was launching a controversial new pilot program to keep campaign emails out of spam folders this week.