updated 10:00 pm EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
Favored paying 'partners,' used push notifications for promotion
Apple has removed the app-discovery program AppGratis from the iOS App Store, saying in a statement that the company behind the app violated two developer rules, one of which was only recently added. Originally thought to have gotten in trouble for breaking a rule that said that apps that promote other apps "in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected," Apple later clarified that AppGratis was promoting apps whose developers had paid for them to do so, and were also abusing push notification rules.
Specifically, AppGratis was promoting paid apps by offering one for free each day -- but was accepting fees to recommend specific products, a violation of clause 2.25 in the guidelines. App-discovery programs that rely on advertising for their revenue model are apparently okay, but promoting paid recommendations over unpaid ones is apparently contradictory to Apple's intent.
A source told AllThingsD that Apple sees the App Store as being "intended as a meritocracy," meaning the quality of the app (rather than whether they've paid a fee) should be the only consideration for promotion -- as it is with the App Store (and iTunes generally) itself. Apple is reportedly reviewing other app-discovery programs to see if they also violate the rule.
AppGratis was also cited for breaking a rule about using push notifications to engage in direct marketing. Clause 5.6 of the guidelines say push notifications cannot be used to send advertising or promotions of any kind. Enforcement of that latter rule may also affect other apps such as Groupon, which uses its push notification (when given permission to do so) to alert users of its latest deals, which businesses pay Groupon to promote.