How Apple stacked the App Store with its own products

Top spots in App Store search results are some of the most fought over real estate in the online economy. The store generated more than $50 billion in sales last year, and the company said two-thirds of app downloads started with a search.

But as Apple has become one of the largest competitors on a platform that it controls, suspicions that the company has been tipping the scales in its own favor are at the heart of antitrust complaints in the United States, Europe and Russia.

Apple’s apps have ranked first recently for at least 700 search terms in the store, according to a New York Times analysis of six years of search results compiled by Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. Some searches produced as many as 14 Apple apps before showing results from rivals, the analysis showed. (Though competitors could pay Apple to place ads above the Apple results.)

The data from The Times’ analysis are clear-cut and quite damning, and just goes to show how easy it is for companies like Apple to effectively shut out competitors simply by artificially pushing their own applications in their own walled-garden operating system. This is the kind of behaviour that net you antritrust complaints.

Of course, you can pay Apple to be the top search result in the App Store. That sounds suspiciously like that other “shakedown” Apple bloggers were complaining about only a few days ago. I’m curious to see how – as always – Apple is somehow a special snowflake to whom different rules apply.

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