AppGratis, the app-discovery app that Apple removed last week for closely mimicking the official App Store, started an online petition yesterday that encourages users to ask Apple to let it return.
Apple said it removed AppGratis for violating a clause in the iOS developer guidelines that prohibits apps from mimicking the official App Store.
But there’s a disconnect between AppGratis’s official statements about how it promotes apps and how it attracts developers for such promotion.
Specifically, AppGratis gives developers an estimate of where in Apple’s App Store rankings an App can land based on how much the developer is willing to pay, according to a document from the company’s pitch that a source in the developer community sent us.
For example, this document shows AppGratis estimates a $100,000 buy will land an app in the top five slot in the US version of the App Store.
Here’s a look at the document. It includes pricing and estimates for App Store rankings in a variety of countries:
Leaked DocumentThis clashes with the statement AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat gave TechCrunch yesterday. Emphasis added:
Mobile media buyers know exactly what # of installs they need to reach the top of any App Store in the world.
Since the App Store algorithm has been based on download velocity only for so long, advertisers know exactly what they are doing. Reaching the the top of any App Store is a simple and logical equation.
But we’re not in this business.
We’re in in the business of helping the end users discover new apps, and to serve this mission, we’re playing the long run. We’re building a community. We’ve never been in the business of gaming the top charts or anything. This is a very strong statement from us.
When reached, Dawlat gave a statement that largely echoes the one he gave TechCrunch. Dawlat compared AppGratis’s strategy to normal mobile ad buys through services like iAds.
“I believe the document you got shows install, ranking and CPI estimates for AppGratis on a per-country basis,” Dawlat wrote in an email, referring to the leaked document posted above. “Today mobile media buying is this simple equation where the biggest industry players will acquire a certain number of installs through guys like AppGratis, Facebook Mobile Ads, Apple’s iAd and all the other guys in order to reach their ranking objective –– whatever they are.”
But based on the document, it’s clear that AppGratis was using App Store rankings as bait to attract developers with deep pockets. Several developers told us last week that AppGratis attracts money this way, but we didn’t have proof until now.
Dawlat declined to comment any further when asked to expand on his statement.
So why is this a big deal?
As former OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter wrote in a guest post on AllThingsD last week, App Store rankings are very important to Apple and the company does its best to keep them as fair and democratic as possible.
Apps like AppGratis can artificially inflate rankings if developers pay enough to get promoted, something Apple works very hard to prevent.
It’s also likely one of the reasons why Apple is reportedly cracking down on apps like AppGratis, removing them from the App Store so they won’t continue to taint rankings.