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Solving for Dash

A week ago Dash was removed from the App Store, and its developer had their account suspended. Yesterday, Apple made a final statement. Following that, the developer also made a statement and posted a recording of a phone call with Apple's developer relations team. Those statements and that recording have been subject to a wide range of interpretations, but ultimately all that matters is this: They do not reconcile. Here's how I summed things up:

Apple firmly believes two accounts, linked together by common credit card, bank account, developer ID login, and bundle ID, committed ongoing review fraud on the App Store and, despite doing everything they could to settle the matter in a way that gave the developer every benefit of the doubt, they were stonewalled until they felt they had no other choice than to release a statement.The developers believes that, despite having set up the second account, he bears no responsibility for how that account was used, never heard from Apple before his primary account was suspended, went public with his frustration, was working on a blog post to get back on the App Store, and was then blindsided by Apple going public with a statement, and so released a second statement — and a recording of a conversation with Worldwide Developer Relations.

You'll be able to hear a deeper discussion on this between Michael Gartenberg, Serenity Caldwell, special guest James Thomson, and myself on the Apple Talk podcast (opens in new tab) very soon, but here's the consensus: Restore the developer account associated with Dash and put Dash back on the App Store. Leave the linked account banned. Monitor Dash going forward the way any other app has been monitored. And that's it.

Apple holds all the power here, and as such, the company holds every opportunity for grace. It's a company that, from the very top down, sincerely loves developers and doesn't want anyone to be disenfranchised. It sounds like Apple has been willing to go to extraordinary lengths to settle things, but for whatever reason, the company couldn't work it out with the developer.

At this point, though, it's time to forget working it out. Mistakes were clearly made on both sides, and there may be no way for the real truth to ever be known, or for everyone to win. But there's a way to stop anyone else from losing further: Fix it, unilaterally, because you're Apple, and you can.

Update: To clarify, the problem being solved for is ultimately the customers who spent money on Dash and can no longer download it. Even if you want to give the developer zero benefit of the doubt, the customers are very real collateral damage. An alternative solution: Restore Dash in a state where it can no longer be sold or updated but existing customers can keep downloading it for a reasonable period of time.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

