Apple Removes 1000 Molinker iPhone Apps for Alleged Astroturfing of Fake Reviews

NightCam Pro1

Apple, on orders from Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller, has removed all 1000 Molinker-developed iPhone apps from the App Store for allegedly astroturfing the iTunes review system with fake 5-star reviews. Says iPhone camera and video site, iPhoneography, which reprinted an email from a friend named SCW, and jointly followed up with Apple:

Please investigate for I have just looked at 44 of the reviewers who posted reviews for this Molinker Inc app "NightCam Pro" & EVERY Review except 2 of the 44+ are ALL FAKE 5 ★★★★★ reviews. (on my iPhone I could view more reviews but on my computer only 35 were visible & of the 35 visible 34 ARE fake). If you investigate ALL have ONLY reviewed ONLY Molinker apps. A little odd that 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

Schiller's response:

"Yes, this developer's apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either."

So, was this one of the rare positive uses of Apple's rejection hammer? Any negatives that could come from it?

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in!]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 15 comments. Add yours.

UntidyGuy says:

That's almost 1% of the apps in the App Store!

chrstphr.ross says:

This is the kind of thing that department is supposed to be there for. If you look at it at an overall perspective, this is illegal. It's fraud to a certain degree, and Molink deserves what's happened.
I don't really see a negative to this because the honest developers can feel somewhat safe that they're not going to be out done by a company that can pay someone to write these fo-reviews...

The67beast says:

@ Chrstphr.ross... Think you meant faux reviews not fo...

anon says:

I'm sure there are thousands more to be removed. I bet many a pr firm do faux reviews too for $$$.

Dreadnutz says:

Fantastic News, Apple needed to make an example and they did. Now they need to also check out if companies are giving there competitors with similiar apps one star reviews to eliminate the competition.
Imagine what the App store will be like in 2 years if this stuff is not nipped in the bud.

flyingember says:

I can't imagine they're not developing, if they haven't, an advanced statistical analysis tool to find this kind of thing automatically.
At a minimum it would alert them to companies/apps to review further by hand.

fastlane says:

@ Schiller:

"Yes, this developer’s apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either."

So, what's next? Legal action... or just sending them to their room with their pile of money?

Benzo1200 says:

@ fastlane: No doubt...
This is why the stars should be ignored, and the reviewer comments should be read......You can tell if the reviewer has actually used the app enough to make an educated and thorough review. The whistle blower in this case seems to be a savvy consumer, from what I can gather. Read everything, believe nothing, and make your own informed decision while spending your money. Too many people in this world are too willing to automatically believe whatever they see, read, or hear. We can attribute most problems in society today to this.....I won't expound on that......
I'm a firm believer in educating yourself, and making your own decisions. They should get rid of the rating system and just allow reviewers to write their opinions.....
Not that that's a foolproof plan...... Of course they can hire people to write reviews, good or bad...... That's why we should read them all and make a decision based on that, taken with a teaspoon of salt.

Dreadnutz says:

Benzo
They really don't nerd to use the App, they can just find a detailed negative review put there by some person who found small problems then change up the wording and make it seem like that problem is a major issue for everyone who uses the software.
You can't really use your theory of not believing the reviews because then you spend $$ on stuff that may really be crap.

Kaiks says:

It really wouldn't be hard to have faux reviews put in the store, I suspect it is quite common.
I think a more detailed rating system to address certain aspects would enhance the user experience.
I wouldn't spend good money on an App without reading a number of detailed reviews unless I really trusted the developer. I do get sick of non-constructive reviews like "it's great, buy it!!" or "this sucks, save your money". Some context is always helpful as is some sort of explanation as to why one is giving the rating.
I don't have much sympathy for Molinker and hope this outcome will deter others from trying to pull such a stunt.

Chaing Wang says:

I to giving this article to 5 stars review.

MyQuestBe says:

It's also interesting how when a new app comes out, the initial ratings are very negative, and then they slowly improve. (Provided it is a decent app) The reason why? With over 100,000 apps, the competition to get noticed on the App Store is fierce, so when a new app appears, there are a handful of app developers with apps in the Top 100 of the corresponding category who rate the new app only 1 star and then hammer it with a negative review so as to suppress its sales and ascent in the rankings. Some app developers will do anything to keep their app in the more visible Top 100.

O says:

@MyQuestBe
you hit the nail on the head here
Most of the time there are no reviews with the 1 star ratings -- no feedback for improvement. Apparently this not the desire of someone deliberately trying to sandbag your app.

Maegan Demoranville says:

you have a nice blog, i enjoyed the article.

carlos says:

why is Moolinker back?????
They just changed the name to Feng and changed the icon name and app theme. All the content is exactly the same, why does Apple allow them back after what they did before???
http://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/feng/id354108897