July 9, 2012

Apple Blames Digital Rights Management For ‘Dirty Apps’

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Something strange happened to Marco Arment after an update to his popular iOS app was pushed through the app store. He began getting email and messages on Twitter, complaining that the new update had been corrupted. When a user tried to open Arment´s popular iOS app, Instapaper, the app would crash immediately. Arment began to investigate the problem, checking everything on his end and testing the binaries he had sent to Apple. Within an hour, Arment had discovered Apple had been sending out corrupted files as updates, causing the apps to crash.

“I emailed App Review less than an hour after the update went live and yelled about it on Twitter. About two hours after the update went live, a correct, functional version of it started being distributed on reinstalls. As far as I know, the problem hasn´t recurred since then,” Arment wrote on his blog.

Late last week, Apple announced they had found the glitch responsible for causing these apps to crash upon launch and have resolved the issue. As it turns out, that pesky DRM may have been the cause for all the mayhem.

In a statement to All Things D, Apple said of the bug, “We had a temporary issue that began yesterday with a server that generated DRM code for some apps being downloaded.

Both Apple and Arment noted that only a small amount of users in certain areas had been affected by these glitches.

“The issue has been rectified and we don´t expect it to occur again.”

When this issue first arose, both Arment and the developers of popular iPad app GoodReader noted that the apps seemed to clear themselves up after a couple of hours. As such, any user who downloaded a dirty update could delete the app from their device and download it again later in the day. Apple has now said all apps are clean and available for update.

Though the issue seemed to work itself out after a couple hours, it didn´t stop many users from taking to the oft-debated Review section of the App Store to chide Arment and other developers.

““¦if this happens to you, all of your most active users, the people who will install updates within hours of them becoming available, will be stopped in their tracks. They´ll think you´re careless, incompetent, and sloppy for issuing a release that doesn´t work. And they´ll leave you a lot of angry 1-star reviews,” said Arment.

Though the review system can be helpful in making a decision to purchase an app, too many poor reviews, especially one star reviews, can hurt developers. Given that most who review apps either leave glowing, 5-star reviews or scathing, 1-star critiques, the gap remains pretty wide.

To address these issues, Apple later announced they would not only remove any negative, 1-star reviews from the App Store, (one particular example in the Instapaper reviews calls the app a “Useless icon) they´ll also be removing any review left during an app's downtime.

Apple has already taken these measures, as the current review section for Instapaper´s latest upgrade is empty.

Now´s the time to leave an angry missive, if you so desire.