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

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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  • skborders

    22 August, 2017 - 11:15 am

    <p>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. </p>

    • mrdrwest

      22 August, 2017 - 11:52 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167995"><em>In reply to skborders:</em></a></blockquote><p>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.</p>

      • skborders

        22 August, 2017 - 12:08 pm

        <blockquote>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.<a href="#168003"><em>In reply to mrdrwest:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p>

    • Pargon

      Premium Member
      23 August, 2017 - 1:49 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167995"><em>In reply to skborders:</em></a></blockquote><p>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. </p><p><br></p><p>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. </p><p><br></p><p>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.</p>

  • skane2600

    22 August, 2017 - 11:16 am

    <p>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?</p>

    • LocalPCGuy

      22 August, 2017 - 11:50 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167996"><em>In reply to skane2600:</em></a></blockquote><p>That's an excellent point. If they cut back on their in-house QA engineers a couple of years back, why would they put more people on checking apps? The app checks are probably largely automated.</p>

      • SvenJ

        Premium Member
        22 August, 2017 - 6:34 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#168002"><em>In reply to LocalPCGuy:</em></a> I expect the emphasis is on the app not doing anything wrong, not that the user can't do anything wrong with the app. If the latter was the case we wouldn't have Chrome, Safari and IE/Edge. Apps don't access illegal content, people access illegal content. </blockquote><p><br></p>

        • Salvador Jesús Romero Castellano

          22 August, 2017 - 9:15 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#168075"><em>In reply to SvenJ:</em></a></blockquote><p> Good point. Plus, these contents are not illegal in many countries.</p>

    • YouWereWarned

      24 August, 2017 - 11:42 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#167996"><em>In reply to skane2600:</em></a></blockquote><p>I've lost track of the number of Store apps that did not function properly from day one, demonstrating that neither Microsoft nor the "programmer" were paying much attention. The race to have millions of apps by necessity can not involve humans in the approval process.</p>

  • Darmok N Jalad

    22 August, 2017 - 11:21 am

    <p>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?</p>

    • mrdrwest

      22 August, 2017 - 11:36 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167997"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>I'm sure, without a doubt that iTunes isn't available in the Windows Store because it's a hot mess. To be clear, iTunes is a usable hot mess. It will likely take some time to make it 'Desktop Bridgeable'. </p>

    • skane2600

      22 August, 2017 - 11:36 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167997"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>After reading the instructions for "bridging" Win32 apps, I certainly wouldn't describe the process as "easy" but I guess that's a subjective conclusion.</p>

      • Darmok N Jalad

        22 August, 2017 - 1:40 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#168000"><em>In reply to skane2600:</em></a></blockquote><p>I guess I was referring to the early press on bridging win32, which often made it sound like it didn't take any time at all. </p>

        • skane2600

          22 August, 2017 - 2:30 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#168017"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>Yes, that's what I thought you meant – that MS made it sound easy.</p>

    • James Wilson

      22 August, 2017 - 11:48 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167997"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>iTunes has quite a few pre-reqs to be able to run e.g. QuickTime, Bonjour etc. These would have to be packaged too.</p>

    • jbinaz

      22 August, 2017 - 1:50 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#167997"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>Is Microsoft not going to be taking a percentage of what Apple sells via iTunes?</p><p><br></p><p>I'm assuming that's standard for most apps and in-app purchases, but I can't imagine Apple would allow that.</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      22 August, 2017 - 4:26 pm

      <p><a href="#167997"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></p><p>iTunes the non-Store program would have to have its own DRM mechanism which presumably would need to be excised and replaced by whatever Windows Store provides. I figure that'd be a nontrivial modification to iTunes.</p>

      • Darmok N Jalad

        22 August, 2017 - 5:32 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#168054"><em>In reply to hrlngrv:</em></a></blockquote><p>If all that is true, then I don't see why Apple would jump onboard so soon. It's not like anyone else really has. MS maybe offered them a special deal so they could try to show some momentum. </p>

        • Tony Barrett

          23 August, 2017 - 6:29 am

          <blockquote><a href="#168067"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>I don't think Apple are 'jumping onboard' voluntarily. The Windows Store is pretty lame, and iPhone users are considerably more likely to have Mac's anyway. MS need an incentive to get people using their store (and Windows 10, or probably more 10S too). It wouldn't surprise me if MS have entered into some form of agreement with Apple to make this happen. Apple don't need the cash, so there's something going on. Apple have absolutely no reason to convert iTunes to UWP (or even bridge it). It's not their platform, so not in their interest. 10S is too new to require it too. It make's you wonder!</p>

