AppEsteem Blog

Our fifth year: the longest one ever

While our office remains empty and we're confined to our homes, our spirits are high, because we made it all the way to our fifth birthday!

The big idea we had when we started was that software monetizers could actually thrive in a cleaner, consumer-respecting world. The formula was simple: they'd promise to be good, we'd certify their apps, and we'd work to educate the anti-malware ecosystem about the differences between the good and the bad players.

We were so naïve.

But in spite of our inability to look at the world through anything but rose-colored-lenses, we all worked together and accomplished something big. The Windows and MacOS apps are in such a better place now. Unwanted software is mostly gone: the good apps thrive, the bad apps get whacked, and the industry has found a way to work together to protect consumers.

We made an impact that we only dreamed of achieving.

We're not done, though. Browser extensions and mobile apps still have large numbers of unscrupulous vendors taking advantage of consumers. We think this is because the platform stores are still more focused on growth than they are on protecting consumers, and they've found effective ways to keep both the AVs and companies like AppEsteem at bay. (Shame on them.) We're still trying to crack this nut.

But we feel great at what's been accomplished. And we owe a huge debt to the AVs and our customers for not only taking a chance on us, but also for continually working to make this software space cleaner every year. Thank you!

We've learned so much in the process, too. Some of the learnings were painful lessons. Here's six of our critical success factors:

  1. Many of the early "supporters" (both vendors and AVs) weren't interested in solving the problem. They wanted to give lip service while they prolonged their cheating ways. Thankfully these bad vendors have shut down or moved out of this space, and the insincere AVs have mostly become irrelevant, but we had to learn how to stop wasting time on insincere supporters.
  2. Few vendors wanted our certification service (even when we offered it for free) until we had a robust method of reporting Deceptors. We had to balance our carrots and sticks.
  3.  The AVs were very happy with our Deceptor feed, but our big breakthrough on stopping their flags on certified apps came when we started testing them. We had to find how to leverage the existing momentum of our partners.
  4. It took us time to realize that AVs are also software monetizers, and many times their sales, marketing, and product managers break the ACRs (and their own policies) they enforce on others. Keeping everybody aligned and the hypocrisy at bay was a difficult task to master.
  5. Staying in sync with a robust vendor association like helped keep us focused on what matters to software vendors (and not just to their supply chain). We learned how to operationalize how we figured out what our customers really needed.
  6. Having our own app (check out!) has taught our entire team so much about what our customers go through as they build and distribute their apps. We should have done this earlier.


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