Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Here’s why people are fearing for the future of this beloved Mac app

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The Bartender app being shown in use in macOS.Bartender

Bartender, a popular menu bar customization app for macOS with a long history, was quietly acquired by new developers sometime in the past few months. With no word from the app’s original creator or the new owners about the transition, MacUpdater sent out the following alert warning users of the situation.

“The company and developer behind Bartender was replaced in a silent and dubious manner — updates to version 5.0.52 and newer are your own risk and responsibility.”

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This sparked a long Reddit thread where the company behind MacUpdater shared more information about its decision to put out the alert. The first warning sign was blog entries on the Bartender website changing from developer-written posts to SEO articles possibly written by ChatGPT. Next, the code signatures on new releases of the app changed — first to “App Sub 1 LLC,” a company with just a few random iOS apps and a highly suspicious website to its name, and then to a newly formed “Bartender App LLC.” Emails to the original owner were returned as undeliverable, and the Bartender website and support channel didn’t provide any information about the acquisition.

As if this weren’t suspicious enough, the first response from the new owners came in the form of a comment on this very Reddit thread — under the not-so-professional username “Ordinary_Delivery_79.” In the comment, they claim to have mentioned the acquisition on their blog and in support emails to customers — but as other Redditors are quick to point out, no one knows who they are or what “their blog” is. One user also posts a screenshot of their own support email, which doesn’t mention the new owners at all.

As reported by MacRumors, MacUpdater also mentioned that it has been looking into the app to check for malicious code and has yet to find any. But users remain worried because the app has permission for screen recording, which can be a huge security risk if the developers aren’t trustworthy.

More recent comments in the thread identify Applause Group, Inc. as possible new owners, a company dedicated to buying apps and expanding their distribution. According to information on its FAQ page, it appears the company doesn’t focus on continued development of the apps it buys, believing that “users don’t want (or need) big overhauls on the products that they already love.”

Until the new owners put out a more official explanation, though, the situation is still up in the air. Many commenters on the Reddit thread have decided to delete the app for the time being, while others are refusing the update and staying with the older version. There are also people who just want to see these kinds of features integrated in the next version of macOS. Hopefully we’ll hear something official soon.

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