Editor's Note: as
MacNN closes at the end of this month, we're showcasing some of our favorite pieces from its recent history. I'm Malcolm Owen, and I helped out on a series of reports concerning a collection of "bundle" sites that sold licenses for a number of apps, but failed to pay the developers behind those apps. The first report appeared in November, with an updated reminder of what was going on published in April this year, the content of which is repeated below.
I loved contributing to this story due to the mystery. If there's something odd going on in an article I'm reading, I'm likely to follow down the internet-derived rabbit hole to get to the bottom of things. We spent hours looking into the identities that presented themselves, trying to work out if they were the same person. It was a satisfying way to spend an evening productively. While we did a lot of work to find out more about the scheme, including an attempt at an apology from one of the identities behind it, there are still aspects that should be highlighted as a warning to our readers and developers potentially wanting to sign up for a bundle scheme.
At the time of writing, the BundleCult site still stands but doesn't currently offer bundles though we would advise extreme caution if a new one is offered. MacBundler has been changed to a StackSocial store, a service
MacNN knows is legitimate. Given that
MacNN has remained in contact with the app developers, and they have still not yet been paid, as well as the correspondence
MacNN and the subjects of the reports, it seems unlikely the funds will be heading to those wronged by BundleCult or MacBundler in any way.
There have periodically been bad actors among software bundle creators, and it has come to MacNN's
attention that there is likely another that has been running bundles for some time under the BundleCult and MacBundler names, amongst others. Does this all sound familiar? It should -- MacNN
originally ran the story about the group and issues paying developers in October, and we're reminding readers now about it, because another bundle by the same group has gone on sale today.
A group of developers alleged
last year that the people behind the recently-completed BundleCult bundles has a history of not paying developers. The lead developer of CoreCode, Julian Mayer, contacted us first to discuss the issue. After not getting paid for his offering, Mayer found similar issues across several bundles, which then all seem to link to the same organizing entity.
Logan Ryan from Mariner Software
that he can "definitely say, with 100 percent certainty, that Bundlecult is a fraud. We did not receive any payment on a bundle last year, even after repeated attempts were made to resolve the matter."
When asked for more details, Ryan told us that "several developers (including Mariner) participated in his bundle last year. It did relatively well, from what we could tell. After the bundle ended, Samuel/Dan/Isaac (he goes by many aliases) was to have paid said developers their share. That didn't happen. We pursued him (and continue to), but since he is in the UK, the probability of ever getting funds is small."
Additionally, Charlie Monroe, the developer of movie cataloging app Rottenwood
, spoke to us about the matter as well. Monroe said that he had his app in one of the bundles: "I supplied licenses to the guy, everything. Never heard back from him, never got a response to any of my emails after the sale."
has reached out to nearly all of the developers associated with MacBundler and Bundlecult offerings. We've received responses from twelve other developers who have confirmed non-payment from Bundlecult-related bundles in October, and none of those polled in October of 2015 have been paid as of April 1, 2016. The perpetrator is believed to reside in the UK, making international lawsuits time-consuming and difficult. No developer has, thus far, told us that they have been paid, although the possibility does exist.
that Bundlecult, Macbundler, creativeloots, mightyloots, oyoyo, poplytics, printplum, smugcase, futurestaff, and 99closets are all related to the lessprices.co.uk domain -- which was suspended the Thursday morning before we published the original report for reasons as yet unknown -- but has returned since. Alleged aliases of the perpetrator are Dan Kingsley, Isaac Cruz, and Samuel Kenssington Okwuada -- MacNN
wasn't able to determine with certainty if these are three different people, or one perpetrator. If one person, which is the real name of the person behind the organization isn't clear.
According to Mayer, Okwuada is the most likely suspect behind the non-payment. Okwuada's LinkedIn profile suggests that he arrived in the UK for a few years to study, with studies concluding in 2014. His Facebook page shows he graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2014, as a final post. MacNN
attempted to contact Okwuada in October and again earlier today, and we have had no success as of yet. His current location is unverifiable at this time.
MacBundler and BundleCult do pay affiliate deals with sites, however. MacNN
can confirm that payments for BundleCult sales are paid through a MacBundler email address, further reinforcing the connection.
was petitioned earlier today to promote a new bundle by the same individual or team connected to BundleCult and MacBundler under the lessprices.co.uk aegis. We have reached out to the accused through the new contact information, and have received no response to our queries as of yet. If we get a response, we will update this post accordingly.
Like we said in October, bundles are praised as the savior of independent development, as well as being panned for striking at the financial bottom line of companies, and can prey on developers who generally don't make a lot of money from development. Apparent bad actors can swing this even further into the red for potential bundle participants. Christopher Forsythe, developer of Growl
, was petitioned by BundleCult last year, but refused to participate.
In talking to us about the issue, Forsythe said that "[Okwuada] contacted me about putting Growl in, however when I heard he hadn't paid one developer I started digging. Eventually, it came to my attention [that] multiple developers are not being paid. Which means these developers will likely not want to put their applications into another bundle program with anyone else again. Which then leads to changing the landscape. This isn't right."
Regarding the current bundle, Edward Brawer, developer of UBar, notes that "the bundle page claims 58 sold and it seems he hasn't even used the API" to generate licenses for purchasers. Similar patterns have been identified by other developers from previous bundles affiliated with BundleCult/Macbundler as well.
While MacNN did promote one of the BundleCult bundles last summer, we have since improved our vetting process -- bundles promoted on MacNN since last year have been checked for proper pay distribution to developers.
is continuing to investigate this issue. If you are a developer who has dealt with any of the BundleCult-affiliated sites, let us know
your story, be it good or bad. Additionally, as we mentioned, we are still awaiting a response from the accused, and would welcome contact.
List of domains connected to lessprices.co.uk in October 2015
Current list of domains connected to lessprices.co.uk, retrieved April 1, 2016