Can we have a discussion about keyword stuffing and spam in the marketplace?

Hello everyone,

as many of you are aware, there has been a biblical flood of apps, particularly by one vendor, designed to attract customers to their marketplace listing by incorporating well known third party apps or services and their trademarks into the title and description of their apps and submitting them en masse to the marketplace.

As of today this particular vendor has amassed more than 300 apps in the marketplace and keeps submitting new ones, in the process blocking the approval queue for everyone else.

But this is not the worst aspect. Many of these listings violate basic trademarks, they violate the TOS of third-party platforms and their branding and they are designed to drown out competitor apps by blocking search results within the marketplace.

I would like to ask Atlassian to keep the marketplace fair and open to everyone, to prevent abuse in this way, and also to respect other platforms’ trademark policies.

16 Likes

What about many vendors outside of Apps+?

https://marketplace.atlassian.com/search?query=google%20analytics
https://marketplace.atlassian.com/search?query=figma
https://marketplace.atlassian.com/search?query=miro

1 Like

Yes, my post was not intended to call out one vendor in particular. I see other vendors have copied this approach and are now effectively flooding the new apps section with copy & paste listings.

Our figma apps are not spam :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Ultimately this isn’t an issue of Trademark. It’s a failure by Atlassian to build a great platform for developers.

There is so much overhead of being a vendor that it makes more sense to build an iframe which can be served by a single code base and deliver a million bits of garbage than build real apps that solve complex needs.

Even the vendor being critiqued here calls it out I launched 20 Forge apps. Here's some feedback

To a large degree, this is an issue with Marketplace approvals in general.

So many new apps don’t adhere to the Marketplace Rules. This also includes things like documentation requirements, naming of apps, etc.

I’ve pointed this out to the Marketplace team on multiple occasions, but it always falls on deaf ears.

2 Likes

Oh cool it’s a post about me! :heart_eyes:

Haters gonna hate. Don’t be mad you didn’t think of this strategy first.

  • Welcome to capitalism mate; it’s a primitive and inefficient system that encourages silly behaviour (“strategies”) because those strategies work. OODA loops in action.
  • Sadly centralised marketplaces are rarely fair or conducive to radical innovation.
  • The approval queues are not blocked; as of writing I have zero in the queue.
  • I currently have 382 total apps; they are very high quality (trial some!).
  • 12 are standalone, 20 are AI-based, 350 are embed-based.
  • They were each approved one-by-one like everyone else.
  • If any violate trademarks, obviously I’ll remedy/remove.

Me:

  • I’m a solo dev based in Sydney.
  • I do absolutely everything myself: frontend, backend, design, business and support.
  • Support requests I’ll respond to within 1-4 hours (or 10 hours max if I was sleeping).
  • I’ll get a customer bug/feature request and will deploy it literally within 1-2 hours.
  • There’s no need to hire 20+ employees to deliver value on the marketplace.
  • I’ve bootstrapped this business ~70 hours per week for the past 2-3 years.
  • There’s nothing stopping you from also wasting your life building enterprise widgets.

History:

  • I’ve built and launched well over 100 startups in the past 19 years; most failed. I got into Atlassian apps because a mate did very well with it. Three of my closest mates also work there which is sometimes useful as a vendor when you hit a wall and need help with various bureaucratic or dev-related blockers.
  • I decided to build small, simple, useful apps because I’m an entrepreneur and don’t have a history (or domain knowledge) of working behind a desk in large enterprise organisations. So fast and nimble was the key to find product-market fit.
  • First app was Countdown Timer+ with the first commit Jun 5th 2019.
  • I then built 10 other standalone apps: Word Count+, Update This+, Zoom Recordings+, Search Results Macro+, Panel Macro+, Broken Links+, Shortlinks+, Incoming Links+, Gender Bias+, Speed Reader+.
  • Something vendors quickly learn is that novelty doesn’t sell. Enterprise customers don’t want fancy new innovative apps. They generally have a specific boring business problem they want to solve. And since the marketplace is old, most of these needs are already being met by apps that look like they were designed in the 2000s (because they likely were).
  • Unless you have 100 companies knocking on your door with an unmet need, you’re going to need to be intelligent and adaptive in the strategies you experiment with as a new app vendor. Don’t be shocked when new vendors do innovative and unexpected things. Incumbents could learn a thing or two!
  • Some of my apps I built because “I think this is cool, let’s throw it at the wall and see if it sticks”. Sometimes that worked, mostly it didn’t.
  • My more intelligent strategies involved scraping marketplace data (anyone can do this, there’s an API) then identifying patterns and opportunities in that data.
  • Another one was identifying macros that had been removed from the core product and building replacement apps that do the same thing and more.
  • But the 80/20 rule is a bastard; most of my apps make $0 to this day.

