In recent months, it’s seemed that Apple has finally started getting its act together in fixing little App Store annoyances and making it a better marketplace for developers. We’ve been hearing fewer complaints about arbitrarily rejected applications and, aside from the brouhaha over Google Voice, there has been almost no major news about the App Store recently—and all too often no news is good news.
One issue that has surfaced, however, is the App Store’s cavalier attitude towards the registration of application names. It’s prompted some developers to snap up application names, either in fear of losing them to others or just to keep as many potential names in the bag as possible.
The issue is that the App Store requires all applications to have unique names, which means that if the name you’d picked for your application is already taken, you’ll have to modify it in some way before it can be allowed into the store.
But a developer doesn’t need to actually go through the entire process of developing an application in order to register a name. The submission process can be completed only halfway and left pending pretty much forever, leaving the name stuck in limbo. Plus, you can do this multiple times for different names, without ever having to write a single line of code. You do, however, need to be a member of the $99-per-year iPhone Developer Program in order to be able to submit apps, of course.
And worse, because these half submissions have no app in the store, there’s no way to find out that a name is taken without attempting to register a name. As you can imagine, this has lead to some developers not being able to christen their applications because their chosen name is taken, even though no such application exists on the store. To counter this, developers themselves are going on a name-squatting spree, just to try and make sure that they already own all the names they could ever want, which, of course, only reinforces the problem.
The fix, to me, seems rather simple: Apple could have iTunes Connect (the backend of iTunes, which allows developers to interface with the App Store and submit their apps) only allow developers to register application names once they’ve submitted the binary for it. This would put a stop to the squatters who’re actually doing it with malicious intent and would let the good names remain on the market until the first deserving candidate comes along.
I do not think, however, that allowing applications with duplicate names to exist on the store is the right solution. The App Store is already a pain to browse as it is, what with the plethora of near identical applications flooding the store, many of them including each others’ names in their descriptions to get more search traffic. Throwing in different applications that sport exactly identical names will only add to the chaos.