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I read an interesting article about a recent success in the App Store here:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/31837/

and it backs up the problem I've seen as a consumer using the App Store from the developer's point of view. Numerous times, I've noticed that discoverability on the App Store is low, which leads to the inevitable reliance on the chart recommendations. When this happens, apps that are mildly popular suddenly become wildly popular because of the herd mentality i.e. if other people think something is good, it must be good.

This led to the following revenue profile for the developer in the above story:



Basically nobody was finding the application until he offered it free and subsequently until Apple featured it and then it exploded into 45x more sales within a week.

The question is, how do they avoid this situation? If they removed the charts altogether, you are just left with an unsearchable pile of 400k+ apps.

I think with so many apps, they need to get away from the 'top 10' idea because the charts aren't changing enough and become a self-fulfilling review process - apps are popular because they are in the chart, which keeps them in the chart because they get the traffic.

The genius recommendations are great but not done nearly well enough and not promoted enough. If I see an app anywhere in the App Store or genius and flag that I don't want it, I should never see it again even in the chart. Even limiting by category, there's no way I can work through nearly 7000 action games because I can't exclude ones I've seen. Even if the store removed ones you'd seen from the browse mode, it would help.

Fundamentally, most charting systems are flawed because they apply a one-size-fits-all recommendation. It's the same with music and movies. If you only like R&B then a mixed top 10 chart that has no R&B albums/singles has no relevance to you. In that case with a well-defined genre, a per-category search resolves the situation somewhat but not entirely because the profits go to the mixed chart occupants primarily. It's like being on page 1 of Google vs page 3.

In the interests of fairness, I think the entry page to the App Store should behave differently and move the charts into the per-category areas. This way it doesn't matter if a messaging app is higher ranked than Fifa 11 because they aren't likely to be competing for your sale.

The front page could then be more personalised to offer recommendations based on your own preference from either past purchases or categories you browse as well as only show apps you've never seen before. This way the content on the entry page stays much more fresh than it is. I don't know how long Angry Birds has been in the charts now but I still don't want it so what's the sense in Apple keeping it there on the front page? It changes the store from selling me things I want to selling me things other people want, which is silly. Amazon doesn't do this. Every single time I visit the entry page the offers are based on my browsing history or previous purchases.

Another idea would be to cycle the charts by having rules about how long a single app can stay in the chart before the chart starts to promote the app unfairly. I would say an app should only be given say 4 weeks maximum in the chart and the time that it's in the chart acts as a detriment to its position. So after 4 weeks it falls off the bottom. It could cycle back round again though so that if people were still picking it up while it was out of the chart, it could move back in again after another 8 weeks or so and the process would repeat.

If they don't do something about it, the situation is going to end up that out of 160 million users and over 400,000 apps, Apple has pretty much decided that the best app for anyone at any time over the past 6 months or more on any device is Angry Birds and I don't think that's a good setup.