41 Comments
  • "The developers believes that, despite having set up the second account (linked together by common credit card, bank account, developer ID login, and bundle ID), he bears no responsibility for how that account was used" Try using that logic in any formal, legal setting. Obviously he bears responsibility as to the use of the second account and I suspect that is all Apple wanted him to acknowledge. Had he any sense he would have immediately acknowledged his error in judgement, apologised for any problems caused (however unintentional) and sought to move forward. Denying all responsibility and pointing the finger at Apple was unprofessional, immature and irresponsible. Those leaping to his defence (let's forget it all, give him back his account, etc) could choose a better candidate to champion.
  • How's this for your "using that logic in any formal, legal setting" - there is absolutely NO PROOF that Apple would have that this guy knew about the activity going on with the linked account. And it is obvious from the phone call. Here in the USA, a person is innocent until proven guilty. That is a hefty burden for Apple and they know it. Either way, it doesn't look good for Apple bullying a lone developer despite one from Romania where fraud and deceit can often be the norm.
  • "Innocent until proven guilty" belongs in the realm of criminal law. In this instance, a legal setting would involve civil law where there's just the preponderance of evidence. He admits to using his credit card to set up the account, machines registered to him for testing, and a familial relationship to the alleged abuser. I can't see how any jury would rule in his behalf. It would defy logic.
  • Here in the USA, a person is innocent until the judge with or without the help of a jury decides they are not.The defendant needs to put on what's known as an active defense. So not defending yourself will leave you with a guilty judgement. His credit card and linked accounts. He needed to actively defend himself. He let Apple no choice imo.
  • No proof?
    In the recorded call, Apple said that the bank information for the two accounts was linked.
    Not just the credit card.
    That means the proceeds of the fraudulent apps were going into his account. Not to mention that the relative who needed his credit card for years to pay for the Developer Account somehow had the ability to buy 1000 fake reviews. What money did they use for that? His defenders are ignoring the Occam's Razor explanation here. Guy was doing some dodgy development and wanted it on a separate account to try and protect Dash should anything go wrong. He got sloppy and got busted. Apple trying to keep details as quiet as possible so as not to reveal their fraud detection techniques.
  • Sorry, but I'm going to have to give my two cents here; as a retired police officer it clear to me there is plenty of evidence here to make the reasonable conclusion that this developer was up to no good. What we have here is solid evidence that the two accounts are so closely linked that the reasonable assumption can be made they are held by the same person. Next we have one of these accounts being used for what is clearly fraudulent activity and I'm sure violates his developer agreement if nothing else. All we have from the developer is his word he did no wrong. Sorry, he might not be found guilty in criminal court, but this case is pretty strong and definitely would go ahead. Apple has a vested interest in protecting the App Store reputation, frankly I wish they were more aggressive in terminating developers who are gaming the system. In my opinion the good developers suffer when gamers are allowed to continue unchecked.
  • It does not matter whether he knew it or not. If I have a credit card and order a second card for my son, I'm responsible for the charges regardless of whether I knew he was going to buy iPhone 7s for him and his friends. I can't say that I had no idea and therefore I'm not responsible for the charges. This developer not only used his credit card, he gave the relative his test equipment. He could have had his account reinstated by just saying publicly exactly what happened. His anger needed to be directed at the relative he helped get an account.
  • I believe always having the benefit of the doubt. Why can't I use my credit card to purchase something for someone else? Does that make me guilty by association? One thing I see no one point out - why did Bogdan setup a second account? Perhaps it's difficult to transfer or sell apps to another party? I just transferred by AppStore account from one business entity to another, and it took a long time (3 months) with new agreements that need to be signed and sent.
  • That's really the whole argument summed up isn't it? I'm not sure why Rene wrote this article about it other than click-bait either. The very thing Rene is asking for as a 'solution' is the very thing that Apple originally offered the developer and is explicitly laid out on the taped recording that the developer so rudely released. He turned them down. The developer clearly has a giant ego problem. His argument is complete nonsense logically, morally (and legally as you point out). He turned down an offer of Apple fixing everything on the condition that he admit that they weren't particularly evil in doing what they did. He didn't even have to say that he was wrong, just that Apple wasn't either. All the problems that exist were created by him. All the solutions to these problems are being stymied by him. He is the problem. He's an egomaniacal iDi0t of the first order IMO.
  • > Apple firmly believes [...] despite doing everything they could to settle the matter in a way that gave the developer every benefit of the doubt, they were stonewalled until they felt they had no other choice than to release a statement. Why was this press release sent out *while the "blog negotiation" was ongoing*? I don't understand. Kapeli says in his update: > Just to make it clear, I have complied with Apple’s request and have sent a blog post draft approximately 30 minutes after this phone call ended. I have since not received any contact from Apple in any way, and they did not respond to my calls. Their recent statements come as a shock as I thought we were working together to resolve this issue.
