Earlier this week, an error in Apple’s DRM code generation for App Store apps caused a number of app updates to crash on launch. The issue, initially reported by Instapaper developer Marco Arment, began spreading to more than 100 iOS and Mac app updates including GoodReader, Angry Birds HD Free, and The Early Edition. As the bug was causing updated apps to crash immediately after launch without even displaying an error message, several users became upset with the developers of the apps – as they didn’t know the issue was on Apple’s servers – and began leaving negative reviews on the App Store. Developers, on the other hand, had to deal with a issue that they couldn’t fix, while explaining to customers how they should back up their data and wait for a solution.
Last night, Apple officially acknowledged the issue and explained it was associated with DRM code generation on the App Store. Apple said they had fixed the issue, and Macworld reported that, according to their sources, Apple would also remove all negative reviews that had been left during the hours the bug was spreading on various international App Stores.
As of this morning, it appears Apple has indeed removed negative reviews from apps affected by the bug. Apps like Instapaper, GoodReader, and The Early Edition are showing no reviews for the latest versions available, which are the ones that were crashing earlier in the week. We haven’t checked on every single app that was affected, but it is safe to assume at this point Apple will remove all reviews (not just negative ones) from any app that received a corrupted update.
Apple hasn’t issued a public apology to developers, but the removal of reviews will definitely help in leaving this issue behind without having to deal with the aftereffects on the App Store as well.
Update: As noted by several readers on Twitter, it appears Apple didn’t completely wipe the old reviews left during the DRM outage – it re-issued app updates for the same version of the app, and moved the “Current Version” reviews to “All Versions”.
In spite of the version being the same – for Instapaper, the affected version was 4.2.3 – the old reviews are not showing up in the Current Version section of the App Store. This helps hiding possible negative reviews from the section that it loaded by default in iTunes.
By re-issuing the old version as an update again, Apple is making sure customers can re-install the fixed version of an app without having to delete it first, as noted by Marco Arment. It is unclear whether the old reviews will still affect overall ranking of an app.