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Apple tweaks app ranking system

Kelly Hodgkins
Kelly Hodgkins|@kellyhodgkins|April 18, 2011 4:00 PM

Apple has reportedly modified its app ranking system to include criteria besides the number of application downloads. This change was noticed by ad network executives and other companies that monitor the ranking of applications in Apple's iOS App Store.

Facebook, Skype and Pandora are three applications whose spike in ranking caught the eye of many people. Facebook moved from #13 to #1, Skype from #33 to #11 and Pandora from #22 to the top ten. Before last week, these apps were steady in their rankings, leading many to believe that Apple modified something in its ranking system to produce these jumps. Read on to find out what criteria Apple may have changed.

Similar to the methods used in the Android Market, Apple may now be factoring App Store ratings and user engagement into its ranking criteria. Apple may use these changes to downrank companies, such as Tapjoy, that abuse Apple's former download-only ranking system.

Tapjoy offers a controversial pay-per-install system that offer virtual goods in exchange for downloads. App developers buy virtual inventory that is used in other games. When players want to buy a virtual good, they can download other apps instead of sending a payment. This practice increases the number of downloads and artificially propels apps in Tapjoy's network to the top of the App Store rankings.

Changes that lower the influence of these artificially initiated downloads should be welcomed by developers whose apps are genuinely popular. A system based on downloads, user engagement and App Store ratings may accurately reflect the popularity of an app and lead to a better App Store experience for all.

[Via GigaOm]