Apple slams the door on third-party app discovery services
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has revamped its iOS developer guidelines to restrict third-party app discovery and promotion, a move that could have a significant impact on app recommendation services such as FreeAppADay, AppShopper and others.
TechCrunch reports Apple has revised clause 2.25 of its iOS developer guidelines to read "Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected." Many developers rely on in-app promotional services to help drive users to their apps and improve their App Store rankings, and startups offering these kinds of marketing platforms have emerged as a thriving segment within the larger iOS ecosystem.
Consistent with previous changes to the iOS developer guidelines, Apple has not formally announced the latest revision and has not responded to requests to clarify its intent.
Jordan Satok, founder of app recommendation service AppHero, told TechCrunch that he doesn't believe Apple is seeking to eradicate all such services from the App Store. "The whole point of the review guidelines is that Apple wants consumers to get the very best apps from the App Store, and they recognize that if it gets filled with garbage, discovery gets even worse, and that just hurts the platform," Satok said. "I see all of these changes as just trying to help consumers find the very best stuff, and it's trying to go after services that are just the blatant app promotion services. AppHero was created with the goal of helping consumers find the very best apps out there."
But Christian Henschel, founder of mobile ad firm adeven, believes Satok is being far too optimistic, noting that Apple generally adopts sweeping new App Store policies instead of examining apps and services on a case-by-case basis. "Making a clarification like that is a clear point saying, 'We definitely don't want those apps to be able to submit,'" Henschel said. "Having an app whose sole purpose is to represent other apps for promotional purposes, it's kind of clear that all those apps are being addressed here."
Developers say Apple is already enforcing the new restrictions. Mustafa Tan of iPhoneTurkey.biz told PocketGamer that Apple rejected its iTurkeyBiz recommendations app, citing clause 2.25 and informing Tan that he must revise the app to make sure it is "visually distinct from the App Store," including filters like location or socially-based app recommendations.
Another developer wishing to remain anonymous told PocketGamer that Apple's latest move is all about maintaining complete control over the iOS platform, saying it is no different from the company's decision to remove archrival Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps and YouTube apps from the new iOS 6.
"We launched our first app last week and had 13,000 downloads in 5.5 days," the developer said. "It's free, and Apple actually does not make anything from us since we use [mobile game recommendation engine] Chartboost. Apple may not like that it is not getting money due to these third-party services like Flurry, Tapjoy and Chartboost."
Application rankings in the App Store experienced radical upheaval in the hours after the launch of iOS 6, suggesting dramatic algorithmic changes across the storefront, analyst firm BTIG Research reported last month. "In iOS 6, the layout of the App Store has changed with categories demoted as a sub-tab inside Charts with a Genius (recommended) apps replacing it on the main app store tool bar running along the bottom of the screen… These changes likely are already affecting the velocity of downloads for different apps," BTIG states. "Nonetheless, from what we see now, the changes are quite profound and make us believe other factors beyond velocity of downloads are now heavily influencing the rankings algorithm ranging from social activity around the app, search activity and potentially the speed of upgrading of apps."
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