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Developers report changes to top app ranking algorithm on Apple's App Store

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
After several iOS apps experienced a drastic shift in their rank on the bestselling apps list for Apple's App Store, iOS developers and analytics firms have speculated that Apple has quietly changed the criteria for its app ranking system to deemphasize downloads in favor of usage.

Several sources reported sudden shifts in the rankings of the Top Free applications on Apple's App Store this past week, Inside Mobile Apps reports.

Analytics firm Flurry was one of the first to call attention to the differences. Weve been noticing changes in the Top Free rankings for at least three days now, said vice president of marketing Peter Farago. From our point of view, Apple is absolutely considering more than just downloads, which we believe is the right direction to measure true popularity of an app.

Big-name applications such as Facebook, Netflix and Pandora gained from the ranking adjustment. Facebook jumped to the No. 1 position for top free iPhone apps after spending most of the last year and a half in the No. 10 to No. 20 range. Netflix rose to No. 20 after being ranked between 30 and 50 last month, while Pandora saw a substantial boost to No. 7, up from hovering in the twenties.

Given that Facebook, Netflix and Pandora presumably see heavy daily use by users, some developers have surmised that Apple now counts daily and monthly use in its ranking algorithm.
post #2 of 20
What is needed is a better method for sorting through all the apps and podcasts. User ratings. Subcategories. Find similar. Quality. Value. Functionality. Price ranges. Searching right now is a pain. I hate to think what it will be like after a few more years of apps being added to the store.
post #3 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by hiker275 View Post

What is needed is a better method for sorting through all the apps and podcasts. User ratings. Subcategories. Find similar. Quality. Value. Functionality. Price ranges. Searching right now is a pain. I hate to think what it will be like after a few more years of apps being added to the store.

I totally agree. It helps with good websites that review good apps though.
post #4 of 20
I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?

I totally agree, especially w/iPodTouch, which won't always be on a network (and in my case is almost NEVER connected to the open internet. And I never use Open Feint or any of that ilk, so unless a developer in incredibly devious (like: batching up data, running in the background secretly waiting for a connection!), they're never going to see how many times I'm playing their games or using their apps.

My guess is they just kiss off those of us who value our privacy and chalk it up as no big deal.
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post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?

That was my first question, too. Just how much information is Apple gathering about how we use our devices?
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by hiker275 View Post

What is needed is a better method for sorting through all the apps and podcasts. User ratings. Subcategories. Find similar. Quality. Value. Functionality. Price ranges. Searching right now is a pain. I hate to think what it will be like after a few more years of apps being added to the store.

Macworld AppGuide does most of what you are looking for. http://www.macworld.com/appguide/index.html

However, unless more users/purchasers get involved the ratings are limited and some highly suspect. The same can be said in the iTunes Store and all the sites that try to accomplish the same thing. Only a smidgen of purchases are ever rated. And the validation of the rater is totally uncertain.

Even here, any attempt to pass on an app that has been deemed of value, are virtually ignored, rarely acknowledged or worse, chastized. But again there are only a handful of visitors here that make the effort virtually useless anyway.
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?

Clearly the App Store currently checks what apps you have installed. Otherwise, it would be offering you updates for deleted apps. (And previously, it allowed you to rate an app when deleting.) I don't think 'usage' in this case means anything more than downloaded and not deleted.
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?

You signed away your right to that privacy when you accepted the iTunes T&C.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple Privacy Policy

We also collect non-personal information − data in a form that does not permit direct association with any specific individual. We may collect, use, transfer, and disclose non-personal information for any purpose.

Number of installed, number of uninstalls, number of times launched, amount of time spent in the app. All non-personal information.

And that's just the stuff that's above the table, unscrupulous developers can mine all the stuff they want until someone notices and the app gets pulled.
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?

Privacy issue comes in if and when Apple collects identifiable information regarding software users. However, if it's a simple number counter placed on the software that gets incremented each time someone uses it, with no other information collected, no privacy is violated.
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by xsu View Post

Privacy issue comes in if and when Apple collects identifiable information regarding software users. However, if it's a simple number counter placed on the software that gets incremented each time someone uses it, with no other information collected, no privacy is violated.

This.

