Grooveshark Deletion Begs the Question: Is Android Turning Into Its Father?

Business  insider- Eliot Van Buskirk, Evolver.fm

Google sparked controversy earlier this month by deleting Grooveshark’s on-demand music app from the Android Market at the behest of the RIAA. In doing so, the company followed in the footsteps of Apple, which yanked the Grooveshark app from iTunes last August. The main draw of the open-source Android operating system, to some — that it is not centralized, policed, and editorialized, the way iTunes is — could be disappearing as Android matures.

The timing of the Grooveshark app’s removal does seem a bit odd, occurring as it did just after images of Google’s own Android app leaked to the public. Google is in widely-reported negotiations with record labels to license its upcoming cloud-based music locker and music subscription service. Grooveshark claims those negotiations, the leak, and Android’s maturation as an app platform contributed to in its decision to oust the app.

“I see [Google] becoming a more pragmatic company, in letting go of things that used to be considered their ideals,” Grooveshark head of business development Paul Geller told Evolver.fm. “I think that comes with growth. They simply can’t manage an ecosystem like Android without having a central distribution point. And once you have that, you fall prey to the same thing that Apple fell prey to, which is that they want to start curating their apps and giving ones that are less threatening to their business model more attention… I would point to the coincidental leaking of their Android music app the same day the story about us broke.”

In response to the deletion, Geller wrote a widely-read open letter to the industry this week and Grooveshark posted the app on its own web page from which Android users can install it without visiting the Android Market. Doing the same for iPhone requires jailbreaking the phone first, so Android is still a freer spirit than Apple iOS in that regard.

However, for many users, if an Android app doesn’t exist in the official Android Market, it doesn’t exist — just like with iTunes — as evidenced by comments about other deleted music apps on third-party Android app stores. Grooveshark was not alone; Google has removed a slew of other popular music downloading applications within the past few months, sometimes more than once, after developers apparently resubmitted them under different names. Here’s a partial list, truncated to save space:

  • MP3 Music Box
  • Music Junk
  • Music Online Lite
  • GTunes Music
  • MP3 Music Search and Download
  • Music Wizard
  • Music Downloader Pro
  • Music Box Classic
  • Mp3 Music Searcher
  • Top Female Aritist [sic] Downloader
  • Free MP3 Downloader & Player

Those appear to have been hastily-assembled search-and-download tools from small, unestablished developers (witness the word “Aritist” in one of the titles). But Grooveshark has forged deals with a long list of labels, and claims to be completely legal, by adhering to so-called safe harbor rules laid down by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allow search engines to link to online material if they remove links when asked to do so by copyright holders.

Google itself relies rather heavily on the DMCA. Its most lucrative division is still its search engine, which relies on the law in order to provide search results without being sued for indexing infringing material. Meanwhile, Google’s popular YouTube property allows users to post videos without permission, so long as YouTube removes them when asked, also under the DMCA.

Clearly, Grooveshark, which allows users to upload unlicensed tracks into its system and other users to play them back, plays faster and looser with copyright than, say, iTunes, which lists no unlicensed tracks. Nonetheless, Grooveshark wishes Google would be more specific about why it deleted the app other than alluding to the RIAA’s letter, claiming the lack of such an explanation is very un-Google.

“We would really like some clarity,” said Geller. “If there was actually a problem with the app, we could fix that and get it back in the marketplace. But the fact that they’ve stayed silent on this really just leads us down a strange path with Google — a path that is not really part of their stance, normally… They said they received a complaint from the RIAA, and they didn’t identify what that complaint was, and didn’t say what portion of that complaint would have violated their terms of service.”

For this, Grooveshark blames Google.

“People love to hate the RIAA, and the reality is that that is not the fight we’re looking for,” he added. “We look up to Google here. Google has inspired a lot of companies in our generation, and we think of Google as the people who are supposed to be protecting these things, defending the ideas that are encompassed in notions like ‘safe harbor.’”

Perhaps Google’s decision was just part of the Android Market’s maturation as an app store, and sure, Google’s parallel negotiations with record labels for its cloud music service could have played a part. Businesses are allowed to make business decisions, after all. Still, a curated Android Market that increasingly plays by the same rules as iTunes, the father of the app store as we know it today, could clear the way for another, more open mobile platform to take both of them by surprise, should users grumble about the level of curation now taking place in both major app stores.

