The Mysterious Ways Of Apple's Top Apps List

Apple’s App Store is quickly becoming a hotbed for elite developers looking to capitalize on the store’s easy distribution model and huge exposure opportunities. Since the store’s launch less than two months ago, we’ve seen reports of apps reaching massive user bases and and collecting millions of dollars. But while the store has seen its share of its successes, it also has its flaws – most notably in the way it exposes users to apps in the first place.

The most glaring exception on the store is the lack of an all-time most popular applications list. While there are a pair of lists for current “Top Apps” (one for paid apps, the other for free), the list changes on a daily or even hourly basis. In turn, the most recently released applications dominate the list, with over half of the current list constituted by apps that have been released in the last ten days. This is great for Apple – most people turn to the Top Apps first when they open iTunes, and it’s in Apple’s best interest to always give them something new to play with.

But what about the apps that everyone should have? The ones that have seen hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of downloads, but no longer reach the top app lists because most people already have them? Shazam, the app that lets you hold up your iPhone to a speaker to figure out what song is playing, is currently ranked 16th, so it won’t appear on the home page. Tap Tap Revenge, one of the platform’s most popular games, has fallen to 20th. And Twitterific – a Twitter client that seemed cemented in the top 10 soon after the store’s launch, seems to have dropped off the list entirely.

If the current situation persists, even the very best apps will always lose out to the up-and-comers – a situation that only encourages developers to pump out applications as quickly as possible, rather than creating something really useful. Apple devotees are known for valuing polish and functionality – it would be a shame for the store to fall prey to the spammyness seen on other platforms.