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Bribery, Porn, and Spam Are the Path to Riches in the App World

• http://www.wired.com, By Ryan Tate
 Above all, app makers are paranoid that the competition is playing dirty better than they are — tricking users out of their time and investors out of their money.

“I do believe people try to manipulate their download numbers and chart position around a financing,” says Matt Murphy, an investment partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “It seems everybody raising money has just hit some inflection in their numbers, so either they wait until that happens or manufacture it.”

If the web is dead, and the open ecosystem of the browser is being replaced by tightly controlled apps, then it’s more than just venture capitalists and software creators who should take heed of such questionable practices. In the exploding app universe there are more hiding places for unscrupulous startups to violate your privacy, waste your time and toy with your reputation. And if current trends in capital and user flows continue, it’s only going to get worse.

The situation is exacerbated by the opaque nature of apps. On the web, advertising, kickbacks, and questionable content is, for the most part, right out in the open. In apps, user activity is locked inside proprietary software, and transactions occur on company-owned stores like iTunes and Google Play, and on closed ad exchanges like Tapjoy and Flurry. That creates an ideal climate both for tricks and fears of tricks.

And there are plenty of tricks to be scared of. In private, seasoned app makers will happily enumerate the levers that can be pulled to produce strong, if unsustainable, traffic surges.

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