Microsoft, Yet Again, Needs to Clean Up the Windows Store

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Brad Sams in Windows 10 with 44 Comments

It seems like once or twice a year Paul or I end up writing a story or two about how Microsoft’s Windows Store is filled with junk that is either trying to scam you out of some money or is littered with fake apps pretending to be something else.

While the Windows Store is headed in the right direction with new apps like Newton Mail, Spotify and eventually iTunes, there is still a bunch of junk in the store. Specifically, there are apps that allow you to pirate content such as movies and TV shows.

Uncovered by Torrent Freak, they have found a long list of apps that do not hide their intentions. Many boast the ability to stream the latest Hollywood movies for free and if that’s not bad enough, some services appear to be using Microsoft’s own ad platform to create pre-roll ads on these pirated movies.

The Windows Store is promoted as being the place to obtain trusted applications that are safe for the end user. While these apps may not be viruses or malware, they are clearly providing illegal content which could get the end-user into serious trouble.

Microsoft reviews apps before allowing them into its store which means that all these pirated apps currently have Microsoft’s blessing to be used by consumers. I fully expect Microsoft to remove these apps in the near future but they have highlighted a vulnerability in Microsoft’s review process; they only check how the app operates in relation to the OS not what it’s actually allowing the end user to do.

The last time an issue with the Store popped up, it was because there were dozens of fake “Chrome” browser apps. A quick search shows that all these apps are gone which highlights that Microsoft can make a change to its review policies that are effective and I expect them to do the same here with the pirate apps.

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Comments (44)

44 responses to “Microsoft, Yet Again, Needs to Clean Up the Windows Store”

  1. skborders

    I don't know about illegal content apps, but in my opinion all the app stores are full of junk apps and the apps are full of crappy advertisements.

    • mrdrwest

      In reply to skborders:

      Yes, there ae a lot of useless apps in the store, but they're usually identifiable, which for me makes them easily avoidable. There are some good useful apps in the Windows Store. It's slowly, but surely getting better.

      • skborders

        I was speaking about all the app stores, Apple, Google and the Windows stores. It is not isolated to just the Windows Store. They all have a large amount of, as you say, easily avoidable, useless junk. I agree the Windows Store is improving.In reply to mrdrwest:

    • Pargon

      In reply to skborders:

      They are all filled with junk apps, it's just that Microsoft doesn't have the real thing....and when windows users search for them....not on phone, cause we all know no one uses windows phone, they are more easily duped into the junk app...thinking that surely WINDOWS with it's 500M users has the real app. It's because the real apps everyone else is talking about are not available on windows store. As a windows 7 and 8 phone user for many years, any app I had heard someone talking about at work had many "junk" apps or unofficial apps that access the servers of the original, like snapchat, and got shutdown.

      They tend to use the same logos or slightly different with a very similar name. Even now that I'm on Android I'm always weary of any new app someone mentions, I lookup the company name to verify the app I'm about to download is the original, not a fake duplicate trying to steal data / calendar / e-mail / social / photo access.

      But it's pervasive to windows...because the original isn't at the top of the list....usually. Not so with Android, or I presume iPhone.

  2. bbold

    Shhh. Maybe if we be quiet nobody will notice :D

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to bbold:

      If we don't talk about it, no one will notice the garbage hasn't been hauled away for months.

      It'd be nice if it were clear whether the Windows Store was supposed to represent the best of Windows software or a cesspool in which all apps function correctly and securely while polluting users' systems.

  3. drbohner

    My understanding was that a developer's initial apps were scrutinized - and anything new / updated gets a near-pass. That's what I read on the internet (so it must be true).

    There are many "Watch Movie Free" apps in the xbox marketplace - and they don't seem to scam the gamer. They appear to be paid for by the ads... I've marked the apps I've seen (and attempted to break the hearts of those that can't wait to purchase the HD Stream or Netflix)... Kong, Wonder Woman, Batman vs SuperThug - all available ... M$ needs to see where they fit in the Pirating Game and needs to take more responsibility. Not much different than a bootlegged version of XP, 8.1 or W10 (right???)

  4. harmjr

    Shouldn't each app in the store be tested by an employee at Microsoft/Apple/Google?