  • "But there's a way to stop anyone else from losing further: Fix it, unilaterally, because you're Apple, and you can." As a consumer (as opposed to a developer), I am saddened that anyone thinks Apple should do anything more than they have already. A.
  • Why not let this moron developer serve as a lesson? He's at fault. Apple tracked hundreds of fraudulent reviews done by him...no matter what he claims. Personally, I don't "solve for customers who commit fraud."
  • So are we to believe it just because apple says so? Sent from the iMore App
  • It doesn't matter what you believe. It's their store, their rules, their process. This happens all the time in business. The only thing this moron dev did in airing this out is to let the public know he's a fraud.
  • What a completely idiotic statement! Sure, Apple can do what it wants with their App Store. They can ban one of your apps because they don't like the color of your hair. We all get that. But the fraudulent reviews were not likely done by him (no way for Apple to even have proof of this unless they somehow videotaped the guy which I doubt). It was the linked account responsible -- you should go read the details and listen to the recording again. Certainly, he is 100% responsible for any activities associated with these accounts, but your claims are baseless.
  • Why is Apple supposed to be this gracious agent in this mess? From what I have gathered they have been more than kind. Yes they support developers, all developers. Why would one get to skirt the rules and get reinstated while others might not especially after such a public tantrum by this developer? Harmless or not the intentions this situation can be harmful for other developers with shared accounts, to end users, to Apple. Sent from the iMore App
  • All we have is he said she said mantra. We all, not even iMore, have all the facts but yet insist that apple is correct and does no wrong. Apple isn't a be all end all saint. Sent from the iMore App
  • The guy is a crook and should never again be aloud in the App Store. That will send a clear message to any other developer.
  • I like how the developer decided to record his conversation with Apple and post it on the web. A classy guy.
  • No, that's smart business. Sent from the iMore App
  • Recording it is "smart business." Rudely publishing it to the web is not. Especially since it's this recording that makes it crystal clear that he is in the wrong and Apple is in the right. The man is both rude and a fool for doing it.
  • Somewhere lost in all the noise is the fact that the review system on the App Store is completely broken. I asked a friend of mine who works for a mid-sized app development company how they handle app reviews. The answer, unsurprisingly, is that they get every member of the company and all their family and friends to leave positive reviews for their apps every time they do an update. That's the only way to keep positive reviews visible after you do an app update because ... Apple. This is just plain common practice. I don't do this myself because I develop apps on my own and am disgusted by the way the reviews are handled by the App Store. Almost no regular users waste their time writing them and I don't feel like adding nagging dialog boxes to my apps to encourage them to do so. The whole thing is just toxic. Apple knows about this problem and developers have been complaining about it for the past nine years with no results. Apple keeps adding features we didn't ask for like paid promotion of our apps while not fixing or implementing the things we have asked for like better app categories and a working search engine.
  • "That's the only way to keep positive reviews visible after you do an app update because ... Apple." Updates don't always improve an app. Unforeseen problems can arise that destroy an app's performance. Having a new slew of ratings for the update helps me as a consumer decide whether I want to install the app, or whether I want to upgrade. And there is the option to see all reviews. Can't do that on the Google Play Store.
  • There may be the option to see all reviews, but the vast majority of potential customers will not use that option, and as the old star rating does not remain in affect until customers rate the new version, as I believe it should, new customers may just skip past your app in favour of one that was not updated. As a developer who cares both about his products and customers, and relies upon app sales for income, I can tell you that the knowledge that my existing great ratings and reviews will get wiped out when I update is a serious disincentive to updating frequently. It is also frustrating that many customers only tend to review when they have a bad experience, not when they have a good one. And that they will often do that without contacting the developer, so often do not realise that they have missed a feature, or or have some outside problem that is causing symptoms (such as: sending email to a group of people larger than their free email provider offers, then blaming a group email app when it isn't sent, even though they ignored warning messages the app showed them) And it also does not help that there is no way for the app developer to comment to correct this assumption in the store, or directly to the reviewer.
  • Didn't know there is no way for the dev to comment on ratings. That really should be addressed.
  • I have no sympathy for this unprofessional developer. It was this developer who took frustration public and tried to defame Apple. Apple, in defense, needs to make sure the public knows what the situation is. To record the conversation and then release it to the public is even a bigger offense. They deserve what they get.
  • Broke the rules. Why should they be given any sympathy?
  • Actually, in this case I don't believe that they did break the rules. According to the developer they simply helped a friend to set up a developer account (using his own credit card), and gave him one of their old devices.