Money:

  • Atlassian don’t pay out until you have a month over USD$500 (brutal policy for new vendors!).
  • 23 Jul 2020: first ever payment from apps (13 months from first commit).
  • 20 Jan 2021: first time I could cover rent from earnings (19 months from first commit).
  • 28 Jul 2021: first time I could go full-time (25 months from first commit).
  • Today: I’m still making less than I did as a React contractor.
  • This is just the shitty reality you need to accept as a new vendor on this marketplace.

Embed apps:

  • Two years in, those initial 11 apps were literally not enough to cover my basic living costs.
  • So the next strategy was SEO longtail (all entrepreneurs know this one).
  • I built one mono-repo and split it into 350 individual apps (half Confluence, half Jira). Some are all-in-one apps, some are bundles.
  • I literally thought “capitalism is so dumb this will probably work”. And it did.
  • Had I launched this project as one Confluence app and one Jira app, I know with 100% certainty that I’d still be working a 9-5 somewhere to pay the bills.
  • I lived off savings and spent 6 months full-time, 7 days per week, 10 hours per day to finish that project. And then another 3 months full-time fixing bugs. I’m still behind on fleshing out the marketplace listings which is why they look copy-paste. I don’t have minions I can lazily throw copy and design work at; it’s all me baby!
  • When I first started there were only a few embed-like apps, but by the time I was getting close to finishing up there were about 3-4 other vendors also pursuing the same strategy.
  • My apps are far more advanced, beautifully designed and carefully built. Feel free to compare my apps to competitors. Night and day. I’m not simply doing an autoconvert macro paste-to-embed (though that is also a feature).
  • Each app has manually written in-app documentation and many have manually coded embed configuration options in the sidebar. Then there are some apps that are entirely custom like Google Maps+ (try it).
  • Each of my apps have full customisable tabs; far better than any tabs app on the marketplace. eg Navitabs is incredibly ugly and outdated. It’s interesting that Stefan (the OP) was “Head of Atlassian apps” at the company behind Navitabs (is this a proxy attack?). There are other tab apps; go and compare them all. Mine is objectively superior: Tabs+ Pro.
  • Each app also has notes, images, whiteboard, PDF, code or website.
  • Oh and they’re all cross-compatible; another innovative first for the marketplace I’m surprised no other vendor has ever attempted.

AI apps:

  • These are the definition of “I think this is cool, let’s throw it at the wall and see if it sticks”.
  • Forge is not ready for production use at all, but I saw an opportunity with the MacroConfig sidebar being exclusive to Forge UI Kit, so I just started playing with it. Again, experiment.
  • From that play I hit countless limitations which led to mixing in some machine learning and natural language processing. And of course again, I’m the first vendor on the marketplace to do this!
  • Since I have more app ideas than time (just one dude in Sydney) I thought of all the small AI-based app ideas I could build and combined them into one. 20 apps from one mono-repo.
  • And again these are not shitty spam apps. Some are more useful than others. But it still took me 3 months, 7 days per week, 10 hours per day to finish this project. And it will take many more dev hours to come as Forge shifts and improves.
  • 80/20 rule again: I can guarantee that 80% of these apps will never make a cent, but perhaps in the future 20% of them will. Either way it adds to my app portfolio which looks attractive to future acquirers.

