Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Jul 2014 14:33 UTC
General Development

We've touched on this topic several times already - most recently only a few days ago: the application store model is facing some serious issues at the moment, to the heavy detriment of users and developers alike. If you don't want to take my word for it - and really, you shouldn't, as you should make up your own mind - Marco Arment has written a great summary of all the problems the application store model is facing, with a lot of quotes from other sources to come to a good overview.

Apple's App Store design is a big part of the problem. The dominance and prominence of "top lists" stratifies the top 0.02% so far above everyone else that the entire ecosystem is encouraged to design for a theoretical top-list placement that, by definition, won't happen to 99.98% of them. Top lists reward apps that get people to download them, regardless of quality or long-term use, so that's what most developers optimize for. Profits at the top are so massive that the promise alone attracts vast floods of spam, sleaziness, clones, and ripoffs.

Quality, sustainability, and updates are almost irrelevant to App Store success and usually aren't rewarded as much as we think they should be, and that's mostly the fault of Apple's lazy reliance on top lists instead of more editorial selections and better search.


As the economics get tighter, it becomes much harder to support the lavish treatment that developers have given apps in the past, such as full-time staffs, offices, pixel-perfect custom designs of every screen, frequent free updates, and completely different iPhone and iPad interfaces.

The application store model is under serious pressure.

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The App Stores are a great example of a free market. Anyone can develop and App and can submit it.

No, it's not a free market. It's a constrained market because it offers only a single channel from the developers to the consumers (notably with Apple, since the there are other venues for other devices). Your revenue model, content, and public perception are limited by what the App Store supports. You can use other channels for marketing your product, but the App Store dominates the search engines. And even with these alternate marketing channels, you haven't the control over pricing and revenue.

As mentioned elsewhere, the App Store model offers easy fulfillment, since you as a developer do not have to deal with payment and downloads. The vetting model is useful for customers in terms of security, but it would be better if, like a "e-privacy" badge, you could have your apps vetted by a trusted 3rd party, and then signed. It would be nice if I could send my app to Apple, have them say "Yea, we'd put this on our app store", send it back with a signature, and let me sell it however I want.

But that's not what we have. We have a market with a somewhat low barrier to entry, but an actually rather high cost of doing business (30%). That does not make it a free market.

The question is, what would you replace the market with, and the mechanisms by which consumers can see what is quality? Would you hamper the free market by appointing someone who dictates what is quality and what is not?

The primary criteria that the App Stores vet against is security. Sure, they do some content auditing and such, but the "promise" is safety, not capability or merchantability.

Just like the certificate brokers, there could potentially be any number of 3rd parties that could set up vetting services to "guarantee" an app. A "Good Housekeeping" or "UL Listed" seal if you will.

By the same notion, the devices could be configured to mount any number of "App Stores". They can be actual App Stores, that do certification and delivery and DLC. Or just parts, say just delivery or just certification. You can have uncertified App Stores for those who want to live in the Wild West.

Simply, they can open up the platform so others can play. At the same time, they can make available mechanisms to help ensure folks are able to distinguish "certified" applications.

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