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Wonders of the iTunes Connect

Double standards of the industry-leading developer program

As some of you may know, from time to time I make Mac apps (and even try to make a living from it). Recently I've released a little free utility application called EOS Inspector. It is a simple tool for photographers who want to get a bit of service information about their Canon EOS cameras. The most interesting bits are a shutter actuations count, because this thing has a finite resource and unfortunately no camera is going to last forever (even so expensive things like EOS 5D mk III). If you are into photography you may notice how often do this question arise in conversations on forums and Q&A sites and how ugly the existing tools used to be. I decided to end this craziness with malware apps and released my solution completely for free on the Mac App Store.

As a maker I get my kicks✱ when people use my software. It has nothing to do with profits. I'm perfectly fine with people downloading my stuff for free as long as they find it useful, as long as it solves the issue for them. I make zero investments in promotion, but I frequently participate in discussions of my products on the Internets. I enjoy people's constructive comments, because it makes me think that the significant time I've invested in the development is not wasted.

On the Internets we have a right to do virtually anything: from fair conversations to malicious trolling. This is my natural environment and I am comfortable with it. But there is one place where you have no vote and there is nothing you can do to protect your reputation. This place is called [Mac] App Store.

Numerous developers have written blog posts in anger about how fucked up the Mac App Store is from the vendor's perspective and I am not going to make a general sort of a writing about this problem. I want to tell a little story about the concrete customer. One morning I went to the iTunes Connect to get a set of a fresh reviews and along with a couple of five-star ones I saw this:

This review is in Russian, so I made a translation for you:

It Doesn't Work. When I connect EOS 350D no info is shown.”.

I was really upset. First of all, it doesn't work for reason. In the description of the app it is clearly written, that there are technical limitations that prevent EOS Inspector from working with a set of an old and obsolete cameras like this guy's 350D. I have a dedicated support page where I do maintain a list of supported-and-proven-to-work cameras and a list of things that never ever will be supported. That guy doesn't spend his time reading descriptions. He prefers to complain in the place where no one is capable of writing a reply to him. He also seems to value the developers' time very low. That sucks. Have a problem with an app? Slap a one-star ★☆☆☆☆ review on it. Whatever. Gosh, this app is free! He didn’t spent a penny on it. Apps doesn’t come out from the thin air, they are result of a hard work. Remember it.

Fortunately, iTunes Connect has a special procedure called "Specific Removal Request". When you face the misleading or fraudulent review you can try to appeal it via the provided form in your developer account. Unfortunately, from my previous experience I can surely say, these complaints go strait to the trash bin. I've never got any kind of reply from there, thus the stupid erroneous reviews stayed in place. When a potential customer faces such «false positives», that chop down your app, he most probably will find an alternative. This way a couple of bad reviews (even among numerous good ones) can reduce your sales to level zero.

I wrote them the following:

«This review is unjust. The app clearly states which cameras are supported and which are not on its support page ( 350D is old and obsolete, there is no way for the app to support it. Please remove the misguiding one-star review, because it doesn’t reflect the overall quality of this application. Thank you!»

Having all this in mind I filled the form, attached the screenshot and sent my complaint to the Apple. What was my astonishment when a couple of hours later for the first time in my life I've received a confirmation that Mac App Store staff is going to remove the offending review! I've got a feeling that there is still a place for justice in this world.

Hello Konstantin Pavlikhin,

Thank you for your message regarding this customer review. After evaluating your request, it has been determined that this customer review meets the criteria for removal. Please allow up to 24 hours for this review to be removed from the App Store.

Best Regards, iTunes Customer Experience.

The next morning that guy wrote his review again. I can say with confidence that it was not just a database rollback because as far as I remember the second time the review was written a little bit differently. I was literally shocked and lost the faith in people. Listen man, do you have a job to do in your life or do you just sit in your bedroom droningly hitting a refresh button? I hate you.

At least I had a working solution to fight this injustice. in a couple of minutes I've recreated all those steps and requested the removal. This is what I've got from them:

Hello Konstantin Pavlikhin,

While we are constantly working to improve how our rating and review system works for apps and other content types on iTunes, our current review system allows customers who have purchased an app to freely discuss and rate the app as they wish. Please keep in mind, all reviews are tied to the specific version of the app.

In Apple's judgement, this customer review does not meet criteria for removal and will not be removed. Reviews that are offensive in nature or factually inaccurate may be eligible for removal from the App Store, however, this is not guaranteed.

Our practice in regard to the removal of customer reviews, for apps on the App Store, is subject to change at any time.

Best Regards, iTunes Customer Experience.

Double standards and inconsistency at their’s essence.

Now I just want to to use this place to say one thing:

✱ I've heard this idiom from the AC⚡️DC song, hope I use it right 😂.