‘Corrupt App Store Binaries Crashing on Launch’

Marco Arment talking about how his app was corrupted on Apple’s side of things:

Because 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.

Typically I am one of the first to install new updates, but because of the holiday I didn’t get around to updating Instapaper until yesterday. I had no problem by then, but as Marco notes this problem is widespread and in fact is an egregious error on Apple’s part.

Let’s think about this for a moment from a non-geek user perspective of updating an app to a crashing binary:

  • Favorite app Instapaper is updated.
  • You download update.
  • You launch Instapaper to see what is new.
  • The app crashes immediately.

Now, a few assumptions that I think are fair to make about these non-geek users:

  1. They don’t follow Marco or Instapaper on Twitter.
  2. They don’t/won’t think to go to the Instapaper blog to see things there.
  3. They probably Google for the answer, which probably just shows them more people complaining.

So here are likely next steps/thoughts they take:

  • Assume Marco is actually a hack and doesn’t know what the fuck he is doing when he is releasing an update.
  • Look in the App Store at the reviews, see that others are bitching about the app crashing. Thus assuming they are out money that they spent, get pissed and write a one star review confirming that they now know Marco to be a hack and Instapaper to be a garbage app.

Even if 1 in a 100 write a 1 star review it will tank an apps ratings — when the developer is not at fault, but Apple is.

Here’s Marco’s recourse:

  • Email Apple.
  • Complain on Twitter.
  • Complain on his blog.
  • Wait
  • Wait
  • Wait
  • Wait
  • Wait
  • Wait

Here’s what Apple is likely to do:

  • Quietly fix the problem.
  • Make no mention of the problem.
  • Do nothing to remove the bad reviews that they are at fault for.

Here’s what Apple should do:

  • Admit the problem to developers and hold all updates until it is resolved.
  • Apologize via form email to developers that were affected.
  • Send out an email to all App Store users that updated an app during this period, explaining it was an error in the store and that crashing apps should be deleted and reinstalled.
  • Delete all reviews left for that version number, good or bad.

I know it won’t happen though, and that is the problem. This is Apple’s Achilles heel and the thing that could bring this all crashing down. If you are a developer that wants to make money iOS is the place to be right now, but what if that changes? Would a developer that is constantly treated like shit from Apple really have the loyalty to not jump platforms if the opportunity presented itself?

And if all the great apps leave iOS then so too will the users. Apple needs to pull its head out of its ass on this one.

Originally posted for members on: July 5, 2012
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