    If so does that not make them liable for supporting piracy?

  5. navarac

    ...and all this illegal content is what is expected to be used with Windows 10 S? Really?

  6. dhallman

    I am not sure this issue is this 'cut and dry'.

    I don't know copyright law (especially international copyright law), but as I understand there is no current law against streaming content.

    Unlike Napster that used file share to download the file that was possessed by the user, Kodi and similar services do not deliver a file so it is difficult to apply the law. Consider the file is only ever in transit and then watched and destroyed. Yes, during broadcast there would be a temp file on the hard drive. But who do you charge for initiating a transfer or possession of a partial random file? The law is about possession of the copyright content as far as I know. Not consumption.

    I am not sure why it does not fall under public broadcast as that would result in shutdown of the Kodi (type) service. But it is not the stores fault.

    As long as Android boxes are built and sold around Kodi and similar services/clones I don't see why Microsoft should be singled out for having a store full of junk. Junk that may not even be illegal.

    • Dan

      In reply to dhallman:

      The Kodi app does not contain any pirated content.

      The Windows Store isn't about free speech, they can remove any apps and change their policy for submitted apps at any time they wish. Its a closed ecosystem.

      • dhallman

        In reply to Dan: Once Kodi is downloaded and installed you only have to select add-ons and a content provider to access pirated material. Although it is not automatic it is a 2 click process and what the tool is most known for.
        I certainly did not say they could not remove any app they wanted to. I was only asking: If the service is not illegal (or some weird grey area) and with Android boxes and Kodi type services being popular right now, should we expect them to remove these types of apps? Or should they embrace the trend? If Microsoft took the side of the content providers and removed this stuff it would just be another reason Android is selected over Windows 10.

  7. hrlngrv

    MSFT is a creature of inertia. They continue to move in the course they've been moving until prodded. Sometimes it takes a lot of prodding. Windows Store curation is evidently a low-priority cost center from MSFT's perspective, so they spend few resources on it until shamed into doing so.

  8. Waethorn

    Funny how the "People also like" is similarly riddled with junk.

  9. Jim Lewis

    There are also apps in Windows Store that have ceased to function, been reported by users in reviews, and not been removed by Microsoft in ages.

    One such app is Package Tracker. It was a great app that worked on Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile and could consolidate shipment tracking across multiple shippers but depends on a cloud service. Apparently, the developer abandoned the app back around February, 2017 but the app is still sitting there in the Windows Store, useless since it can no longer connect to the cloud service.

  10. ponsaelius

    If trusted apps cant be trusted then one of the reasons to use the store, security, is missing.

  11. red.radar

    I will admit I am about to embark in some conjecture. However, I think the store is not being managed because Microsoft wants to boast the "app number". During developer conferences.

    If true, this is short sighted and dumb. In the age of analytics Microsoft should heavily curate the store to a platform of a few very high quality apps and using there data analytics capabilities show developers how their platform provides more value to the developer. I would think they could do this with some high profile wins. Also it will encourage big names to develop because they are not competing against a cesspool of copycats

    but this his problem isn't unique to Microsoft. One of the biggest critiques of the App stores (all of them). Is the amount of junk and low quality apps in them. I am not certain how this wall garden is anymore secure then the old win32 days.

  12. Marius Muntean

    Who is left to proper certify those apps?? Nadella must have fired them all

  13. skane2600

    This suggests that MS merely claims to review apps rather than actually doing so in all cases. Otherwise how could these apps ever make their way into the store in the first place?

  14. Darmok N Jalad

    I'm curious about iTunes. It was announced that it was coming to the store in May, but availability wasn't talked about until the end of the year. If putting existing programs in the store is supposedly easy, then why will iTunes take so long? Is it being completely rewritten?

  15. dontbe evil

    funny that you never talk about even bigger problems on your favourite play store

  16. dspeterson

    Sadly these kinds of apps have been in the store since the Windows Phone 7/8 days and Microsoft hasn't done a thing about them. Reporting them was also very difficult and didn't ever result in any action as far as I could tell.

  17. lordbaal1

    And Google and Apple also cleans up there store once in awhile.

    This is not just a Microsoft problem.

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