App Store Moves From Algorithms To Editors in Promoting New, Popular Apps

The newly updated app store

One of the biggest complaints from developers creating apps for Apple’s App Store has always been that new and popular apps were chosen algorithmically to be highlighted on the store. As a result, clone or rip-off apps often slipped through the process and ended up getting undeserved attention in the store, while original content did not. A good example was Flappy Bird, which quickly became popular and then “cloned” by a number of copycat developers with names, app icons, and gameplay similar to the original. TechCrunch is reporting that Apple has now switched to editorially curated lists of new and popular apps, which should result in a more fair and accurate assessment of what apps are truly hot and which are not.

Previously, the store had lists with titles like “New,” “What’s Hot,” and “All iPhone (Free & Paid).” The latter was abused by developers who listed their games with names like “AAAAA Floppy Burd” to appear at the top of the list. The “New” list wasn’t alphabetical, rather appearing to be based on app download volume. Indie developers liked this, as they could get a good spike in downloads if they could get a lot of traffic (usually from reviews) in the first few days.

The change is to lists that are edited by humans, not algorithms. For example, you’ll see lists like “Best New Games” or “All Time Greats,” which are updated weekly by Apple editors. TechCrunch notes that some app developers are seeing substantial drops in downloads ranging from 30 to 90 percent in the first week after app launch. But for the most part, developers who have well-defined user acquisition and marketing strategies won’t see too much of a change. TechCrunch hit the nail on the head by stating that “the editorial sections mean those developers who build great games will be rewarded for doing so, instead of having to compete against an inscrutable algorithm.”

The App Store is huge; just this January, Apple report that there are over 1.4 million available apps. It’s expected that an even larger number will be announced at WWDC 2015 next week.


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