Developers are manipulating App Store search results

Fri, Dec 19, 2008

Analysis, News

Some developers are using somewhat questionable (to put it mildly) methods in order to boost sales for their programs on the iTunes app store.  Paul Haddad at Tapbots noted that when he did a search for the new game ‘Rolando’, some completely unrelated apps were showing up in his search results.  But why?

Well, it turns out that some developers are employing ‘keywords’ in order to manipulate search results by including the names of some of the most popular programs on the iTunes app store in their Application Description.

For example, I just did a search for the popular game ‘Enigmo’, and one of search results was a crappy game called “Hi-lo” where a user guesses if a soon-to-be drawn card will be higher or lower than their current card.  Yup, that’s the entire game, and its probably not even fun if you’re high.  So how did this completely un-related app show up in my search results?  Well, take a look at the picture below that I grabbed from the programs ‘Application Description’.

Well that sure covers a broad range of apps.  This is pretty much the App Store equivalent to comment spam, and hopefully Apple will do something to prevent this kind of blatant manipulation.  It shouldn’t be too hard for Apple to implement a check for Application Descriptions that contain a suspicious number of references to other applications.  One thing is clear, though.  As the app store continues to grow, and as the stories of developers who strike it rich become more well-known, some developers will inevitably resort to shady methods in order to boost sales.

Just last week we ran a story on Crapware in the iTunes app store, and how some developers were churnig out buggy software with limited functionality and abysmal user reviews.  One developer that we profiled in particular gave each of his own app’s positive reviews, while giving competing programs negative reviews.

The App Store is still relatively new, so Apple is probably still finding its bearings, but hopefully they’ll soon make the necessary adjustments to ensure that people perusing the app store aren’t bombarded with crap and irrelevant search results.


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