The holiday season is the perfect excuse for discounts and giveaways. With new users unpacking their iOS devices and the festive spirit going around, this time of the year is always a time for free apps and freebies that we all love. You get initiatives like Appvent Calendar where you get not one but two gifts every day, but I'm not going to talk about its awesomeness because you already know about it.
Many developers also throw sales for their titles while others join forces with bundles under different themes. These are popular all year round, but there was one in particular that caught my eye since the moment I heard about it: MyBoxApp. I won't link to the page for the reasons explained below.
The project advertises itself as a Christmas giveaway where users can download for free one app every day for the next 12 days. In fact, they compare it to Apple's own "12 days of Christmas" in its description (If you're in the US, this is a series of iTunes gifts you can get in Europe during the holiday season). The only condition to obtain the free app of the day on MyBoxApp is to tweet a predefined message, similar to the tweetblasts used by the MacHeist bundles. Great reward, little effort and huge exposure for the initiative.
In a couple of hours, a simple Twitter search clearly showed this was gaining traction in the Spanish speaking Mac user community after the promotion was featured on a prominent Apple news blog. Up to this point everything looked normal. The big draw for the third day of the promotion was the fantastic Reeder app by Silvio Rizzi. This app normally retails for £6.99 / $9.99 and it has never been reduced its price before - let alone gone free.
Both iOS versions have also had consistent pricing over the years, demonstrating that refined apps with innovative elements that give them a feeling of a premium app can sustain themselves at a medium price point. As long as people pay to use them.
I was part of the original beta testing team for the app over two years ago and from the little contact I had with the Swiss developer; I got the impression that he isn't the type of person desperate to promote an app like that.
I guess I was a bit late to the party since the first negative reactions appeared as users drawn into the promotion noticed its fishy nature. As you might have realized already, Reeder hasn't changed its price to free on the Mac App Store in the last days, a normal practice in these free giveaways. No promotional codes were sent to participants to redeem the reward on the AppStore and no serial numbers were emailed. Weird. The delivery method chosen was MegaUpload. Yes, MegaUpload. That's when you know there's something terribly wrong with MyBoxApp.
Simply out of curiosity I carried some simple research on the people organising this initiative. It turns out the whole 12 days giveaway is a promotional tool to launch "a private social network for people to share apps". Any app lover or anyone liking deals would love to be part of such a community, but the increasing amount of negative comments about it shows a clear divide. Those who want the free premium apps no-matter- what and those who see in it a clear case of piracy and decide to expose it.
Some of the comments on the original post on Applesfera - which was taken down hours later and reposted without any update - explain that the free downloads come with a crack and serial number. Not surprising that the Reeder version given isn't even the current one. Without jumping to conclusions, it's evident that these are pirated copies and that the developer never granted permission to be part of MyBoxApp.
I have emailed Silvio Rizzi but had no response yet and I believe that a number of vocal developers have done the same and exposed this on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, the MyBoxApp site is down for maintenance. Apparently the person who registered the domain says to have done so "for a client" and won't give a public answer to the controversy.
One day after the tweetbast went wrong, the amount of tweets using the hashtag #MyBA has reduced to complaints or rants about the reliability of the service. Other people just keep retweeting hoping to get a free app. I've gone from shocked to being extremely disappointed about the whole issue. From my point of view, I always saw the Mac community as a group of people that liked to do things different: this also involved supporting third party developers producing great products. Reeder is one of them.
Right now we're on a stand by waiting for someone to explain what MyBoxApp is all about. Notice how the news broke on the 28th, which happens to be the equivalent of April Fool's day in Spain, the home of this initiative. How can this be a prank?