This weekend, Apple’s App Store head Phil Schiller responded to complaints that spam apps and rip-offs were appearing in the App Store’s “New” and “What’s Hot” sections for certain categories. Unfortunately, this has been a longtime issue for Apple’s third-party application marketplace, and the subject of much developer frustration over the years. Schiller, who took over responsibility for managing the App Store from Eddy Cue in December, addressed the problem on Twitter, saying that this should not be happening and he will look into it.
The issue has to do with the App Store’s algorithm, which recommends new apps and games to try, based on new releases and what’s trending on the App Store. However, the problem is that instead of picking out great and engaging new titles, the algorithm had been picking up a variety of “2048” applications which are copycat versions of the popular “Threes” game. In fact, the featured “Puzzle” section on the iTunes App Store was filled with these rip-off versions, which prompted several angry tweets.
The issue is actually related to an old bug, and one which had been marked as being resolved by Apple in the past. The issue also seems to affect non-U.S. App Stores more often.
Allowing the App Store to fill with these lower-quality clones is one thing, but to actually feature them and recommend them to end users is quite another. And it’s clear why this would incite developer backlash.
If this was an isolated incident, developers would probably be more forgiving of what’s just a bug that needs a fix. However, the App Store is plagued with issues related to rankings and discoverability of apps, and many third-party developers feel that the platform has not received the attention it deserved over the years.
It is promising and notable then, that Schiller publicly acknowledged this particular problem and promised to address it.
Schiller’s response on Twitter was in reply to a tweet from Screenshot++ developer Wesley Dyson who highlighted another tweet from Mozilla’s Lisa Brewster about the issue with the comment, “I believe this is your department now. Rip-off apps should never be showcased by Apple.”
— Philip Schiller (@pschiller) March 13, 2016
App Store editors, you had one job https://t.co/uLLOuXTDvb
— Lisa Brewster (@Adora) March 12, 2016