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Google is the only thing saving the software business.

20 Dec 2011  |  Tags: , , , ,

A while ago I posted about how Apple does nothing to protect developers from people cloning their application’s name and functionality. This has been a widespread topic since Apps became popular, and the overall response has been “tough luck” as the distributors (Apple, Google) mostly care about the platform boost in having a strong App Store and their own revenues from it … not ‘developer-to-developer’ relations.

Something interesting to consider is that, in the past, Google has always factored the blogosphere and external links as a way of building reputation for websites and helping established developers remain protected against shameless competition, much of which stems from third-world countries. These developers produce cheap copies of another developer’s work, hoping to gain even a small sliver of the market.

Unfortunately, the App Stores place everyone on the same level when selling, throwing any sort of online reputation out the window. It’s a question of application ratings, easily manipulated keywords, and overall download count (driven both externally from web-based links and internally from ‘in store’ discoveries) … to maintain your sales and rankings. Often these rankings themselves are easily manipulated, or suffer a spike or sudden downturn. Due to history not being a factor, it can be seriously difficult to recover from a downturn, even for an established developer.

The great thing about placing everyone on the same level is that it helps smaller developers get a head start, but it also significantly reduces the barriers to entry for scam artists trying to make a quick buck. There are companies literally in business of duplicating Apps, and not innovating. Eventually, the parasites will run out of hosts.

It’s fascinating that these App Stores are powered by the internet, but in some ways seem to completely neglect it and instead expect to survive within their own ecosystem. However, these systems need Google’s rankings as a basis or they will become an absolute, unregulated disaster. With more and more people discovering Apps within the stores themselves, less and less are discovering them via Google and the blogosphere. Ironically, the one thing separating many major Apps from their smaller competitors is a web presence, and the downloads or reputation generated by it. This may be acceptable now, but in the future as the web becomes less of a distribution focus for applications it may become a major issue in separating brands.

Furthermore, being that the systems for ranking applications and driving sales are easily manipulated and gamed, many developers choose to release duplicate Apps with the same functionality to target different keyword combinations and categories. We’ve suffered from this with my business, and so have may others. This further dilutes the system under which everyone receives the same marketing presence, and makes things tremendously more complicated for everyone to manage … including customers who are simply trying to download through the only platform from which they are able.

It is almost disgraceful the state that the App Stores are in based on how many duplicate Apps have turned up both from other developers and even the original developers themselves trying to protect their turf. Honest sellers are almost being penalized for attempting to be ethical and play by the rules, and there’s nothing that they can do considering that it is the only App Store. — Antitrust, anyone?

EDIT 2015/03/02: Here is an interesting and related article on “Why Nintendo doesn’t release Mario on the App Store”.

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