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Quality, not quantity, is the real mobile app problem

Galen Gruman | June 16, 2014
Developers fret at their apps getting lost in crowded app stores, but ironically, most make their plight worse

Bad apps are also easy to create. It's no sweat to create a basic wrapper to a website or to use core iOS or Android libraries, to produce very simple apps like calculators, flashlights, fart generators, news feeds, and so on. Many nonprofessional and semipro developers can start there, and many do. They get the same chance as a sophisticated app's developer to be listed in the iOS App Store or Google Play store. Thus, they fill up the app stores.

When you start warping an app to turn it into a marketing mechanism instead of its original purpose, you know you've gone off the rails.

It's a classic problem called the Tragedy of the Commons, in which people's individual actions, legitimate in their own rights, combine to create a bad situation overall. Each individual (developer, in this case) is focused on his or her needs and goals, not the overall environment. The more crowded the commons, the more aggressive you become to get attention. Think about what's happened with advertising: As people get better at filtering out the barrage of ads, advertisers find new ways to get in your face, creating more ad "noise pollution" we learn to ignore, leading to more advertising "noise."

That's happening in the iOS App Store, except that the App Store is not a public commons, but a private space. Apple decides when the individual actions get out of hand and changes the rules to stop undesirable behavior. It's the same approach a theme park uses to manage the overall experience at the same time as the individual experience. Apple, like any other entity, doesn't always make the right choices, but it's understandable why it does decide to make a choice.

Ideally, developers would self-regulate, submitting only good apps that don't overwhelm their category. Of course, the individual's imperative is to push for his or her immediate self-interest, even if the long-term effect is negative. That's human nature, because you want -- and may need -- to win now.

Still, if developers want to get their apps discovered, they have only one path to take: Be much better than their competitors or create valuable new categories, so the opinion makers will take notice and call attention to their gems. Those who try to find new ways to make noise for the same-old same-old will continue to drown.

Source: InfoWorld


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