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According to a blog posting by Kim-Mai Cutler, Apple has once again changed the algorithm that it uses to create the Top Charts lists for both paid and free apps.  As one of the effects of the change is that Facebook is once again the #1 Free App, one theory is that actual usage of the app somehow plays into the ranking algorithm.  Previously, a weighted average of new downloads over the last 18 days played the largest factor in determining an apps ranking. Now, it appears, that high usage apps like Facebook and Skype have received a boost in the rankings while other apps such as Coin Dozer have had steep drops.

I question whether usage is actually being factored into the algorithm.  Instead, I think that the change in the ranking algorithm is mainly a defense against the pay-per-download marketing campaigns that attempt to game the popularity ranking system with less-than-honest downloads.  Something as simple as factoring in the percent of users who upgrade an app would provide enough information to send Facebook to the top.

The bottom line for developers is to create apps that have sticking power with users and aren’t just “download and delete” apps.  Whether the current App ranking algorithm works this way or not, it is an easy bet that Apple intends to tweak its ranking algorithm to reward quality apps that users continue to use.


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