Dec 2, 2008

The App Store and CrapApps: A Proposal (pt. 1)

I just finished a lengthy post by John Casasanta & Phill Ryu at TapTapTap. For those not in the know, TapTapTap is an iPhone application development team.

The basic gist of the article is that the iPhone app store is becoming a "crapstore" and a few suggestions on how to fix it. John suggests changing the Top Paid Apps list from a ranking of apps sold to a ranking based on total revenue. He argues this would improve the quality the software for users and increase application prices for developers. I partially agree. I think this would change the app store in a number of ways. It would change incentives for developers in price setting. The overall price of applications would go up because the balance between volume AND price would need to be maximized whereas the current incentives encourage a maximization of only volume (the resulting price is minimized at $.99). John argues that developers will produce better apps and shovelware apps will disappear. I think that shovelware apps will still sell just in higher pricing. Their rule of the top spots will be negated somewhat by higher pricing and competing with supposedly higher quality applications but it is really difficult to see how the cards would fall at this point. My guess would be that the store would still be full of crapapps except they'd all cost $4.99 instead of $.99. Not really an improvement.

I've read in other posts and a few comments that the market has decided and to let it be. Apple said they were going to do just this when they announced the app store back in March. However, the market makes its decisions based on the environment around it. So to just say that the market decides isn't really useful. It is actually ignorant since the marketplace isn't completely free and has artificial guidelines and rules set by Apple (not the market). As mentioned above the incentives produced by the organization of the app store are driving the prices for paid apps to $.99. In the long run (John is right) the top apps in the two major categories will be priced at $.99 and Free. If this is the expected behavior for Apple's store then nothing needs to be changed. However I wouldn't be writing this post if I thought everything was going as expected. The incentives need to change.

What can we use to change the incentives? What should the goals be?

Post your ideas in the comments.

My suggestions will come tomorrow.

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