The top hits in the app store search results are among the most competitive places in the online economy. The store had sales of more than $ 50 billion last year. Two-thirds of app downloads began with a search and the search results are one of the reasons why Apple is at the center of antitrust complaints in the US, Europe and Russia.
According to the New York Times The company is said to have for years preferred its own apps in the listing of App Store search results, even if they were less popular. The report builds on data from the analytics company Sensor Tower, which has analyzed and evaluated the search results from a total of six years. Accordingly, the Apple apps for around 700 search terms for years appeared in first place among the addiction meetings. Some of them did not even have anything to do with the search query.
As the New York Times For example, if users had opened the App Store in May 2018 and entered “podcast” in the search field, they would have seen the following organic results:
Apple Compass App
As a result, some searches returned up to 14 Apple apps before competitors’ results were placed.
You might also be interested in this: Digital consumer protection in practice
Criticism from politics #BreakUpBigTech
Referring to the New York Times report, US Senator and Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted that Apple was too powerful:
Confronted with the results of the analysis, Apple’s senior executives told the New York Times that the hit lists of many popular search queries in the App Store have been backed up with the company’s apps for more than a year.
Apple’s senior vice president, Philip Schiller, and Apple’s senior vice president, Eddy Cue, told the newspaper that the company had not manually changed the search results to give itself an advantage. Instead, because of their popularity and the fact that their generic names are often broadly in line with the general search terms, Apple apps could generally prevail over the competition.
“There’s nothing like the way we search the App Store to drive Apple’s downloads of our own apps,” Schiller said. “We present the results based on the user’s expectations.” That does not always benefit Apple. For example, the search for Office returns a set of Microsoft apps because the algorithm detects that it is looking for Microsoft Office tools.
You might also be interested in this: How algorithm-based matching creates a flexible working world
Apple: Algorithm changed in App Store
Executives also said that the company has now adjusted the algorithm so that fewer apps appeared at the top of the search results. This change took place in July 2019. However, this is not a correction, but an improvement. The algorithm worked properly. In fact, many Apple apps fell sharply after July 12 in popular search rankings. For example, the top results for “TV” went from four Apple apps to two.
The analysis of App Store data by the Times, which has ranked more than 1,800 specific apps in 13 keywords since 2013, highlighted the impact and opacity of the algorithms that support technology company platforms.
With these algorithms, companies can decide which apps are installed, which articles are read, and which products are purchased. How exactly these algorithms work in detail is rarely explained by companies like Apple. The reason: There are scammers who exploited this information to manipulate the algorithm.
Apple merely stated that the algorithm was examining 42 different signals, including the relevance of an app for a specific search, its ratings, and its popularity based on downloads and clicks from users.
You might also be interested in this: Protection against distorted algorithms is a competitive advantage
Group wants to have known nothing – and gets into trouble with the judiciary
As the New York Times writes, the responsible Apple developers had not noticed by their own statements that the in-house applications dominate the search results. According to the newspaper, at the end of 2018, the first ten hits in the search for “music” were Apple apps, including apps like iMovie and clips that again had nothing to do with the search query. As a result, competitor Spotify slipped to number 23.
The Swedish streaming provider then filed a complaint with the European Commission, which prompted an antitrust investigation. The US Department of Justice is now dealing with a possible monopoly power Apple. In addition, the tech giant must justify itself in a competition lawsuit before the US Supreme Court. Several developers accuse Apple of having exploited its monopoly power to artificially raise prices for iPhone apps at a 30 percent flat rate.