Sad that what is probably a random glitch on Apple's part can just kill a person's livelihood overnight.
I used to be a full time iOS contractor but have moved away from it in the last couple of years. Dealing with this kind of junk is one of the main reasons why. I have lots of similarly frustrating stories from my clients.
The latter is the opposite set of tradeoffs. Completely permissionless, but lots of riff-raff and scammy nonsense going on.
I do not understand the people agreeing with Apple that search results are not guaranteed. App Store search does not nearly exist to serve developers; it exists to help users. This app was number one for years and has good reviews. I’ve used it myself and like it.
And then it vanishes. Something went wrong in Apple systems: either they been making a mistake for years, or a glitch has occurred. This developers support ticket is basically a bug report and Apple is ignoring it. It is pedantically correct to point out that search rankings can end at any moment. But this is far from a good result and I am baffled that some people are siding with Apple here to justify what is clearly a bug.
To the developer: before pulling the plug I strongly suggest trying a subscription model. I would probably pay a few dollars a year just to keep the app, heavy users would be even more willing to pay. I don’t know if your numbers make that sustainable but there may be a way to do so.
I assure you, I won’t be pulling this app anytime soon. I didn’t intend to communicate that. It’s just that I have three small kids at home, so I don’t get much nights and weekends time for the app anymore. If I have to go back to full time work because of this, I’ll just shift into maintenance mode for the app (like making sure it’s compatible with new versions of iOS).
You're suggesting that the developer begin asking for a subscription for an app they already bought with the understanding that it was a one-time fee?
This does not sound to me like a recipe for happy customers, regardless of whether or not it's reasonable.
(You _might_ have more success releasing a "Happy Scale 2" and pushing all future updates there. This has the significant advantage of not making users feel forced to buy something new.)
I think customers would prob prefer that to losing it, so they should at least try rather than simply throwing it away.
Happy scale 2 could work. Or maybe some new feature, not sure how best to work it. They’d be the one to know what their audience might support, but I think they should at least try.
Though hopefully search gets fixed and it won’t be necessary.
The problem is that there's only a single point of articulation. If half a dozen app stores all got search results "mostly right", then little variations like this wouldn't sink a business. This is far from the only example of the single-platform effect. Facebook gets (or is forced) to be the arbiter of free speech. YouTube gets (or is forced) to be the arbiter of copyright claims. In the world of PC games, for contrast, Steam's algorithms can't totally sink a game because they don't have a total monopoly. There's itch.io, GOG, and now Epic. You can go to other platforms (or all of them!).
I love Apple's app store. I love how hard they fight to protect their customers from exploitative and dangerous software. I feel safe downloading apps there in a way that I didn't on Google Play. But monopolies are bad, even in the rare cases where they don't degrade the quality of the product.
Most recently, there was the decision to discontinue the affiliate referral program. Perhaps this was not "moving the numbers" significantly from Apple's perspective, but it did severely impact some sites that were great at covering domain-specific app niches in detail. And unlike Apple's in-house editorial, these were sites with writers with actual names meaning you can track their 1) quality of writing and 2) how the writer's individual preferences mesh with your own over time.
Related to that, Apple went on a bit of a "buying spree" from the independent Apple journalist community and the bylines of some writers I really liked just ... vanished. They're still out there, still writing, but part of the faceless Clone Army of Apple editorial. :-( So I'm glad those folks have stable jobs, but I'm mad at Apple for undermining good, independent tech journalism.
Going back further, to the misty dawn of the App Store, there's Apple's long-standing blockade on any app that functions like the App Store, i.e. curated app editorial. This essentially shut down another first-class (here, meaning "app") venue for app-centric selection.
I see nothing wrong with society demanding more accountability from those with more economic importance.
Well the specific numbers matter, don't they? Microsoft had a massive overwhelming monopoly whereas iOS has healthy competition in Android.
> I see nothing wrong with society demanding more accountability from those with more economic importance.
I don't disagree, but why should we specifically target Apple's app store rather than say, for example, passing a law that prohibits selling locked down hardware that prevents the user from installing whatever software they choose?
like social media,i don’t think we don’t need multiple committees and algorithms deciding to delist or not, what we need is a totally decentralized way to sign and notarize an app (to prove it doesn’t contain any malware etc) and provide it from ones own website (as an option)
worst case google changes their algorithm, you can still send an email, print and ad, make a poster for on the train whatever and people can go to your website etc
i would prefer that much more than relying on just app stores
I thought "give them time, and they'll come up with something better - better searching, better categories, better filters, make discovery smart and useful"
I thought, "they almost have 100,000 apps in the store, they will have to get this right to survive!"
The problem is worse than being de-ranked for your keywords. The search is downright broken. Searching for 'predictive weight loss tracker', 'predictive weight tracker', anything with 'tracker' yields no results on my phone. Removing 'tracker' and only searching for 'Predictive Weight' or 'Predictive Weight Loss' gives me only one result: Happy Scale.
