Now here’s a tale of woe that we probably shouldn’t find as amusing as we do. See, there’s this application called TextFree Unlimited that’s been doing quite well apparently,
Textfree Unlimited is a 4 star app that has stayed in the top 100 apps for 138 days now priced @$5.99. Pretty incredible.
Indeed. But in the savage bestiality of the App Store, OH NOES! that just makes you a target!
But something bad happened last week. I noticed that for our 4 star app, suddenly had 14 1 star ratings with terrible comments that were all marked ”most helpful” by tons of people. This all happened in a 24 hour period.
Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes you make a product error or launch an update that warrants bad reviews. In that case, read them all, listen closely, make changes to your app, and your users will be grateful. This is not what happened.
So what happened?
Last week at Pinger we had a competitor come in and trash our ratings.
Sounds a little paranoid you think? Well, check out the explanation:
Massive iTunes Account Creation
This unscrupulous competitor created 50-100 iTunes accounts. This is not hard to do, but it takes time. They did this so they could act like 100 different users.
They then created the 14 comments each with a different user account and gave our app a 1 star rating.
Here’s where the really powerful and potentially dangerous feature of the App store reviews comes into play. Apple gives users the ability to mark a comment “helpful”. Once this competitor with questionable morals, created the comments, they used the 50+ iTunes accounts and marked all the terrible comments they made “helpful”. This immediately raised them to the top of the heap.
Woah. Now that’s some first class conspiracy theory. On the one hand, I suppose the mechanics are plausible yes. On the other hand … does it really make any sense to go to the trouble of creating “50-100” iTunes accounts just to piss in the mouth of your competition? Especially since you’d have to actually buy a copy with each of those accounts before you were allowed to rate them … oh, no, wait, you can mark a comment helpful or not without buying. Hmmm. Well, that does make it less of an outlay.
OK, I suppose that if you’d set up a sock puppet network to pimp your own apps, which is a skanky but probably effective way to game the system, deploying it to scorch your competitors’ products is the logical next level. Of course, we would never stoop to something that sleazy and underhanded. Unless, you know, it actually works. Hmmmm, maybe there’s a metagame in here somewhere. “Review Wars! Trash our competition for fun and profit!” Heh. The inventiveness of the marketing mind never ceases to amaze, does it now?