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Apple bans App Store’s 3rd-most prolific developer

by Gagan Biyani on August 3, 2009

spam Over the past few weeks, Apple has been much-maligned for keeping apps such as Google Voice off the App Store. These weren’t some random garbage apps; there was no farting, or baby shaking. Google Voice apps are utilities which many have come to rely on, and thus many (including TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington) are none too happy with Apple’s blockade. But what if Apple deleted a completely useless app from the store? What about 900 useless apps – all from one developer? Apple has decided to test those waters: it has revoked the developer’s license of one of the App Store’s most prolific developers, Khalid Shaikh, founder of Perfect Acumen.

 

Khalid Shaikh has been making a killing off the App Store through questionable means. In less than 9 months, Khalid Shaikh and his 26-employee team (most of which are in Pakistan) have published 943 applications (thank you TapMetrics for validating these numbers). That’s roughly 5 apps a day, every day, for 250 days. All of these apps have gone through the entire Apple review process, sometimes taking as long as six weeks to get reviewed, and have been published on the App Store. Users have bought these apps in droves; Khalid has refused to give official numbers but we gather from his comments that it’s a few thousand dollars in sales per day. This business was making solid money until last Friday, July 24, when Khalid Shaikh was officially banned from the store. Without advance notice or forewarning of such an action, Apple revoked Khalid’s developer license and asked him to remove all of his apps from the store.

Whoa. Wait a second. Over the course of 9 months, Apple has accepted 900 applications submitted by Khalid Shaikh and his team of developers. Then, realizing their mistake months later, Apple tells Khalid he has to delete all of his apps? I’m not going to say that Khalid’s apps aren’t useless (more on that later), nor would I argue that they are providing any value to the App Store (they aren’t). Yet, there are obviously some major inconsistencies when Apple lets hundreds of applications through the App Store, all from one developer, and then suddenly revokes the developer’s license to do business altogether. Apple’s e-mail to Khalid, which is attached to the end of this article, cites copyright infringement and other intellectual property infringement on behalf of Khalid. It is a near-certainty that Khalid publishes material for which he does not have the rights: most of his apps simply re-package online content into an iPhone app on a specific subject. Yet, the fact still remains: Apple has accepted hundreds of these apps into the store; it is a bit misleading to allow these apps to come through and then turn around and cancel the license of the developer who made those apps.

Apple claims that it has asked Khalid about more than 100 of his applications and that it “continue[s] to receive the same or similar types of complaints regarding [his] Applications despite [Apple's] repeated notices to [Khalid Shaikh].” Clearly, Apple does not want to (nor should it have to) expend its resources trying to determine the legality of all of the applications on the store. Still, the fact that Apple continues to play mediator and reject applications on the basis of violating copyright infringement is a signal to developers that it is going to play watchdog on their apps. So even if there is nothing wrong with Apple discontinuing Khalid Shaikh’s developers license, this further highlights the inconsistencies of Apple’s review process.

As we mentioned, Khalid’s apps were of questionable value and quality. He has told us over the phone that he is not concerned about creating particularly valuable apps. Instead, he says, he’s going for “less product value” and “more monetization.” So, instead of developing one or two apps and charging $0.99, Khalid prefers to create hundreds of apps and charge $4.99. The vast majority of his apps simply provide topic-specific news on a given subject. Apps such as “US Army News” and “Skin Care Updates” cost $5, and aggregate articles from various internet sources. He has mastered SEO on the App Store, and uses the App Store’s search as a way to target users (or victims, depending on how you look at it). Many have questioned the value of the apps he produces, and there’s a small contingent of developers who are absolutely furious about his business. Rightfully so, it seems: a review of an app titled “WWE Updates” reveals that the user isn’t just getting updates of World Wrestling Entertainment; he’s also getting breaking news about Michael Jackson. Khalid says that he tests every app he submits to the store, but I can’t imagine that even a team of developers can submit 5 apps a day and sufficiently test each one.