It almost seems like they're filtering your app on the 'tracker' keyword. That's not fair!
When I query "weight loss tracker", what's interesting is that MyFitnessPal comes in at #4 which has a subtitle of "Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker".
I also get 0 results for "predictive weight loss tracker" even though that matches the app's subtitle. Seems weird.
The Happy Scale app itself does look really well done though. Looking forward to giving it a try.
Nice looking app. You may have gotten a new customer in me.
That said, a few counterpoints:
1. Something like 70% of all installs, for all apps, come from App Store search. It's the most popular way for users to find what they're looking for.
2. My business had to come alive before it could grow to be robust. I built this app from scratch. I didn't have an audience. I just built it, and App Store search connected me to people who were looking for an app like this, and it grew to the point where I could do it full-time.
Has the time come for me to take steps to make my business more robust? Yes. And your advice is great in that regard.
But a fledgling business must first survive before it can grow to be robust. This is a tale of me hitting an inflection point. I hope to learn from it, and grow.
If Apple's 30% fee charged to developers does not include any marketing services, what additional percentage should be budgeted for the companies that are promoting apps? 10%? 20%?
Apple chose to adopt it's existence as being a market and they're getting the revenue that goes along with assuming responsibilities which they are shirking.
Apple really needs to be hit with anti-trust investigations. Ditto for the play store.
It just seems to align incentives on both sides quite well.
I think that's clever
Even understanding that the goal is to incentivize continued payment, making users downgrade at the end feels excessively punitive IMO. Just let them keep the last version.
(1) means the lapsed subscriber can still access their data / functionality (at least for a while until OS compatibility issues kick in), and
(2) makes sure the developer is still actually 'earning' the subscription through updates, not just counting on data lock-in.
That stinks for the dev, but it's not my fault, and I shouldn't be punished by revoking my ability to use the app.
On the other hand, it's in the nature of machine learning systems such as search that sometimes, a simple update of the underlying model can lead to drastic changes in search results (say, for argument's sake, that there has been a recent influx of apps using the word "tracker", which could lead to the word being considered essentially noise).
This can happen without any "bug" in the underlying system, even less a sinister agenda to undermine any developer or help another one. So while these possibilities can and should be investigated, ultimately search results will sometimes change.
Though I do wonder why many of the other apps that came up as a search result for "weight loss tracker" continue to do so, and mine was singled out. It's an important search term, because predictive text will suggest "weight loss tracker" when you start typing "weight." If tracker were being penalized as noise, then adjusting the predictive text would be a great way to handle the transition.
In 2019, it's not just reputation which matters. It's not just the ability to merely publish which matters. It's the ability to leverage algorithmic and viral discovery which truly matters. In 2019, the people who control algorithmic and viral discovery are the ones who hold the reins of cultural and commercial power behind the scenes.
In 2019, having the ability to publish, but not having a solid strategy over discovery, is like in 1960, concentrating on the newspapers and neglecting television. In 2019, ceding control over algorithmic and viral discovery to a few megacorporations is handing over the keys to the most potent commercial and cultural power.
Honestly, this is one of the reasons I hope the legal system does eventually require Apple to enable opt-in, third party app stores. We need to have SOME release valve from being at the mercy of Apple's whims.
He couldn't have done anything different. That's my point! If we cede the power of algorithmic and viral discovery to large corporations, we're ceding the powerhouse of 21st century culture to them.
It's odd that the app marketing doesn't explain how it's useful once you reach a target, and doesn't offer any hint that it can be used to set weight gain targets for people who are looking to reach a new weight class. If I reach my weight loss target, does the app become useless?
What makes you say that?
“Reach and maintain your target weight” with at least one screenshot showing an increase phase and a maintenance phase rather than decrease would be vastly more inclusive and health-forward than today’s “weight loss only” content.
Is this app useful for recovering anorexics, or for maintaining a target weight after reaching it? I imagine it is, but I couldn’t tell from its App Store page.
I suspect this is an unintentionally humorous phrasing. How many brands do we interact with without asking their owners for their "view of health self-care"? Fitness tracker features notwithstanding, I would most certainly not expect it from a phone vendor. I would expect them to let their customers decide how they will or won't care for themselves.
Now, your point that the term might have a lot of snake oil products using it... That is somewhat plausible.
“The idea that small behavior changes can actually add up to something great is a real core philosophy of the activity app,” says Blahnik [director of fitness and health at Apple]. “Partially because what we find is that’s going to correct everybody. If you’re a beginner, and you’re not very fit, small changes are what you need to do. But it turns out that if you’re really fit, small changes are all you have left. So, it ends up being something that actually works for everybody.”
I mean this in the most respectful way possible.
If you're relying on Apple (or Google) to feature you in their search results, you're already at their whim with no recourse.
Why should Apple or Google be responsible for promoting your app? If I walk into a supermarket and I don't see the item I wanted on their front feature displays (meaning I need to walk down the isle to find it), does that mean the supermarket is monopolistic? Does that mean the item vendor should stop selling their product in that supermarket?
