updated 01:10 pm EDT, Mon April 18, 2011
Behind-the-scenes changes put Facebook on top
Apple has made some significant background changes to the way iOS apps are ranked on the App Store, according to several pay-per-install and mobile ad networks. In particular, Peter Farago -- VP of marketing at analytics firm Flurry -- notes that in the past several days the Top Free rankings in the US have shifted unexpectedly. Facebook recently climbed to first place for example, despite having earlier floated between 10th and 20th for over a year and a half.
Farago suggests that Apple is now "considering more than just downloads" in determining the popularity of an app, a move he says he supports. A historical problem has been that companies like Tapjoy, W3i and Flurry itself have allowed developers to pay for inflated downloads, bumping an app into the top of App Store charts and creating a snowball effect. For some apps the chart appearance may be brief, out of proportion to actual quality or popularity.
Apple has also revised the App Store to display more top-ranking titles. While top 10 lists remain in the spotlight, people can now browse through to 300th place when shopping. The option should help give more exposure to developers, whose software previously disappeared into the general catalog after slipping out of the top 50.