Opinion

Your Mobile App Is Not Taking Off? Blame The Platform Owners

As we all know, the mobile app industry is so big they actually created a whole new industry and segment called "The App Economy". The market ecosystem simply consists of platform owners, developers and of course the users. Tens of millions of apps has been submitted to the marketplace, millions of them are now ready to be download by users, but only a fracture got the chance to survive. And a big part of this is the platform owner's fault.

App marketplace have three main task: curation, distribution and discovery. They curate and filter the apps in order to kick the bad apps from the marketplace and make sure users feel safe downloading these apps. Some marketplace like Apple's App Store is very strongly controlled with high standards, while some marketplace such as Google Play is more loosely filtered.

Distribution-wise, I think all platform owners are trying very hard to sell devices and get their platform to more users.

But nowadays, all marketplace have the same problem in which only the app developers can see: discovery. For the past few months, a lot of developers are trying hard to get their app featured on the marketplace's frontpage using their personal connection to the platform owners, some even don't mind paying to get under the spotlight.

Their objective is to get their app to be featured on the frontpage of the marketplace. They can always use other methods to promote their apps outside of the marketplace, but that means that the marketplace is not doing one of its main job. Nobody's going to go as deep as the 10th page on the search result to find cool apps, they look on the frontpage and MAYBE the 2nd and 3rd page. It's different if the user knows exactly what they're looking for, they can always search and find the app.

This situation is similar to Hollywood's film industry, where a movie is counting on the earnings on the first weekend of premiere. It's "Make it or break it" game. Of course there's always an exception, but generally speaking, if an app doesn't get enough downloads in the first month or so since they launched, they are done. And not necessarily because their app suck, in some cases they just don't get enough people discover their app.

From the platform owner's side, of course it's hard to promote all the hundreds of apps under their platform but whoever can crack the code and give developers the same fighting chance as another can gain the support from developers. In this game, it's better to have hundreds of developers making hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than 5 developers making millions of dollars.

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