The "aisle" on the app store goes on for miles. Sure the product may be there, but if it's a 5-10 minute walk down the aisle to get to it, I don't think may people would look that far. The item is technically there, but it's not exactly accessible.
In this example there's also only one supermarket, the Apple app store. With grocery stores your product may not be in an advantageous place at Store A, but it could be right at eye level in Store B, C, or D. With the Apple store, if you're not featured there, you're not featured anywhere.
I agree the developer should not be surprised by this. I don't think Apple is acting badly. These are just consequences of having many apps and only one app store.
My argument was simply about who is responsible for promoting the app. But your point is correct.
My response to this: Would having multiple app stores available on iOS really solve the issue that OP is experiencing?
If iOS suddenly allowed a user to download apps from multiple different stores, would the number of app downloads for OP increase? How will I know which app store to find OP's app in? From a pure promotional aspect, I would have to know to look for OP's app, which does not sound like it would help OP in this case.
Unless this is thoroughly explained somewhere in the dev documentation, then developers are being lied to also.
People threw a fit when Google changed the search result UI so that it became impossible to tell paid results from organic results. This is similar but worse. Google just put the paid results above the organic ones. Apple completely removes the organic results at their whim.
The author should have been promoting the app thru multiple channels and not relying on the app store search exclusively, this was an obvious mistake. This doesn't justify what Apple did though. It's their app store, and they can do what they want, but this, although legal, is pretty sleazy IMO.
It's tempting to assume the former, but I seriously suspect the latter.
As a user I've seen this happen repeatedly. Search can't find an app even if I enter the name.
This happens for mundane but specialised apps - train timetables, toll payment apps, and other apps for which there is literally no alternative, never mind one that might somehow sell better and make more money.
I don't see how this possibly benefits Apple. Possibly there's some not very effective "optimisation" happening, but it's also possible search is just plain broken.
But there is other apps stores. There is Googles, Amazons, even Samsung have one.
No one is saying they are responsible for promoting your app. What we're saying is that if they're going to lock down their platform so that you can't install apps without going through their store, then they shouldn't arbitrarily, with no explanation, destroy years of good will thats been built up by genuinely building and delivering a high quality app people love.
I think you're suffering from the "just world bias", honestly. Look it up if you haven't heard of it. TL;DR is that as much as you want to believe they don't, shitty, unfair things happen everyday. Pretending they don't doesn't help the situation.
And how did they do that? By changing where it appears in one search. wow.
> If you're relying on Apple (or Google) to feature you in their search results, you're already at their whim with no recourse.
But your response is:
> No one is saying they are responsible for promoting your app.
Does higher search placement not equate to promotion, in this case?
Also, I looked it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis
I'm not sure how it relates to my questions.
1) they're neither "seen by devs as a unattractive platform to build a business on" (they have millions of apps, and hundreds of thousands of devs contributing, including all major software companies, from MS to Adobe, plus they have earned devs by far the most money of off any app store, in fact an unbelievable amount ($120 billion in developer revenue )
2) Nor are they treated like a monopolist in courts. Being the only app store for your own platform is not a monopoly. Being the only platform is a monopoly, and iOS is not only not "the only platform", but is a minority platform (more people use Android). Not to mention that even being a monopoly (which Apple is far from one, and wont ever be due to price) is not illegal: exploiting that monopoly (like Microsoft of yore did) is.
This doesn’t sound particularly different than people who thought they were entitled to whatever search result position on Google due to their SEO effort and built their entire business around non-retaining users. I recall stories of companies getting sales to their e-commerce site, for free, from Google listings, and taking on long term liabilities and leases for warehouses or fulfillment locations only to end up bankrupt.
Who knows what is really going on here, but you certainly aren’t entitled to any search result listing save for your actual app or company name, presuming it isn’t generic.
There's an argument to be made that if the market is free or allows competing indexes then Apple is less on the hook, but Apple has a stranglehold on how the AppStore works, they've made their bed in this case.
My app has space-separated keywords in the Appstore Connect portal. They've always been space-separated and I can't remember the last time I updated them. But the App Store guidance says to comma-separate keywords. Indeed, the newer apps I work on for my day job have comma-separated keywords. Could Apple have changed how keywords are parsed, and broken older keyword sets that used to be valid but now are not?
I'll be updating my app tonight and the keywords along with it; time will tell if this is the culprit.
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Don't think anything particularly devious has happened, but seems like the App Store search team really hit some folks who were trying to organically build a good app/biz over time. For what it's worth there's some pretty good feedback here for AppStore search + customers who voted up the app individually, so hope that helps.
It's another sad case, of many that seem to have hit the HN front page in recent months, of a developer having to resort to social media (i.e. blog, Twitter, HN, etc.) to try to get sufficient attention to get a problem fixed by (Apple/Google/etc).
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