The Dark Side of App Development that Individual Developers Absolutely Need to Know ~ Don’t Lose to Fraud ~


I am a developer who registered as an AndroidDeveloper last December. This time, I had an event that made me feel that "developing apps as an individual is not realistic, and most developers will be crushed by fraud. I would like to share my personal experience as a reminder to all individual developers. I know this may be demotivating and off-putting to some enthusiastic developers, but I hope you don’t feel the same way I do, and I hope you’ll read it all the way through.

And it is also a story about how developers who need 20 closed tests can get caught up in fraud without even knowing it. I would like to ask you to be careful. Please bear with me, it’s a long story.

Three months after my debut as a developer I was offered a business partnership

I built an app to pass Google’s new policy of 20-person closed testing. I had a very difficult time with closed testing when I was trying to publish my first app. Therefore, I created this app so that other developers, including myself, can clear the test without difficulty in the future and can concentrate on development. Releasing an app does not necessarily mean that it will immediately attract users. I had to contact various developers individually and ask for their cooperation in order to gather users. This act was painstaking, but unlike gathering testers to clear a closed test, it was also a way to market my app, so it was painless. Then, one of the people I met approached me with a business proposal.

What was the proposal and why I turned it down

He wanted me to test his app. I told him I would tell him about my app and ask him to try it instead. He made a suggestion. His proposal was this.

  • Why don’t you join forces with us?
  • We have already established a service to hire testers for a fee and already have a lot of customers.
  • Most of the developers looking for testers through the community are also willing to pay.
  • If we join forces, we can get money from developers who are looking for testers.

I declined this proposal. Because the reason I originally developed this application was to allow many developers, including myself, to develop more freely. Getting money itself is necessary to continue development. However, I did not want to do a paid service that I avoided because I did not want to use it myself. We refused, thinking that if we monetized that service, it would no longer be different from other services and eventually no one would use it. He said, “There are already similar services. What makes you think your service will be used?” He asked me repeatedly if we could join hands while asking me questions. I explained the advantages of my service and told him that I would make an effort to promote it to many developers. At this point, I did not reach a negotiation, but I was grateful to receive such a proposal. Now I regret explaining the benefits, etc.

What happened immediately after

Within 10 minutes of my refusal, my account was banned from the community. I contacted them and told them that I had not broken any rules (reddicket as there were no rules of its own). I did not receive that reply.

What I did to get more users

There were many things on my mind, but I needed to do many things to get as many users as possible.

  • Launch the site.
  • Use other communities to ask for help
  • Creating YouTube Quick Guide: Publish Your First App
  • Promote using blogs
  • Advertising Although I wanted to concentrate on development, I made an effort to get as many people as possible to see my work, because what I had created would be meaningless without people who would use it first.

Results and what I realized after doing it

I did many things to increase the number of users, and the number of users gradually increased. I learned that it is very difficult to increase the number of users, because it is not easy to get more users. But I also noticed many other things. When you try to get many different people to know about your service, you are competing with other services. Therefore, you will see a lot of information about other services. Among them, I found many things that made me feel uncomfortable. The content made me feel that personal app development was not realistic and that without a lot of luck, individual developers would be crushed.

Unlikely events on YouTube

Take, for example, the number of views and subscribers on YouTube. I would check to see if my videos appear in searches on YouTube. When I do this, many searches are hit by services such as hiring a paid tester. When I open a channel with more than 5,000 subscribers and multiple videos coming up at the top of the list, I find two unusually long (more than 2 hours) videos with more than 1 million views in a lineup of promotional videos with 10~1,000 views. And their content is completely unrelated to the channel’s content. YouTube changes search rankings based on the number of subscribers, play time, and other factors. Some users may use the service because they trust the number of subscribers. Regardless of the nature of the service, this kind of achievement is clearly not something that an individual can compete with through their own efforts.

Unlikely happenings in the community

After the release of my app, several apps similar to mine began to be released. Similar ideas, competing developers creating similar apps, in and of itself can happen and is the right thing to do. Of course it is not pleasant. But the problem is not that, but the comments written by various people in various communities are unusual. …I got 20 testers in 48 hours As someone who checks the number of downloads of apps, including competitors’, and who has a hard time attracting users, this is impossible. There are too many testers for the number of downloads. I do check the registrations of competitors’ apps on a daily basis, but they don’t seem to be the right numbers. And it’s not just the comments, but the threads themselves that are not right. The same user started multiple threads asking "How do I get 20 testers? And then different users responded to multiple threads with the same question (I got 20 testers in 48 hours), and in each case the account was created most recently. And all of them were the most recently created accounts. It is not obvious to the average user at first glance. Furthermore, one of the users who commented had a history of developing apps for the same developer as the advertised app. I had advertised in the community that I wanted people to try the app, but if the vendor created a large number of accounts and falsely described their app, most users would be trapped by the false information. Individual developers cannot compete.

Unlikely events on the Web

In some cases, the actual number of downloads could be verified, but the number of users on the site was proudly stated to be much higher than the number of downloads.

For a developer to be successful, he/she always needs to fight against the unscrupulous ones who have a lot of resources. This is very difficult for individual developers, and from their point of view, individual developers are nothing more than targets for exploitation. Many individual developers, unless they are lucky, will never get the results they deserve for their efforts.

Curious things, commonalities I noticed

  • Why did he who approached me with a business partnership have a mechanism to hire paid testers when he contacted me to test “his app”?
  • Why was I ban?
  • Why would someone deceive so many users for the sake of money?
  • And why do you think your environment is safe with so many such people?

As for what I found uncomfortable about this tester’s relationship, there was a curious commonality. Many of the people belonged to the same country. And many of them were devised in such a way that it was not obvious at first glance, but could be seen upon closer inspection of the account information.

  • He approached me with a business partnership.
  • Unusually long videos on YouTube with over a million views.
  • A person who started multiple threads in the community with the same content
  • Separate accounts that responded to them with the same answer.
  • Operators of sites and apps that list results that are significantly higher than the number of downloads

It could be because it is a country with a large population and therefore many services to hire testers are offered in that country. Of course, it could be just a coincidence. And, of course, there may be many reliable services/developers in the same country. However, as long as there are many untrustworthy ones, users should be very careful.

Possible future problems and things to watch out for

Fraudsters are only interested in “making money efficiently,” and they do not choose their means. What will they do? I don’t believe that cheating is only a way to collect users. If they choose to collect money from developers, they may manipulate the display to force people to buy the remaining testers as soon as they have enough users and as soon as the test seems to be somewhat complete. After all, the developer would end up losing more money. If they use the money to cheat, they will have to recoup it from the users, the developers. What would you do to get testers on the cheap, or to get tester accounts? They might pose as a developer as if it were their own app and let other developers test it. If you are not willing to falsify personal information, what will they do with your personal information? Even if you didn’t use a fraudulent service, is the developer you are interacting with really the owner of the app? Above all, what I find most distasteful is that even if the system appears to be set up for the benefit of many people, there may be people hiding behind it who are dishonest. Such problems may have already occurred. And once the fraud is revealed, there will be similar ones with different names and appearances. Each and every developer needs to be continually vigilant.

Thank you

Thank you for taking the time to read this to the end. I believe that many developers are sincere. Therefore, I apologize to anyone who read the article and felt uncomfortable because they did not know what to trust. However, I wrote this article in the hope that there will be no more developers who, like myself, are tired and give up because they cannot take time to develop because of fighting injustice. I hope that justice will be with you, the honest developers, and that you will prevail. If you have any useful information on what to look out for or what you have experienced against this kind of injustice, please share it in the comments section.

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