The Unequal Opportunity Employer: The Mobile App Store

Last week I wrote about the internet, or lack thereof, in India and its massive market potential. As I researched the region, I came across a company by the name of Branch Metrics. In short, Branch is a unique, deep link generation software for mobile. I’m referring to the types of links you can share amongst your friends for free ride credit, discounts, etc. Though Branch is headquartered in Silion Valley, they recently decided to establish a presence in India. Branch’s CEO, Alex Austin, knows what he’s doing. He spent his time designing apps before he decided to improve the app ecosystem. In reading up on how Alex got the idea for Branch, I came across a post on his Medium page, which was shared by Fred Wilson on AVC. The post provided some unbelievable perspective on difficulties of the mobile app market and some possible solutions moving forward. Though mobile is increasing its reach day-by-day, it’s still easier to develop a business on the web, says Austin. He argues that the adoption barrier for mobile is too high. With over 1.5 million apps now in the app store, the top 20 apps earn 60% of the app store revenue. This is more than just inequality. This is an app ecosystem failure. Think about it. People either search the app name directly, use the home page of the app store, or scroll through top charts. And in any case, it’s costly. Paid promotion is used to establish brand presence, have a relationship with Apple to gain access to the home page, or pay for downloads abroad to push yourself into the top charts. It’s the epitome of pay to play. And without paying, in some capacity, it’s nearly impossible to gain popularity. Actually, Alex did the math. Statistically, the likelihood is 0%. And this is primarily due to how apps are ranked within the AppStore. It’s an outdated model. It bases rank off of total number of these and total number of those. Variables such as time, version #, momentum, etc. are irrelevant. Not only is the hierarchy a mess, but the download process is archaic. Why do I have to download a homogeneous app (could takes minutes with my spotty T-Mobile) just to test it. Call me lazy, but this process is slow and not utilizing the full potential of our mobile computers. And if I’m Apple or Google, I want to address these adoption issues. If they don’t, developers will realize that the system is broken and the odds are against them. And they will adapt by moving on to the next best, or next big, thing.

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Originally published at brinqe.com on December 23, 2015.

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