The AppStore ratings scam. How the commitment of the app community kicked out developer


 
If you like photography and have an iPhone it is very likely that you have come across reviews from Glyn Evans at iphoneography. Glyn is a passionate blogger with special interest in the photography category. I recently red his post about a possible rating scam in the store and I wanted to bring the issue here. It was the blog reader SCW who noticed thatthere was something strange. I think every developer or marketing person working with the AppStore should be aware of this not to fall in the same trap. 
 
It all starts with prolific app developer Molinker. The Chinese company has released in the AppStore countless applications, mainly travel apps, public transport maps and photography apps. The company and has been around for a while and has even been featured in Apple Staff pics . 
 
Glyn explains in other posts that some of Molinker photography apps are very similar to other successful apps in the same category. They are not pure rip-offs, but they do share some functionalities and "look and feel". I haven't tested any of the apps myself and don't want to criticize this aspect because some look good from the screenshots. What is a shame is the promotion methods that Molinker has been using. 
 
In a letter addressed to Apple's VP of Marketing Phil Schiller, he shows his findings about Molinker reviews. I'm quoting directly for the source:
42 of 44 US reviews are poorly written & that all users have only written reviews for either All Molinker photography apps (giving 5 star reviews to 6-7 Molinker apps ONLY no other apps by any other developer) or the same 2 apps. 10 Reviewers who only reviewed NightCam Pro & ColorMagic (5 Stars), 24+ Reviewers have ONLY written reviews for 6-7 other Molinker photography apps (5 Stars) & 1-2 are real Reviews giving a 1 Star review & even a re-edited review by a user pointing out exactly what I am telling you (user formatt) is one of the two authentic reviews giving 1 star.
 
What I see here is an accusation supported by facts. Molinker apps have received reviews from users only interested in reviewing products from this company. It also mention that the style and use of English is similarly poor. 
 
It seems clear that someone distributed those 50 promocodes to reviewers that rated the app with five stars and only bothered to write one line. This has a huge impact in the ratings of these apps, but what is worst, it misleads potential customers. 
 
The result, what I think they deserve. Molinker is out of the AppStore. I have contacted the developer for comment and I'm waiting to see how they explain this. The AppStore has been proven to be a successful distribution model but it is still in nappies. Promocodes only work in the US store and you can use them to review apps. I have seen offers of developers exchanging codes for 5 star reviews in quite a public and blatant way. Other businesses offer to refund you the price of the app once you have posted a review. Is this the business environment we want?
 
Hopefully bad experiences like this will help Apple to improve their service, but on the other side, they got 30% of all these. What happens now with Molinker customers? Is someone going to refund or compensate them?