Unfortunately, because all of his apps are off the App Store, you or I cannot see any of them on iTunes. Fortunately, there are websites that keep data from the App Store: a quick search on App Shopper shows a list of 854 of his applications. They include “Top Sexy Ladies: Audrina Patridge,” which (from what we gather; again, we cannot test these apps because they are not up anymore) is an app that takes 5 pictures of The Hills star from online and puts them on your phone. Yes, it costs $4.99. There are hundreds of others like this, including Top Sexy Men apps and various news update apps (ETFs Updates, iSoaperStarsUpdates, and Economical Crisis Updates). And Khalid Shaikh is not the only one littering the App Store. Brighthouse Labs has released over 2,000 apps on the store: each one for $0.99. They, too, seem to be quite successful (we’ve used number of ratings on some of their apps as a benchmark for sales), and are using similar tactics as Khalid Shaikh.

Both Khalid Shaikh and Brighthouse Labs seem to be running a pretty sketchy business. I simply can’t find a website for Brighthouse Labs. And if you search Khalid Shaikh’s name on Google, it is unlikely that you’ll figure out which result is his company, Perfect Acumen. That’s because it doesn’t mention anywhere on his website that the iPhone apps made by “Khalid Shaikh” are in fact related to Perfect Acumen. Furthermore, the website claims that Perfect Acumen has Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Motorola, Intel and HP as clients. When I asked him about it, he said that “the website isn’t focused on the iPhone company. Those are companies we’ve done services with in the past, but it has nothing to do with the current iPhone company.” That’s all well and good; however, he’s got 26 engineers and all of his apps are supposed to be made by Perfect Acumen, yet his website doesn’t reflect the same company. The problem here is not that Khalid Shaikh doesn’t have a proper website. It’s that when you put out 900+ applications, many of which have bugs, then it should be easy for a user to e-mail you and ask for support on your apps. To top it off, when you e-mail the only contact information on the site, you get an auto-generated e-mail from Perfect Acumen HR about a job at their New Delhi, India, office (see the full e-mail below).

This story highlights dozens of problems with the App Store review process and developing for the App Store. Clearly, Apple doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. It inconsistently applies its rules and regulations: allowing companies such as Brighthouse Labs (which has the most apps on the App Store) to grow to 2,000 applications that seem to have similar copyright issues as Khalid Shaikh’s 900 apps. Not to mention the fact that it at first accepted Khalid Shaikh’s 900 apps, and then later pulled them all from the store. In addition, it is clear that developers that spam the store with hundreds of apps can win, much to the chagrin of those who toil for months just to get one app out. Finally, there is also an incomplete customer feedback system; developers can put out hundreds of applications on Apple’s store, and yet never have to have a website or an e-mail address for customers to use to troubleshoot.

Now, we open these issues up to you, oh wonderful commenters: what do you think about Khalid Shaikh? About the Apple Review process? About the various developers who spam the App Store?

Apple’s e-mail to Khalid:

From:
Date: Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 4:45 PM
Subject: Notice of Termination
To: XXXXXXXXX@gmail.com

Please include the line below in follow-up emails for this request.
Follow-up: 79376777

July 24, 2009

Khalid Shaikh
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXX, California 9XXXX

Dear Mr. Shaikh:

This letter serves as notice of termination of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement (the “iDP Agreement”) and the Registered iPhone Developer Agreement (the “Registered Developer Agreement”) between you and Apple, effective immediately.

Pursuant to Section 3.2(d) of the iDP Agreement, you agreed that “to the best of Your knowledge and belief, Your Application and Licensed Application Information do not and will not violate, misappropriate, or infringe any Apple or third party copyrights, trademarks, rights of privacy and publicity, trade secrets, patents, or other proprietary or legal rights (e.g. musical composition or performance rights, video rights, photography or image rights, logo rights, third party data rights, etc. for content and materials that may be included in Your Application).” Apple has informed you of numerous third party intellectual property complaints concerning over 100 of your Applications and reminded you of your obligations to obtain the necessary rights prior to submission of your Applications. Nevertheless, we continue to receive the same or similar types of complaints regarding your Applications despite our repeated notices to you. The persistent nature of such complaints has led us to conclude that you are entering into the representations and warranties in the iDP Agreement in bad faith by misrepresenting that you have all the necessary rights for your submissions.

