During the Epic v. Apple trial, an email chain surfaced that reveals Apple seemingly admitted "it manually boosted the ranking of its own Files app ahead of the competition for 11 entire months," reports The Verge. This comes after two monstrous reports by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times showed Apple's App Store clearly and consistently ranking its own apps ahead of competitors. Apple claimed it had done nothing wrong. The Verge reports: "We are removing the manual boost and the search results should be more relevant now," wrote Apple app search lead Debankur Naskar, after the company was confronted by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney over Apple's Files app showing up first when searching for Dropbox. "Dropbox wasn't even visible on the first page [of search results]," Sweeney wrote. As you'll see, Naskar suggested that Files had been intentionally boosted for that exact search result during the "last WWDC." That would have been WWDC 2017, nearly a year earlier, when the Files apps first debuted. The email chain actually reflects fairly well on Apple overall. Apple's Matt Fischer (VP of the App Store) clearly objects to the idea at first. "[W]ho green lit putting the Files app above Dropbox in organic search results? I didn't know we did that, and I don't think we should," he says. But he does end the conversation with "In the future, I want any similar requests to come to me for review/approval," suggesting that he's not entirely ruling out manual overrides.
But Apple tells The Verge that what we think we're seeing in these emails isn't quite accurate. While Apple didn't challenge the idea that Files was unfairly ranked over Dropbox, the company says the reality was a simple mistake: the Files app had a Dropbox integration, so Apple put "Dropbox" into the app's metadata, and it was automatically ranked higher for "Dropbox" searches as a result. I'm slightly skeptical of that explanation -- partially because it doesn't line up with what Naskar suggests in the email, partially because Apple also told me it immediately fixed the error (despite it apparently continuing to exist for 11 months, hardly immediate), and partially because the company repeatedly ignored my questions about whether this has ever happened with other apps before. The most Apple would tell me is that it didn't manually boost Files over competitors, and that "we do not advantage our apps over those of any developer or competitor" as a general rule.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.