Apple's big App Store fix could include pay-for-placement

Apple may allow developers to pay for better positioning in the App Store, borrowing the paid search strategy that has been so successful for Google. The revolution to the iOS download store would be one strand of a broader strategy to cut through the more than 1.5 million apps that crowd it, addressing growing criticisms that it's too hard to find the best content for iPhone and iPad.

Though the iPhone and iPad have advanced considerably in their capabilities and power since the App Store was launched, the methods by which new apps are highlighted and popular ones flagged haven't evolved at anywhere near the same rate.

As it stands, Apple has several charts for the most frequently downloaded apps, split into categories like "Free" or "Paid" along with whether they're for productivity, games, photography, music, or something else. It also highlights certain apps on the App Store homepage, and developers lucky enough to be pinned there have discovered it can be a shortcut to a huge increase in users.

Unfortunately, the number of new apps added each day far outweighs the space for Apple to manually curate such highlights, while for users it can be tricky to find exactly what they're looking for given the current search tool.

According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, that may all change soon. The site reports that Apple has around 100 people – including many raided from the iAd team – working on the project, led by Apple Vice President Todd Teresi, previously responsible for the company's advertising arm.

Several possible changes are on the table, it's said. On the one hand, better search tools are believed to be in development, potentially building on previous acquisitions like 2012's Chomp – which had been running a third-party app finder system prior to being bought by Apple – and existing work on understanding fat-fingered typos and confusion over app names.

However, it's suggestions that Apple could be looking to follow Google's search model that might give developers pause for thought. Though the Cupertino firm has declined to comment, it's said that paid search is also being considered as a new revenue stream.

In such a system, developers could bid on keywords and have their apps shown when users look for certain types of software. A photo editing app, for instance, could pay to get priority placement if someone searches for "photoshop", "picture editor", or "red-eye reduction".

Though nowhere near confirmed, such a system is unlikely to go down well with all app developers. While some of the larger studios or publishers have fairly deep pockets for promotion, smaller teams and individual coders may not have the same sort of budget to get their software to the top of the list.

SOURCE Bloomberg