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Windows Store Infested with Fake Apps

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 15 comments

Copycat apps and obvious scams in the iTunes App Store and Google Play are obnoxious, but they may have nothing on Microsoft's Windows Store. A tech website has accused the Windows Store of being full of unmitigated garbage that could cost you money and possibly even system security, and blames the problem on Microsoft's own desire to quickly populate its app store.

The cluttered state of the Windows Store is obvious to visitors, but tech news and tutorial site How-To Geek decided to really poke around. Searching for the free high-quality media player VLC, How-To Geek staffers encountered legions of shady me-too apps stealing the VLC logo and trying to charge users for the phony products.

MORE: Mobile Security Guide: Everything You Need to Know

The problem was not limited to VLC. Tom's Guide verified that Adobe Flash Player, Pandora, Firefox, Minecraft and Spotify, none of which seem to have an official Windows app, each had several fake apps listed on the first page of search results. Many of the fake apps stole logos wholesale and charged money for what would otherwise be free apps. Even Microsoft had several imitators that tried to duplicate the look of official apps.

How-To Geek theorizes that this proliferation of junk apps is due to Microsoft's Keep the Cash promotion, which ran in the earlier days of Windows 8 and the Windows Phone. The promotion offered developers $100 for each app they added to the Windows Store, up to a total of $2,000. In practice, it seems to have resulted in a deluge of shoddy apps rather than one or two really good ones.

The Windows Store theoretically has people overseeing it to ensure that apps meet with Microsoft's standards. Yet similar problems arose in the Windows Phone app store this past March, when nearly a dozen phony Google apps appeared, many of which are still there. (Google Search is the only official Google app in either Microsoft app store.)

Microsoft provided a statement to Tom's Guide:

We strive to make the Windows Store a high-quality experience for customers and also accessible to the broadest audience of developers. Based on customer and developer feedback, we recently took actions to help users discover the specific app titles they’re searching for and improve the overall Store experience. Those updates provide clear guidance to developers and also improve our ability to identify, audit and remove problematic apps. We recognize that there is more work to do and will continue to re-evaluate our policies to strike a balance between the opportunity for developers and the app quality that our customers expect.

Marshall Honorof is a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • -4 Hide
    Innocent_Bystander , August 21, 2014 1:24 PM
    Windows Store Infested with Fake Apps

    Really? I never noticed. But then again, I never opened it for anything other than the 8.1 upgrade either.

    Does anyone actually use the Windows Store?
  • 0 Hide
    red77star , August 21, 2014 1:59 PM
    There are no high quality Metro apps to start with because platform to start with sucks.
  • 0 Hide
    razor512 , August 21, 2014 4:07 PM
    Well that is one of the main issues when you force an app store down everyone's throat. It creates a false sense of security which prevents people from doing their due diligence when looking for software.
  • Display all 15 comments.
  • 5 Hide
    Joseph DeGarmo , August 21, 2014 4:30 PM
    I use common sense when browsing through apps. Whenever I encounter priced apps (or even some free apps) that look unfamiliar or shady, I just ignore them. I would only download apps from trusted companies, such as Facebook, Netflix, CNN, or Verizon.
  • 1 Hide
    w8gaming , August 21, 2014 7:20 PM
    Windows store had a lot problems when it first started. For example, it did not include the number of downloads of the app. Normally I considered if number of downloads is in millions or more is a clear sign that the app is actually good and most likely not phoney. Then and the user comment. Haven't even used the Windows store for a more than a year so not sure how it is now. But fake apps were plenty in the past and apparently it is still just as bad now.
  • 3 Hide
    jll544 , August 21, 2014 7:51 PM
    I tried once to report a fake app to the Windows store, but Microsoft makes it absurdly difficult. Their complaint process requested that I submit legal proof and testimony that the app was misappropriating others' trademarks, content, etc. WTF? I'm not the owner, so of course I'm not going through all that. I was just trying to do the right thing and report the obviously fake app, but apparently Microsoft just doesn't care until it gets to the point of lawyers becoming involved.
  • -1 Hide
    mrmez , August 21, 2014 9:47 PM
    Yeah, but at least its not the App Store.
    Thats REALLY $h!t
  • 1 Hide
    portentous , August 21, 2014 11:44 PM
    The policing and maintenance of the Windows Store is non-existent. Quality apps are few. Rubbish and rip-offs are plenty in the app store. And Microsoft is wondering why no one loves Windows 8. The least MS could do is putting out a few benchmark apps out there, whether free or paid. The Windows app store is definitely another reason MS has given the world to HATE Windows 8. Seriously, MS was caught out that most people still want to use the Desktop (to run real softwares), look at the messy App store. Anyone still play Solitaire on Windows 8?
  • 0 Hide
    kajjot , August 22, 2014 1:11 AM
    I do agree with the fake app problem but this is mostly caused by legit publishers not making apps for windows 8.
    I'm a big fan of Netflix and VLC apps but other than that there is nothing.
    I would like Yahoo Sports, Major News Apps and wider range of media players.
    In all fairness Apple Store didn't appear overnight so eventually it will be better.
  • 0 Hide
    damianrobertjones , August 22, 2014 1:11 AM
    So, article writer, how many of these apps also exist on the other stores? A whole load, thousands even, or maybe even the exact same amount.

    These apps are offering a SERVICE and, as a user, it's up to ME to decide to buy them. I could buy products from Amazon that are less than original. How about eBay? Life is full of this stuff.
  • 4 Hide
    cats_Paw , August 22, 2014 3:21 AM
    I use common sense when browsing through apps. Whenever I encounter priced apps (or even some free apps) that look unfamiliar or shady, I just ignore them. I would only download apps from trusted companies, such as Facebook, Netflix, CNN, or Verizon.

    Dude... you cant ask people to have common sense! Thats like asking them to think or somethin!
  • 0 Hide
    Adroid , August 22, 2014 7:55 AM
    It's quite obvious that the windows 8 "I wish I was Apple but I'm not" attempt was a big fail.

    Let's hope Microsoft returns focus back to what they are best at - dominating the world market for a business friendly OS platform that's designed for PCs and laptops - not touch screen tablets...
  • 0 Hide
    pedling , August 24, 2014 4:22 PM
    Antivirus anyone?
  • 0 Hide
    zbuckone , August 24, 2014 7:50 PM
    It sounds to me like a fix is in order. Microsoft is usually pretty good in keeping up with things like this. Let's get on the ball.
  • 0 Hide
    Simon Mackay , August 25, 2014 9:55 PM
    An issue that I see that is surfacing with app stores is the tendency for them to end up with a lot of junk just like with the bulletin boards, CD-ROMs and Internet download sites of the 1990s being full of crap shareware-driven software, sometimes known as "shovel-ware". What we have to do is pay a lot of attention to information like star ratings, reviews or whether the software was determined as a "hot pick", "editor's choice" or something similar by the app store or just simply had popular word-of-mouth commentary. Even paying attention to reviews from the same developer can identify whether one is turning out "crap-ware" or good stuff.
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