AppGratis (teaser)

Apple may be preparing to scrub its App Store of companies offering to promote other apps through paid partnerships with their developers.

The removal of the AppGratis curation software from the App Store earlier this week “was the first step” by Apple to enforce the recently-announced portions of the App Store Review Guidelines, according to one tech news outlet.

And while the AppGratis teams argues this is “far from finished,” looks like the legitimacy of the App Store’s ranking feature is at stake. On the surface, it seems Apple believes it is being threatened by third-party software for iDevices designed to recommend other apps, including promoting apps via social media.

Although developers debate the meaning of two clauses in Apple’s guidelines, the iPhone and iPad maker wants to head off any confusion by consumers, the Wednesday report suggests…

John Paczkowski of AllThingsD has the scoop:

I’m told that Apple feels that these apps threaten the legitimacy of the App Store charts by providing a way for developers to spend their way to a high ranking.

In 2011, Apple made a similar move, rejecting several applications which included “incentivized” app installs, Paczkowski notes.

App Store rankings

The so-called discovery apps, such as AppGratis, which allow consumers to find other apps, “create a scenario that’s similar to walking into Nordstrom and seeing a Walmart inside,” he adds, citing a source.

In fact, Apple is now enforcing clause 10.2 in its app approval guidelines banning apps that could be confused with the apps bundled on the iPhone or included in the App Store, according to the writer.

Indeed, confusion is being produced not by Apple’s app rules, but whether they are enforced, a practice AllThingsD describes as “unclear and scattershot.”

One developer of a discovery app appears to agree with Apple’s actions.

“I do think app discovery apps which recommend apps based on some kind of journalistic merit and not a business relationship will continue to thrive,” AppAdvice co-founder Mahmoud Hafez told us by email.

Paid recommendation, though, “are on the way out, and that should be a good thing.”