    • JustMe

      Premium Member
      25 August, 2017 - 8:47 am

      <blockquote><a href="#167997"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I too am curious about ITunes. At the best of times, the desktop version of ITunes is temperamental. Bridging it, and other software like Bonjour, cant be trivial – to say nothing of what/if/how much of a cut Microsoft will take of anything purchased through the app. I'm sure the lawyers on both sides are having a field day. I can see no reason for Apple to rush to get ITunes on the Store. Microsoft need it there, Apple doesnt.</p>

  • dspeterson

    Premium Member
    22 August, 2017 - 11:22 am

    <p>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.</p>

  • dontbe evil

    22 August, 2017 - 12:10 pm

    <p>funny that you never talk about even bigger problems on your favourite play store</p>

    • MikeCerm

      22 August, 2017 - 2:35 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#168006"><em>In reply to dontbe_evil:</em></a></blockquote><p>The Play Store has thousands and thousands of legit apps, and legit apps tend to drown out the junk apps in search results. The probably with the Windows Store is that there are hardly any legit apps, so it's really easy to find all the junk. What problems are you talking about? </p>

      • dontbe evil

        23 August, 2017 - 9:29 am

        <blockquote><a href="#168027"><em>In reply to MikeCerm:</em></a></blockquote><p>looks like I cannot post links, just search: "google playstore malware"</p>

    • Marius Muntean

      23 August, 2017 - 2:50 am

      <blockquote><a href="#168006"><em>In reply to dontbe_evil:</em></a></blockquote><p>You another Microshit fanboy?</p>

      • dontbe evil

        23 August, 2017 - 9:27 am

        <blockquote><a href="#168115"><em>In reply to Marius_Muntean:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>sorry if I hurted you pointing out the evidence on your beloved god scroogle</p>

  • drbohner

    22 August, 2017 - 12:47 pm

    <p>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). </p><p><br></p><p>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???)</p>

  • harmjr

    Premium Member
    22 August, 2017 - 12:48 pm

    <p>Shouldn't each app in the store be tested by an employee at Microsoft/Apple/Google?</p><p>If so does that not make them liable for supporting piracy?</p>

    • Waethorn

      22 August, 2017 - 4:59 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#168013"><em>In reply to harmjr:</em></a></blockquote><p>They automate testing of the Windows Store, just like they automate the testing of Windows. No person looks at the quality of such things anymore. It's just all telemetrics.</p>

  • navarac

    22 August, 2017 - 12:53 pm

    <p>…and all this illegal content is what is expected to be used with Windows 10 S? Really?</p>

  • dhallman

    22 August, 2017 - 2:00 pm

    <p>I am not sure this issue is this 'cut and dry'. </p><p><br></p><p>I don't know copyright law (especially international copyright law), but as I understand there is no current law against streaming content.</p><p><br></p><p>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.</p><p><br></p><p>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.</p><p><br></p><p>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.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • Dan

      22 August, 2017 - 8:28 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#168020"><em>In reply to dhallman:</em></a></blockquote><p>The Kodi app does not contain any pirated content. </p><p>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.</p>

      • dhallman

        23 August, 2017 - 2:10 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#168077"><em>In reply to Dan:</em></a> 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.</blockquote><blockquote>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.</blockquote><p><br></p>

  • bbold

    22 August, 2017 - 4:07 pm

    <p>Shhh. Maybe if we be quiet nobody will notice :D</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      22 August, 2017 - 4:19 pm

      <p><a href="#168050"><em>In reply to bbold:</em></a></p><p>If we don't talk about it, no one will notice the garbage hasn't been hauled away for months.</p><p>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.</p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    22 August, 2017 - 4:17 pm

    <p>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.</p>

  • Waethorn

    22 August, 2017 - 5:00 pm

    <p>Funny how the "People also like" is similarly riddled with junk.</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      22 August, 2017 - 5:18 pm

      <p><a href="#168063"><em>In reply to Waethorn:</em></a></p><p>Connoisseurs of fertilizer may need variety.</p>

  • Jim Lewis

    22 August, 2017 - 5:06 pm

    <p>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.</p><p><br></p><p>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.</p>

  • ponsaelius

    22 August, 2017 - 6:27 pm

    <p>If trusted apps cant be trusted then one of the reasons to use the store, security, is missing.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

  • red.radar

    Premium Member
    22 August, 2017 - 8:45 pm

    <p>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. </p><p><br></p><p>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 </p><p><br></p><p>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.</p>

  • Marius Muntean

    23 August, 2017 - 2:49 am

    <p>Who is left to proper certify those apps?? Nadella must have fired them all</p>

    • Waethorn

      23 August, 2017 - 9:15 am

      <blockquote><a href="#168114"><em>In reply to Marius_Muntean:</em></a></blockquote><p>Yup</p>

  • lordbaal1

    24 August, 2017 - 2:19 pm

    <p>And Google and Apple also cleans up there store once in awhile.</p><p>This is not just a Microsoft problem.</p>


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