  • Ahh yes, the tale of two accounts... There's the "real" account with Dash and nothing else. And then there's the account of the poor old developer friend (actually supposedly a female 'family member') whose developer account housed all the unrelated crapware.
    https://software.com/mac/utilities/moveaddict Who just happened to have said crapware plastered all over the kapeli.com website where Dash and the blog posts now reside:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20120409173750/http://kapeli.com/ And who just happened to have the same name as Bogdan everywhere they went, including putting out press releases...
    http://www.macworld.co.uk/opinion/apple/press-release-mac-os-x-finally-a...
    http://forums.macrumors.com/members/bogdansrc.446663/recent-content Or is there a magical *third* Kapeli developer account now? Seems odd that it wouldn't be mentioned by either Apple or the dev... They got caught and they should deal with it.
  • Where does your information on who the offending account belongs to come from? All you have done there is posted a link to another app from the same developer, and then shown that he uses the same name everywhere, so I am not sure what point you're trying to prove.
  • Apple were clear that there were two accounts. Kapeli's rebuttal is that, yes, there were two accounts -- his and a family member's that "he set up with a credit card". Not that he had two and a family member had a third. The "legitimate account" of Bogdan Popescu only had a single app in it -- Dash.
    https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:qoxummH4tkYJ:https... All of the other apps -- originally credited to the same Bogdan Popescu and on his website -- belonged to the other account...now apparently the work of Mihaela Popescu, which is where the "female family member" story comes in.
    https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:TO_CAdJUiEcJ:https... So again — if the "real" Bogdan wrote MoveAddict as everything circa 2012 says...but it magically ended up on this 'family member's account, the whole story about being uninvolved in its operation falls apart.
  • I think this and post and links above puts the case to rest. If nothing else he had to know since these crap apps were all over his website---- He could not have "not known" or at least be aware of what kind of junk the other account was spitting out.
  • The only thing Apple said was "1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps". They never identified what the other account was, what those apps were, what the reviews were, or when it all took place. Without any other information, those apps just look like the same kinds of embarrassing early apps that many of us have. Without the "fraudulent" label, no one would have gone into the internet archive to look for apps written six years ago by a university student and call them "crapware". Regardless of what happened in 2010, last week, pretty much everyone considered Dash and its developer to be great examples of what the Mac App Store could be. No one ever considered any of Dash's 5-star reviews to be fake. But today, in 2016, the Mac App Store is drowning in a sea of fraud and true crapware. Even if every allegation again Kapeli is true, kicking him out of the developer program doesn't help anyone. The problem is not the 1000 fraudulent 1-star reviews allegedly posted by Kapeli, but the many millions of perfectly legitimate 1-star reviews. Apple's actions serve to help drive away good developers, boost the bad developers who didn't get kicked out, and further degrade the quality of its app stores.
  • There is a very simple solution for this problem. Going forward Apple should email all linked developer accounts when a similar situation occurs. That way this developer would have been aware of the situation over a year previously, and could have taken steps to resolve it before his livelihood was threatened.
  • No idea on the reality here. I want a managed app store. As a generic user I need a managed app store. I can trust. But I also want Apple to have a human side. I know from experience that trying to deal with multiple apple accounts and multiple appleids in the same family is insanely crazy. I've had a developer account too. It's all the same. If there is a moral here, it is that apple needs to fix the whole applied and credit card thing.
  • It's not fair to the honest developers who are looking for Sincere reviews. Gaming the system hurts all developers and Apple did the right thing.
  • An enterprising reader on macrumors forums figured out the timeline on all of this stuff. Looks like Apple is correct and Kapeli should have just apologized. http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/apple-says-1-000-fraudulent-reviews-...
  • Disclaimer: I have Dash for iOS and Mac, I payed for them, and it was worth every cent. The apps are heavily integrated in my workflow. I just mark a word I want documentation on, hit Caps-Lock, and voila, the documentation shows up on my iPad. I do not think there should be done more in this case. The story Kapeli is cooking up, as well as not taking the olive branch provided by Apple, makes me think he just deserves it. It takes balls to admit someone did something wrong, guess he 'aint havin' a pair.
  • Re: "balls" ... I'm so tired of this kind of language on tech web sites. I find it funny (in a bad way) that iMore is one of the most heavily censored web sites on the net in regards language, yet they allow this kind of thing through the filter. If you are going to censor do it right. Fun fact extra: "Big balls" in men is actually more closely related to your underwear choices than any kind of "machismo." Men who wear non-supportive underwear (Boxers) will *always* end up with long dangly "big balls" before they are 45 or so. It's the same as any woman who refuses to wear a bra.
  • Grow some balls and stop whining about everything jfc
  • There should be other stores. Apple gets to ban, the user gets to decide.