Does Apple’s App Store Have A Spam Problem?
Controversies have always dogged the Apple App Store. Critics have frequently cried foul over Apple's iron-hand approach in approving iPhone apps. However, Apple has always defended its actions claiming that the approach was much needed to keep the App Store clean. A case in point is the recent mass purging of iPhone apps with sexual content. Steve Jobs had defended the company's actions saying:
"You know, there’s a porn store for Android. You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go – so we’re not going to go there."
Despite Apple's efforts to keep the App Store clean, it may not have entirely succeeded according to Marco Arment, the developer behind the popular Instapaper app. According to him the App Store is littered with several apps that he says indulge in spammy tactics. He points out to a search for "Angry Birds" (iTunes link) on the App Store to elaborate his point. Angry Birds is a popular iPhone game from Clickgamer. Arment says that a search for this game returns several results that not only violate the trademark of the original Clickgamer app, but also trick the buyers into believing that they are purchasing a genuine application.
Arment points out to developers like InTekOne, ESCAPP and Ben Cousins who have released many "cheats", "guide" and "trivia" related apps that exploit the trademarks of the popular iPhone game and end up confusing buyers. He also notes that many of these developers are keyword spammers who make use of trademarked app names in their application description in order get listed in the results for searches on popular apps. Arment points out that a search query for "Angry Birds" also lists iPhone applications like "My Best Friend" that are not related to the search query in any way and are hence likely to have employed keyword spamming tactics.
Arment concedes that a clean up operation to fix the issue may not be easy. He writes:
"Apple’s reviewers are in a difficult position: any large-scale developer bans in the App Store are likely to attract negative press, so they’re probably reluctant to do any. But when so many obviously spammy and trademark-infringing apps are getting through, it makes every trivial rejection by real developers even more frustrating."
If you look at the screenshot above, the first two iPhone apps in the search results is Angry Birds and Angry Birds Lite, which are developed by Clickgamer.com, so in our opinion the App Store search engine is doing its job.
If developers are concerned about the other apps showing up in the search results with similar names (though cheats, guides etc clearly describe the purpose of the iPhone app) then in our opinion the onus for preserving the integrity of trademarks lie solely with the app developers.
Is the App Store spam really a problem? Should Apple do something to fix it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.