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iOS 6 Appstore Ranking: The Smoke, The Fire and the Truth

With the launch of iOS 6, the AppStore was subject to some significant changes. Some apps suddenly lost their standing while other apps sat comfortably in the top ranks.

It comes as no surprise then that the rumours that Apple had changed its ranking algorithm were circulating faster than you can say ‘nanosecond’.

Some apps saw a higher visibility than ever before

With the launch of iOS 6, Apple introduced some major changes that altered aspects of app visibility and accessibility. Of the few factors that contributed to this impression, two have really stood out.

That Apple promoted its own apps substantially more after its update to iOS 6 (prompting all users who had not yet downloaded apps likes Find My iphone, iBooks and iTunes U etc.) was a good reason for this kind of speculation. Apps with the new passbook feature saw a large amount of downloads as well. The update option on apps such as Ticketmaster, Walgren and United Airlines was targeted to be released at the same time as iOS 6.

The Genius function has replaced the section that consisted of Categories and this in turn has given some apps a higher visibility than ever before.

The AppStore's ranking algorithm is not only based on downloads

These factors were at least in part, if not fully culpable for feeding the flames of speculation and led many to believe that Apple’s ranking system had been fundamentally changed with no explanation at all.

Still skeptical? Ok. Well here is something to chew on: If the algorithm had indeed been changed to a system based on anything other than the velocity of downloads, the repercussions would have been obvious and fast. We can already see that a good deal of apps are resuming their positions after the initial drop in rank. FAAD and other promotion services based on downloads are still suiting up for office tomorrow.

If the ranking that had been based on downloads was shifted to sessions the most heavily-used apps would have been impacted more forcefully, Facebook is a good example of this. If the algorithm was based on the number of sessions Facebook would probably remain at the top most rank never to be elbowed out.

‘Sure, there might have been slight changes made to the algorithm,’ says Paul H. Müller, co-founder of adeven, ‘however the effects witnessed now are due to various new AppStore features and cannot be decisively linked to any change of the algorithm itself.’ While all rumours originate somewhere no matter how outlandish they might appear, we prefer reasonable explanations to the mystical kind.

For now Keep Calm and Carry On

The focus has shifted from Charts to Search. Many marketing firms focused on pushing apps into the top 25 to increase their visibility and while this is still manageable it is not as easy as it used to be. While it was a scary thought at first, these changes prompt us to take a closer look at how things really work in the app ecosystem.


September 25, 2012 at 11.30 a.m.