PSA: Mac app Bartender has been acquired silently by a company

Jun 7, 2024
Updated • Jun 7, 2024

The popular Mac app Bartender has changed hands. The app has been acquired silently by a company, which has raised some questions.

For those unaware, Bartender is tool that lets you organize the macOS Menu Bar. It hides the icons of other apps to allow for a cleaner look.

Well, this isn't the first time an app has been sold by a developer without prior warning to users. It happened with Nova Launcher, Simple Mobile Tools, and Raivo OTP. Speaking of which, some users on Bitwarden's subreddit said that a recent update to Raivo OTP deleted all tokens in the app.

Bartender Mac app acquired silently by new company

Let's get back on topic. As Macrumors reports, some reddit users noticed a warning from MacUpdater (a tool that tracks if updates are available for your apps). The warning mentioned that Bartender had been sold to a company in a "silent and dubious manner". The note also mentioned that Bartender 5.0.52 and newer versions should be used at "your own risk and responsibility".

(image via reddit)

But, there had not been an official announcement from the original developer and the new owner about the acquisition. As soon as the reports began getting noticed, a reddit user called "Ordinary_Delivery_79" who claimed that they were the new owners of Bartender, explained that the acquisition was a normal process. They also said it had been completed two months ago. The company's representative clarified they had to re-sign the app with Apple to include their company's information. This had let to the certificate being changed.

As expected, the news was met with criticism and concern from users. One user discovered that the app had been sold to Applause. CoreCode, the developer of MacUpdater, posted a comment on reddit, detailing the discoveries into the matter. They discovered that the style of Bartender's blog posts changed from being informational, to a SEO-optimized style that could have been generated by an AI. The 5.0.52 beta release app's code signature changed in April, to App Sub 1 LLC. This company has published some random apps for iPadOS.

When Bartender 5.0.52 exited beta, the release was signed by a 'Bartender App LLC'. The change in the developer's certificate was the first red flag. AppleInsider notes that security researcher Patrick Wardle (and creator of the LuLu firewall app) confirmed to their blog that contrary to claims, he was not examining the app for malicious code. Another user who investigated the app's binary discovered that Bartender 5.0.52 contained code related to a new analytics framework from Amplitude, and this is used to report a ton of analytics data, aka telemetry. Here is another discussion about the controversy on Homebrew's Github.

Ben Surtees, the developer of Bartender, has published a statement on his website to shed some light on the situation. He clarified that users need not be worried as the app is signed by a verified Apple ID developer and notarized by Apple, so it does not contain malware.  The post also confirms that Bartender had been sold to Applause three months ago. Wait, didn't the owner say it was sold two months ago? Regardless of that, I don't think the statement is reassuring. As a matter of fact, the same statement is now available on Bartender's website.

App developers need to be more responsible and transparent. They never announce an app's acquisition before handing over the reins to the new company. I get the fact that indie developers need the money, that is fair. But you need to be open about the situation, and announce it publicly. If a company fails to do so, its intentions are malicious. I think this particular case is actually worse, because Bartender is a paid app. This is a poor way to thank the loyal users who had paid for the app, and supported its development over the years.

According to some users, Bartender has been updated to 5.0.53, and the change log reportedly mentions that it removes the Amplitude product analytics that was added in the previous update. The developers have said that the telemetry data was only used to count the number of users who were running into some permissions issue.

Alternatives for Bartender Mac app

So, what are some good alternatives for Bartender? I have been using Hidden Bar on my MacBook for a couple of years. You may have seen a small vertical line on the Apple Bar in my previous macOS articles, that's the Hidden Bar's icon. The app is open source. It has not been updated in over 2 years, but it does work on macOS Sonoma. If it ain't broke, you can continue using it.

Several reddit users have recommended an alternative app called Ice. It's also open source, and seems pretty good. I have not tested it extensively, but it's free, open source, and is updated on a regular basis. While you can use MacUpdater for free, for just scanning for updates. But in case you want an alternative, check out Latest, it's free and open source.

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PSA Mac app Bartender has been acquired silently by a company
Bartender Mac app has been sold to a company without prior notice to users.
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  1. Anonymous said on June 7, 2024 at 3:46 pm

    Ridiculous article.

    Developer sells company, app is notarized by Apple.

    And the suggestion that the sale of an app must be announced publicly and
    ‘If a company fails to do so, its intentions are malicious.’
    is nonsense of the highest order.

    And before Ashwin becomes even more conspiratorial, no I have nothing to do with the app in question.

  2. Anonymous said on June 7, 2024 at 7:23 am

    It would be nice if the article mentioned what the hell this app does. I don’t go to bars so I don’t think this affect me.

    1. Kalmy said on June 8, 2024 at 4:35 pm

      Ashwin said this early in the article: “. . . Bartender is tool that lets you organize the macOS Menu Bar. It hides the icons of other apps to allow for a cleaner look.”

    2. RG said on June 7, 2024 at 12:05 pm

      After installing press Tab key on a Mac to get some booze.

    3. Anonymous said on June 7, 2024 at 10:53 am

      Contrary to it’s theme, the program has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s a menu bar management utility tool.

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