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App Friday: iPhone app store is a squatter's delight

You would normally find a story about one of our favourite apps on App Friday but today we uncovered something rather disturbing. At 8am this morning we received an email from Atomic Antelope, a UK-based iPhone app company, asking us if we had heard about iPhone app name squatting (disclosure: one of the Atomic Antelope developers is a personal friend of ours).

Having spent months developing an app called 'Twitch', when it came to Atomic Antelope registering the app's name, it couldn't. Someone else had registered the name 'Twitch' but when Atomic Antelope looked to see if it could find it on the app store, it couldn't. Worse still, unlike domain names, Atomic Antelope had no way of contacting the person who had registered the name.

From the Atomic Antelope site: "It turns out that squatters have moved into the app store. They’re worse than domain name squatters though, because you can’t even enter into negotiation with them. You don’t know who they are, or where they are. They take advantage of the fact that a developer can pretend to submit an app, but abandon their submission at the last moment, avoiding the need to actually create an application, but keeping hold of the app’s name. In limbo. Forever."

We are not saying that whoever registered the 'Twitch' app name is an underhanded squatter, we are just using Atomic Antelope's experience to highlight that squatting is possible.

Surely, tonnes of tech sites would have picked up on this issue, and yet when we checked to see if we could find any previous stories about it, we didn't find much. In fact, most of the information we found online was from other annoyed developers who had encountered the same issue. Justin Williams explains on his blog, "What I’ve learned from this ordeal is that iTunes Connect allows you to partially register your application name at any time during the development process. As long as you enter the name and fill in all the relevant fields with any sort of data, you can stake your claim on any given name. The key is the “Upload binary later” field."

JMathews highlights why app name squatting not only promotes developers to squat but it also doesn't allow for negotiation, "This realization has lead me to grab dozens and dozens of good sounding applications names. Especially the ones for the two or three dozen application ideas we've kicked around. The problem with name squatting is that there is no visibility, the squatters, myself included, can't be propositioned for the access to the names."

So there you have it, it seems that the Apple iPhone app store is open to abuse from app name squatters and encourages developers to squat in fear of losing out. We have sent an email to Apple asking for a comment and are awaiting a reply. We hope this system is changed soon, otherwise iPhone developers will find it difficult to get good names for their apps.

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