As required by Section 12.3 of the iDP Agreement and Section 8 of the Registered Developer Agreement, please erase and destroy all copies, full or partial, of the Apple Software and any information pertaining to the services and all copies of Apple Confidential Information in your and your Authorized Developers’ possession or control. After you have completed those steps, please provide certification of that destruction to Apple, as provided in Section 12.3 and Section 8. Finally, please note your additional obligations on termination as set forth in those same sections. This letter is not intended as a complete statement of fact with respect to the subject matter hereof, and nothing in this letter should be construed as a waiver of any rights or remedies Apple may have in connection with this matter, all of which are expressly reserved.

Sincerely,

Worldwide Developer Relations (WWDR)
Apple Inc.

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300,000 Apple apps? Not so fast!

October 17, 2010 7:40 AM

 

The iOS App Store is large and dynamic market place, and measuring its size can be tricky

Source: 148apps.biz

On Sept. 1, Steve Jobs announced that there were more than 250,000 apps to choose from in Apple’s (AAPL) App Store.

On Saturday, two websites — VentureBeat and MacNN, it’s not clear which was first — reported that the count had crossed the 300,000 mark.

Fifty thousand new apps in the space of six weeks? That would be unprecedented — if it were true.

It turns out, VentureBeat and MacNN have made a rookie mistake. They’re using a number from Mobclix, an ad exchange network that knows on which apps its ads have appeared, but not whether those apps are still available for download.

 

A better way to count iOS apps is to write a program that runs through the App Store looking at all the titles and comparing that list to the titles that were there the day before. That way you know which apps are still live and which, for whatever reason, have been pulled from the store.

That’s the method used by 148apps.biz and AppShopper.com, our two favorite app trackers. Even their numbers aren’t perfect. For one thing, neither has found an efficient way to count apps that are available in Apple’s overseas App Stores but not in the U.S.

According to 148apps and AppShopper, the number of iOS apps available for download in the U.S. as of Sunday morning was just shy of 280,000. The breakdown:

U.S. App Store 148apps AppShopper
Total apps approved 334,199 335,257
Total inactive apps 55,508 55,282
Total active apps 278,691 279,975

. . .

Google’s (GOOG) Android Market Place, the App Store’s nearest competitor, is catching up fast. As of Sunday morning, 113,123 apps had appeared in the Market, according to AndroLib.com. It’s not clear how many of them are still active, however. As reader Mark in Boston points out, Google mentioned in its earnings report last week that there were 90,000 Android apps in the Market Place.

See also:

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Pulitzer Prize winning satirist can’t get into App Store

UPDATE: According to the WSJ, Apple has contacted Fiore:

Apple called the cartoonist Thursday and suggested that he resubmit the app, Mr. Fiore said in an interview. “I feel kind of guilty,” he said. “I’m getting preferential treatment because I got the Pulitzer.”

Preferential perhaps but not uncommon. Several controversial app rejections have been reconsidered when publicity brought them to the attention of higher-ups at Apple. Unfortunately, the “review team rejects, executive team reconsiders” is not a scalable or likely desirable strategy for Apple.

ORIGINAL: Mark Fiore, the first online journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize (for editorial cartooning), has had his iPhone app, NewsToons rejected from the App Store because it violates Apple’s policy against “ridiculing public figures”.

This follows similar rejections of Bobble Rep, which contained political caricatures by Tom Richmond, and MSNBC.com Cartoons by Daryl Cage. Both of those apps eventually made it into the App Store, and it’s possible NewsToons will as well (though Fiore isn’t going to bother fighting on its behalf), but the situation highlights another problem with the highly regulated store model.

There will always be cases where legitimate artistic and/or social expression gets caught up in policies designed to exclude extreme, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate content for the general audience. Just as all nudity isn’t porn (or isn’t intended to titillate), political satire isn’t the same as political attack or public ridicule for partisan purposes.

And just like rejection can have a chilling effect on developers, it can have a chilling effect on the press that holds their editorial freedom near-sacred.

We’ve seen signs of Apple considering an Explicit category for the “sexy apps” removed from the App Store earlier in the year. A satire category sounds less wieldy, however and points out once again the types of problems Apple will have with both content creators and simple scale as the App Store continues to race towards 200,000 apps.

[via Niemanlab, thanks for the tip Fassy!]

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Rejected! 10 iPhone Apps That Didn't Make Apple's App Store

A ‘throw shoes at Bush’ app, a breast-jiggler, a naughty entry from the South Park guys–these are some of the iPhone apps for which Apple unceremoniously denied shelf space.

