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iPhone app phones home to foil pirates


Like many iPhone developers, Ben Chatelain is frustrated to see cracked versions of his project, Full Screen Web Browser, showing up online. Following the usability suggestions of John Gruber, Ben has chosen to do something about it. The latest version of his app has detection capabilities for pirated instances, and reports the UUID of the device back to his server. After 10 days of running a cracked version, users are presented with a "trial over" dialog box and given the option to buy up to the legitimate version.

As antipiracy measures go, this is about as benign as you can get, and it's in good alignment with the stated 'we crack so we can try before buying' philosophy that the crack community espouses; the alternative approach from RipDev may block piracy altogether, but it also involves more work and more cost. There might be some legitimate purchasers who balk at any phone-home capabilitity that includes personally identifiable data, but Ben claims his implementation only pings back from cracked versions.

With the pingback code running, his preliminary stats show that about 10% of the users of his latest version are running unlicensed copies -- that's very low compared to some popular games, where whisper numbers estimate that more than half of all users never paid for the app. It's important to remember that pirated copies ≠ 'lost sales,' at least not at a 1:1 ratio, as most users of cracked copies would never have bought the app at retail. Ben's approach at least gives those users the opportunity to choose a legit copy over a cracked one.

[hat tip to Razorianfly]

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