App store vanity URL’s aren’t going to help

While it’s great to have 800,000 apps in the iOS app store (and a similar amount in the Google Play store) it’s damn hard to find anything useful or really, really great.

Apple has now launched a new system using vanity URLs for app developers on its iPhone and iPad iOS platform. The URLs are linked after the address

Apple already has distinct URLs for its apps so that users can look up the details on a website, but the new system promises to be much easier to access from a consumer point of view simply because it’s more memorable. Apple recently revealed that there are over 800,000 apps on the iOS app store, so app discovery is a critical part of the business from a developer point of view.

We’ve got a problem here, a vanity URL might make it easier for a consumer to type into an address bar but it solves very little problem for developers that aren’t Rovio to get users to find their apps. There’s been a study that lowering prices helps to increase revenue and this might push you higher on the iTunes lists but again, you’ll need to give a lot of free or nearly free versions of your apps away to make any dent on the iTunes bestseller lists.

The problem is discoverability not accessibility and neither Apple nor Google have worked out what to do here. As an app developer you could get a major blogger to punt your app or put money into mobile advertising but this is time consuming or expensive.

The solution to the problem is technically fairly simple: take the Pandora approach. Pandora uses a music “genome” to tag a song based on almost 400 different criteria and characteristics. This could theoretically apply to apps as well: an automated engine goes through your current apps and makes recommendations based on similar apps or apps that other users with your apps have downloaded. Yes, iTunes Genius is supposed to do this but there seems very little logic or consistency in how the apps are recommended. When an app is submitted to the app store the person who handles the submission can easily add these tags manually based on a certain amount of criteria they have been given. These criteria can be something totally inane such as a game that can be played with one hand or a productivity app that allows you to highlight text with a red colour; the options are endless.

Until such time as apps are easier to discover I feel sorry for developers trying to make a living off apps.