By JR Raphael, PCWorld Feb 22, 2009 9:00 pm

Apple has irked more than a few iPhone app developers by rejecting their creations for inclusion in the App Store, sometimes for reasons that seem to have little sense. The company won’t reveal much about its mysterious and often seemingly-arbitrary process (representatives didn’t respond to multiple requests to comment on this story), but we had no problem tracking down developers whose apps had been snubbed.

So cue the 2 Live Crew, smart-phone fanatics: We’re delving into 10 iPhone apps banned in the U.S.A. and beyond.

1. Obama Trampoline

Swamiware’s Obama Trampoline game, rejected by Apple this month, lets you place one of 18 politicians onto a giant trampoline, then use his or her body to pop balloons floating across the screen. Barack Obama, John McCain, and other politicians from both parties were among the character choices.

“It’s cartoony,” says Swamiware President and CEO Patrick Alphonso, hoping to deflate any implications of disrespect. “It’s a game.”

Apple, of course, didn’t see the fun, and the game didn’t get in. Swamiware is now working on retooling Trampoline for another try, but the guesswork is leaving its team less than elated.

“We spent a lot of time and money on this product,” Alphonso says. “It sucks to develop an app and get it rejected for reasons that you weren’t aware of.”
2. MyShoe

The journalist who chucked his shoe at President George W. Bush missed his mark, and so too did an iPhone game based on the now-infamous incident. MyShoe, conceived by a Pakistan-based programmer, turned the iPhone’s accelerometer into an apparatus for imaginary footwear-flinging.

The developer has been quoted as saying the game also let you take aim at Bin Laden and other public figures. Even so, it appears that Apple wanted to dodge the controversy, with its reviewers citing the App Store’s rule against “ridiculing public figures” and flinging this idea right into the trash.

3. I Am Poor

You probably remember the ill-fated (and, most would say, ill-inspired) I Am Rich application. The $1000 function-free program–all it did was place a silly, shiny icon on your screen–got snubbed out just days after its debut. Grabbing less attention, though, was the far more affordable alternative, I Am Poor.

“It was the poor man’s I Am Rich,” explains developer Hardy Macia of Catamount Software, perhaps better known for its Prohibition 2: The Dope Wars game, also rejected by the App Store.

Priced at 99 cents, I Am Poor placed images of ramen noodles, tuna, and mac-and-cheese onto your humble home screen. Apple, however, didn’t find the idea appetizing and slapped a “no user functionality” stamp on it.

“Their policies and approval are shrouded in mystery,” Macia says. “Whenever an app is submitted, it seems like playing Russian roulette.”

4. The South Park App

If anyone’s accustomed to battling censorship, it’s “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The same guys who made The Guinness Book of World Records for squeezing 399 cuss words into a single movie have just given up their fight to get into the App Store.

“After a couple of attempts to get the application approved, we are sad to say that our app has been rejected,” the duo explains. “According to Apple, the content was ‘potentially offensive.’” The app would have allowed iPhone users to access episode clips, read South Park news, and grab wallpaper and other South Park-related downloadables. Some of this content, we gather, contains some R-rated words or concepts. But then again so do the South Park episodes Apple already sells in its iTunes store.

One glimmer of hope for anyone waiting on a mobile Mr. Hankey: Parker and Stone say that Apple told them its standards could “evolve” over time. Hey, maybe by the year 2014, images acceptable on cable television will be allowed on mobile devices, too. Maybe.

5. Pull My Finger

Another app found to be full of hot air was Air-O-Matic‘s Pull My Finger–you know, the adolescent-aimed emulator of flatulent tones. (That’s the technical description, anyway). When Apple first caught wind of the concept, it said no thanks. Right away, the app’s originators sensed something didn’t smell right.

“Their reasons for banning us really didn’t add up,” says developer Sam Magdalein.

Apple initially said Pull My Finger had “limited utility,” Magdalein remembers, then went on to explain that it might offend some of the iPhone’s more sophisticated overseas shoppers.

“After that, they pretty much stopped talking to us or returning e-mail and voicemail,” Magdalein recalls.

A month later, Apple reconsidered. A rep told Magdalein inspectors had been caught off-guard with this “genre” of apps and had needed to carefully consider which submissions should be approved. Pull My Finger was in, then, and it didn’t take long for the app to propel its way into the store’s list of bestselling items.

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