Isn't there a screen when you first connect a new devise asking for "diagnostic and other non-identifying information" that you can opt into? I would imagine that information can easily include either number of launches for an app or time an app is used. If multitasking switching counts as a launch, which seems like an easy thing to do, launch counts would be a pretty good metric for rating apps. Seems like a good idea.

It is almost like they want you to know what apps are good or something. Nah, a company that looks out for their customers? Couldn't be!
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post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used.

They can look at how many downloads there are of an app, factor in how many updates, how many get some kind of rating at all and what the rating is, etc.
On some apps there is additional information like magazine issues, level packs etc that may be going through their servers. Even without considering the money involved that someone is downloading that stuff, and repeatedly does show use.
Also your computer and devices have to call out to the server from time to time to check for updates so it knows how long you have had the item on whatever. Few folks keep anything on their phone/ipad that they aren't using at least some of the time so they can factor in the time from initial download to whenever.

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by shen View Post

If multitasking switching counts as a launch, which seems like an easy thing to do, launch counts would be a pretty good metric for rating apps. Seems like a good idea.

They could also use CPU time. In Activity Monitor, you can right-click the title bar and enable CPU time and it lets you know which processes have been running the longest - apps in the background will get lower CPU time.

I think it's a great idea and a very welcome improvement to the top rated apps. I really didn't like the way they measured it before because you get marketing people who spam the links everywhere to get the downloads up and then they get in the top spot and that advertising alone pushes the downloads way up so then it becomes a cyclical measure of popularity.

Going by app usage is a far better judge of popularity and will make the charts way more accurate. This data does not imply any personal stats are recorded so no need to worry about privacy.
post #14 of 20
With 350,000 apps in their catalog, how in the world does Apple manage to review and approve/reject new apps & updates?

That must be an insane amount to review per day. I wonder how many employees they have doing this?
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by am8449 View Post

With 350,000 apps in their catalog, how in the world does Apple manage to review and approve/reject new apps & updates?

That must be an insane amount to review per day. I wonder how many employees they have doing this?

If it takes 10 minutes to review an app, say 5 per hour and an employee puts in an 8 hour day, a single employee could handle 40 reviews per day. If you have 25 employees, you can do 1,000 a day. Do this for 365 days in the year and you reach your 350,000 app catalogue fully reviewed with just 25 members of staff.

Of course 350,000 are just the ones that made it through so there could be more resources dedicated to it but developing even a basic app will take a week or so minimum so I don't expect them to be inundated with requests.
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by xsu View Post

Privacy issue comes in if and when Apple collects identifiable information regarding software users. However, if it's a simple number counter placed on the software that gets incremented each time someone uses it, with no other information collected, no privacy is violated.

Not true. Unless one is willing to allow someone to monitor their usage, nobody else has the right to get that information or disclose it.

For sure, I can't imagine a company that would unilaterally allow their sales/usage figures made public. And unless every company did so, the information would not be relevant.

As is evidenced from the iTunes Store, Macworld, and all the other sites that users are involved in the rating process, the lack of participation is virtually nil. And if usage was that pertinent of a criteria, McDonalds would have to be rated the top restaurant in the world.
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

If it takes 10 minutes to review an app, say 5 per hour and an employee puts in an 8 hour day, a single employee could handle 40 reviews per day. If you have 25 employees, you can do 1,000 a day. Do this for 365 days in the year and you reach your 350,000 app catalogue fully reviewed with just 25 members of staff.

Of course 350,000 are just the ones that made it through so there could be more resources dedicated to it but developing even a basic app will take a week or so minimum so I don't expect them to be inundated with requests.

10 minutes seems pretty short even with their automated system of weeding out certain apps/code.

Dont forget all failed submissions and current but updated apps have to go through the process again. Id think the number of people is well north of 25 at this point.
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post #18 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobthedino View Post

I don't believe there is currently any way for Apple to know how much the apps on your iOS device are being used. And if such a way did exist, wouldn't there be a privacy outcry?

Wouldn't be too difficult to read a last modified date which would be created when the app is run or probably create a system log when apps are run in order to supply crash logs and so forth. Then it would simply be a matter of iTunes reading that. Not really a privacy thing as Apple already read that information and you agreed to it.
post #19 of 20
I noticed a change when Verizon users came on board. New users downloading the popular apps.......
post #20 of 20
This is where Google could help. I imagine they've seen every trick under the sun for gaming a rating system. Of course, not that they would help.
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