Dear long tail of Apps,
Fuck you …
… begins Apple’s announcement of the new and redesigned App Store in iOS 6.
We felt that too many of you were getting downloads, making livings and generally participating in the ecosystem and so we’ve devised a way to counter this.
I am of-course referring to the modifications to the iOS App Store released today which replace the over-used and old-hat visual mechanism of a list to represent, well, lists of results and instead present them as full-screen cards, side-by-side. Apple has trained us over the past few years, that this is a paged view. There are pages, I’ll buy it.
I’m not however, convinced of the soundness of the concept of replacing a list of results with a paged view of result cards for one simple reason – it compounds the biggest problem in the App Store – discovery.
Exponential increased, exponentially
It’s already true that downloads drop off exponentially as you go down the search results but now Apple presents the results not so much as results but as the answer by presenting a full screen single App. They did this, without improvement of their search ranking mechanism at all. So now that same search engine that developers have complained about by the thousands and nobody (literally – outside Apple) has even a notional clue how it works is determining the answer__ to your search query and controlling in a pretty direct way the revenue of the developers behind these Apps. While the quality and logic behind these results isn’t really what we’re here to talk about (but it is very bad), the fact that it’s bad does compound the problem further.
Let’s compare the modifications to the iOS 6 App Store to the behaviour of Wall Street over the years leading up to the financial crisis. The App Store is after all, a market of it’s own. Specifically, I’d like to employ some rhetoric conceived by the Occupy movement – that of the 99%. This update serves to increase the visibility of the already-top-listed Apps which have been receiving the most downloads to this point and drive more traffic towards them, at the expense of the long-tail of (some very high quality) Apps which sit behind them – previously on the first page, now potentially 4 full (buggy) swipes away.
The App Store in iOS 6 benefits the 1% at the expense of the 99%
It’s actually likely worse than 1% v. 99%. I would suppose that less than 1% of Apps are top-result for common search terms other than their name (where they will also punish smaller Apps by displaying a full-screen ‘did you mean card’!??!) – meaning that this really does serve to benefit the very top Apps by funnelling users straight to downloading them before exploring competitors or smaller Apps. Occupy Infinity Loop.. anyone?
Tomorrow, we’ll get the first full day’s worth of metrics from iOS developers not lucky enough to be the top result for popular related search queries and my guess is there will be a lot of unhappy indie developers. Apple must be aware that decreasing the visibility of all but the top Apps will have a massive compounding effect on where the revenue goes – it seems they have chosen.
Big Apps need big $$
Apple would prefer to have a small number of high-profit Applications on the store, rather than the hundreds of thousands of small Apps that have gotten them to where they are today. It makes sense in some ways; the store is maturing and there are some really high quality, highly-valuable Apps (and companies behind them) that need lots of revenue from iOS to continue growing and innovating. iOS is not growing nearly as fast as Android and so in order to maintain the growth of these leaders of development on the platform, a greater share of the revenue has to go to them.
Whether you agree or not with the new Store, or my theories, one thing is for sure – Apple have made a choice, taken a side, and it wasn’t with us – the small developers.
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