Actual unfair, discrimination and anti-competition:

  • We already know the marketplace favours entrenched vendors. You only need to visit the marketplace homepage to see the same apps week-after-week in the top two thirds of that page.
  • You know those badges on apps in the search results? They say “Cloud Security Participant” or “Cloud Fortified”.
  • Obviously those badges have some influence (unknown to developers) on which apps users click.
  • Did you know it costs vendors USD$5000 PER app to get one of those badges? This money is deposited toward the bug bounty program which is understandable, but obviously this is not fair.
  • There are other requirements too which are fairly easy to meet, but $5k per app is a huge anticompetitive barrier to entry for new vendors.
  • Oh and it’s being blatantly weaponised as an anticompetitive practice in the marketplace. I can point you to examples where my app has more installs, makes USD$8/mth total, whereas a direct competitor’s app has less installs but a big ass “Cloud Fortified” badge. Should I put $5k in on an app I make $8/mth from to compete on an equal footing? Would you? Is that fair?
  • It’s literal economic discrimination that hands more power to entrenched app vendors who have big-dick cash reserves they can leverage to slap their smaller competitors.
  • Oh and if you have multiple apps you can negotiate undocumented secret deals to reduce that cost per app. I’m pondering a secret deal of my own though I still think it’s entirely unfair.
  • I suggested to multiple internal folk that they should at least remove the badges from search results to restore an equal and fair marketplace. That request was denied.

Maybe that gives you some background on the history, rationale and pain involved in playing this silly game.

Instead of fighting each other over scraps, we should probably turn our anger toward the larger vendors raking in $millions per year with the help of Atlassian’s discriminatory policies.

The rest of us just want to build useful apps that are designed in this decade, and to cover our living costs.

Happy to jump on a call with anyone at Atlassian reading this. I’m an Aussie; no filter, we tell it like it is.

Cheers
Nathan

2 Likes

FYI it’s not 5k per app, it’s total in the bounty pool. See https://developer.atlassian.com/platform/marketplace/marketplace-security-bug-bounty-program/

Nah I’ve been down the rabbit hole and had direct correspondence with the bug bounty PM (Jake Comito).

It looks like they’ve recently changed the wording after I complained. You can see here it used to say “You will be requested to fund a minimum of $5,000 USD per app to cover the bounty pool.”

Now it says “You will be requested to fund a minimum of $5,000 USD to cover the program bounty pool.”

They don’t allow you to put all your apps into a single pool. And this is where the backroom secret negotiations happen.

I’m not allowed to throw all my apps into a $5k total bug bounty pool. I’ve been told I can do a vague max of quote “5-7 apps per pool” which is still unfair because I have no idea what secret deals other vendors are getting.

Also I cannot and would not deposit $380k (382/5 * $5k) to enter all my apps into a bug bounty. Nor do small vendors with 1-5 apps total have a spare $5k to lock away in a deposit void. Nor do I particularly want to be yet another large vendor dick-slapping new vendors out of the search results simply because I can out-spend them. Though the dumb game theory of it means I either have to submit to the extortion or let competitors get away with their unfair leg up.

It’s a clear anticompetitive practice which heavily favours large vendors who are out of touch with the economic reality of small vendors. And large vendors are actively weaponising it against their competitors.

You guys brought up unfair marketplace issues while being engaged in the most egregious of them. The badges should be removed from search results or changed to what they actually are: “sponsored listing”.

A fair marketplace is one where all apps compete on an equal playing field and surface to the top simply because they’re the best product. The “Cloud Fortified” program is just blatantly buying your way up the search results.

Shocking that somehow your idea of what an app is and what Atlassian’s idea of an app might be in misalignment when you’ve published 360 apps. Sounds like copium to me mate.

2 Likes

You’re an employee at a large vendor. Instead imagine you’re a founder working afterhours to build your first marketplace app:

  1. You build it, you deploy it.
  2. If you’re lucky you get your first payment 12 months later.
  3. It’s a $5k deposit to get a “Cloud Fortified” badge.
  4. That barely gets you over the fair playing field line.
  5. Install + review metrics on search results are also a fairness hurdle (less explicitly unfair).
  6. You likely won’t make $5k cumulative on that app until at least 2-3 years in, but obviously you’ve already spent that on paying rent.

Every single vendor started small, it’s not like all of them became big overnight miraculously. And most of the time this happened with doing the business the right way, so maybe your approach is at fault here.

5 Likes

That vibe doesn’t land for entrepreneurs that push the envelope and deliver actual innovation. If you’ve worn the metaphorical/literal tie for most of your career, that will reflect heavily in your ideas and what you build. Innovators don’t wear ties.

You can read through my long post and see the moves I’ve made in the past 2 years that no other vendor on this marketplace has ever bothered to attempt.

