Apple Reportedly Revises App Store Search Algorithm to Handicap Own Apps

Apple has confirmed that it made changes to the way App Store search works so as to avoid its own apps consistently beating out those from third-party developers.

Apple’s App Store has been giving the company’s own apps an embarrassingly large promotional advantage versus third parties, researchers discovered, and key Apple executives say it “wasn’t a mistake.”

“There’s nothing about the way we run search in the App Store that’s designed or intended to drive Apple’s downloads of our own apps,” Phil Schiller, the Apple vice president who oversees the App Store, said in an interview on the subject. “We’ll present results based on what we think the user wants.”

However, according to a new report from the New York Times, the App Store’s search algorithm was quietly changed amidst international antitrust investigations, allegedly to help other developers rather than official Apple apps.

The change has already had a huge impact, according to Sensor Tower data. Many of Apple’s titles quickly dropped in search rankings, with fewer titles being presented in the top results — great news for competing third-party developers.

“On July 12, many Apple apps dropped sharply in the rankings of popular searches,” reads the report. The top results for ‘TV’ went from four Apple apps to two. ‘Video’ and ‘maps’ changed from three top Apple apps to one. And Apple Wallet dropped from the No. 1 spot for ‘money’ and ‘credit.'”

This is not the first time Apple has been called out for its App Store practices. In May, music service Spotify accused the company of “irresponsible” store policies. Apple has since explained its guidelines for the App Store and says it welcomes competition.

The full New York Times article is well worth a read, especially for the handy scrollable demonstration of the timeline they’ve put together.