Molinker was accused of masterminding fake five-star reviews of its products, likely by offering free apps for five-star reviews. Whatever the case, at least one of Molinker's apps, ColorMagic, made it to Staff Favorites on the iTunes App Store.
The developer and all its more than 1,000 applications are now gone from the store, as if it never existed. While some Web sites are crowing about the might of Apple and how it won't tolerate "cheaters," other are wondering how those customers who bought the apps are now just out of luck.
Wired suggests that it's precisely because there's no try-before-you-buy that consumers buy crappy applications based on (in this case, fake) reviews.
I found it odd that the App Store doesn't offer an hour or two trial period like many gaming Web sites -- sites where a customer goes and downloads a game for a trial which expires in a few hours. If they like the game and would like to continue they purchase it. No such trial exists for iPhone users and purchases are based almost entirely on digital word-of-mouth.
Moniker's gaming of the system could be seen as "cheating," but really, how can you blame a company for doing something like this when it's the only way they can differentiate themselves from another developer?
Apple could change its format by creating a trial system or switching to objective reviewing by freelancers or staff (although I think several of us probably think there really is no staff, even for Staff Favorites. This could also be a huge conflict of interest for Apple, too.) Until Apple creates a policy other than caveat emptor, consumers will have little or no advocacy in its App Store.