One of the big stories yesterday was about the AppGratis app discovery and deals app being pulled from the App Store. As the story developed, there was confusion about what exactly caused Apple to yank the popular app (it has over 12 million users) -- was it something simple like instability and crashes that forced Apple's hand, or was Apple making a statement about apps that are violating certain guidelines? Today AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat published a long statement on the company blog telling his side of the story.
Dawlat started by relating how he first heard about the app being pulled when he got off of an airplane in São Paulo, Brazil and received notifications for "over 75 missed calls, and an seemingly infinite flow of unread text messages." Next, he reassured the millions of users of the app that even though the app is "momentarily unavailable," anyone who downloaded the app prior to last Friday will still receive continued information about free apps and "cool discounts."
Some speculation came out yesterday that the company may have used questionable tactics to grab more than 5 percent of the US iOS marketshare. Several developers I talked with about the AppGratis situation were critical of the company's business model, in which app developers pay for placement to drive up the rank of their apps. A Forbes article from February highlights this practice, where Dawlat himself describes how AppGratis moves developers up the charts and then grabs the app revenue for a set amount of time as payment. In other words, it's more of an advertising service than an app-recommendation service.
Dawlat's blog post then describes which clauses in the iOS Developer Guidelines were questioned by Apple. The latest version of the app was actually approved by Apple on April 4, 2013 -- the day before it was pulled from the App Store. As reported by AllThingsD yesterday, Clause 5.6 -- dealing with the use of push notifications to send advertising, promotions or direct marketing -- was to blame. Additionally, Clause 2.25 prohibits apps that display apps "other than your own" for purchase or promotion.
Dawlat found the push notification complaint to be somewhat foolish, saying that "...we only send one 'system notification' a day to our users, coming in the form of a generic, opt-in only 'Today's deal is here!' message." That practice is based on Apple's own recommendation on how to use the push notification service.
The AppGratis CEO recounted phone calls yesterday with Apple, noting that they "... basically couldn't go beyond repeating multiple times that our app had been pulled due to guideline 2.25 and 5.6." Dawlat finished his post by listing his email address and stating, "If someone in charge at Apple reads this and wants to discuss the matter more in-depth, I'm happy to jump over to Cupertino anytime to prove to you that we're on a mission for good." He also asks happy users of AppGratis -- both on the end-user side and developers -- to share his post.
The AppGratis situation has far-reaching implications for other app discovery apps, and this story is far from being at an end.