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Microsoft Now Scraping Mobile Sites, Building Pirated WebApps for Windows Phone

Mobile nokia[1]apps are better than mobile websites, right? Not necessarily.

Sometimes, such as in the case of Microsoft’s latest efforts for Windows Phone, what you get in the app isn’t better than a website – it’s actually a half-assed effort to cobble together an app – any app – no matter how terrible.

Microsoft is so desperate to have enough apps for Windows Phone that they’ve stooped to building WebApps which are intended to fill in for the brand-name apps which users want but don’t exist.

What’s a WebApp? MS initially conceived of this effort as a way for users to find and pin mobile sites to their Windows Phone, but they’ve since starting scraping mobile websites and building the apps themselves. Add a few screenshots plus a generic description (competing services Trullia and Redfin have virtually identical descriptions) and the app is released to an unsuspecting public – bugs and all. (As anyone who has used Windows can tell you, Microsoft only fixes the bugs after they ship a product.)

b4449096-294a-4a8f-9869-56ffd6ba9b36[1]They’ve been doing this since at least last Fall when Southwest Airlines asked Microsoft to remove its unauthorized web app from the Windows Phone Store. The app was developed by Microsoft, and while it was removed many others remain. Microsoft has slapped together apps for any number of websites and retailers, including Meetup, Coach, Ugg, Redfin, Lowes, Jimmy John’s, Orbitz, and many more. MS has been releasing new "apps" on a regular basis.

There are more than 80 of Microsoft’s WebApps apps in the Windows Phone Store at the moment. Some of the apps do have high ratings, but nearly half don’t have any reviews at all, which I suppose is better than bad reviews. At least with no reviews it’s safe to assume that no one hated an app enough to complain.

Of course, it could also mean no one is using said app. The Lowes app has the most reviews (72 and counting); that’s not very many compared to the most popular apps in the Windows Phone Store which often have thousands of reviews.

Microsoft has been quite open about their ongoing and repeated acts of copyright and trademark infringement, telling Geekwire that "Customer response to WebApps has been strong with an average user rating of more than 4 of 5 stars, prompting several companies to take ownership of a WebApp and republish it themselves."

Microsoft’s statement continued, "We’ve found that the majority of site owners appreciate the fact that WebApps engage more people in the company’s own website experience; however, we are happy to work with content owners to resolve any concerns they may have. Website owners are welcome to contact us at [email protected]".

They probably see themselves as having been driven to this by the lack of interest from developers and brands. Windows Phone accounts for a negligible share of most smartphone markets, and it’s only in Europe that it managed to crack 10%.




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john February 26, 2014 um 10:22 am

do you mean 'scrapping'?

Mike February 26, 2014 um 10:30 am

It’s really too bad that they’ve had to do this. Having used iOS (iPhone 3-4s), Android (Nexus 4 & 5) and WP7 (Nokia 920), I vastly prefer the Windows Phone user experience. As noted, however, the lack of several core apps is a serious problem; my personal pet-peeve is the lack of a Wall Street Journal app or mobile website. I’ll stick with it for another 6 months, but if nothing changes I’ll probably go back to Apple.

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