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Report: Apple considering a paid search model for the App Store

Apple has a team of "about 100 employees" working on search improvements for the iOS App Store, according to a report from Bloomberg. Of the improvements being considered, the only one the report specifically calls out is a potential system by which app developers could pay Apple to feature their apps in search results, not unlike a service that Google rolled out for Google Play developers early last year.

On the one hand, this might bring some order to the current App Store discovery process. The Top Charts are habitually stocked with the same big-name apps, which are more likely to stay in the Top Charts because that's how many apps are discovered in the first place. Search results are often packed with clone and knockoff apps. Apple curates lists of apps, but developers can't just sit around and wait for that to happen. Being able to pay money to improve visibility at least creates a clear chain of cause and effect that developers have some level of control over.

That said, charging for visibility might not actually solve any of those problems. Those with the money to pay Apple's fees could well be the same big-name app developers whose software already dominates search results and the Top Charts. And making enough money from your app to make paying for search results worthwhile could still be contingent on getting into those Top Charts or onto one of Apple's curated lists somehow.

Whatever Apple decides to do to improve App Store search, hopefully this report is a sign that Phil Schiller's leadership of the App Store team will lead to improvements to the stores across all of Apple's platforms. Discoverability is a big problem on the iPhone and iPad, but the Mac App Store needs to implement long-requested features like demos and paid app upgrades and developers need to be encouraged to show up in the watchOS and tvOS stores in the first place.

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