It appears I’m the:

  • first to scale with a mono-repo model; and there are clever hacks to make this work.
  • first to build cross-compatible apps; all 350 of the embed apps work interchangeably.
  • first to deploy apps with inbuilt machine learning.

Outside of the cultural bubble of an enterprise marketplace, these are about as innovative as sliced bread. But I was still the first to do this in the history of the Atlassian marketplace. The lack of innovation in this community and the hate directed at innovators is not good.

I can point to examples where I’ve hacked together a solution, ancient competitors trial my app (I see them in the logs), they reverse engineer it because they can’t innovate on their own, then 6-12 months later they’ve included the feature into their own app. I call them out when it happens, eg [CONFCLOUD-35218] Macro: incoming links - Create and track feature requests for Atlassian products.

It speaks volumes when you’re one new developer building 10x better products, 100x faster than incumbents with 10-50+ employees. And then they steal your ideas, clone your features, get upset and start throwing shade at you in the forums. Classic.

1 Like

@nathanwaters ,

I’m sorry your experience in the Marketplace has been so poor. You appear to me to be a smart guy trying to build a business and have some very solid points. In every competitive environment much of what you say exists, it doesn’t matter which marketplace or where you sell your solutions. Competition breeds success and innovation, why else would you be here. Hopefully not because you thought it was to make an easy buck.

Yes, I work for Appfire, and we are a large partner today. But we weren’t always large. We have chosen a different path than others for how we grow. This has probably pissed off a number of vendors as well. That makes me sad. Doing things the correct way is, well, up to the reader to decide as long as it’s ethical and honest. But with our growth, we’ve been provided opportunities. We still give back to and represent the community every chance we get. To think that Atlassian treats us differently is being naive. Of course they do - in some areas. Every enterprise vendor treats its largest customers and partners differently. The difference is that in these situations everything we do, and each vendor we work alongside does, is try to make the marketplace better for everyone, not just Appfire, not just large vendors. It doesn’t always work. The irony in this is that you choose to throw shade at the successful vendors yet want to become one.

And to insult those that came before you and made it even possible for you to be selling software here at all is hypocritical. Yes, you likely do have some innovation and some great ideas behind your work here. Just like those that came before you. It’s not new. I can share examples of how we’ve done this internally since the beginning of time with apps. A quantity (large number of apps) vs. quality (apps with real customer value, solving real customer problems) model is not new. You’ve discovered it’s not easy.

I can say that if you don’t have a few personal relationships with other vendors in this marketplace, then you’re missing out. I have worked for large enterprises, startups, and lots in between and I’ve never seen the support and helpfulness that this marketplace has provided to everyone, including new startups in the marketplace. These are people in competition helping each other. You’ve just gotten off on the wrong foot and you’re defending yourself when maybe it best to take the high road.

You also seem to think that the $5K BugBounty and Cloud Fortified is some magic bullet. It’s not. And what you’ve experienced with the program is not fact. We have acquired a number of companies big and small and they’re all the same in how they have their scopes configured. So you were clearly misled. And if I thought investing $5K into my business would suddenly make me successful, I’d find a way to do it. I’d personally invest $5K in your business to fund your bounty if I thought it would help you. Especially if you are building products “10x better” than anyone else.

Maybe I should have taken my own advice here but I wanted to extend an offer. Reach out to me if you’re interested and let’s have a chat. Most vendors here would extend the same offer. And most here know way more than I do.

Cheers,
Jeff

9 Likes

Hey Marketplace folks,

There may be a kernel of reasonable discussion in how vendors use listings on Marketplace. But this thread started in bad faith with an assertion that listing 300 apps is an abuse. The responses were “in kind”; hence, the conversation has descended into “ad hominem” attacks. This thread does not represent the community we have grown together.

Despite “markets” as competitive systems, there is room for cooperation and constructive dialog, as the years of threads piling up in this community have proven. As a founding member of this community, I can’t remember having to lock a thread for this kind of petty sniping. Please, let’s take a moment to realize that in these conflict-ridden and polarizing times, that we can choose the better path. I’m locking this thread and asking for a round of tacit forgiveness.

If anyone wants to re-open a discussion about improving Marketplace so that it can be more “fair and open”, then please start a new thread with those principles: begin in good faith, ask open questions, and treat your peer community members fairly. If you have a problem with Marketplace policy, take it up with Atlassian Marketplace support.