Are Some Developers Benefiting From a Lack of App Store Discoverability?

An InformationWeek piece this week points to the growing problem of a lack of discoverability in Apple’s App Store, which is being exacerbated by the release of iTunes 9. The latest version altered the way apps are presented, improving the visibility of those that make — or buy — their way into featured placements slots. But developers are complaining that the new interface makes it harder to find less popular apps amid the App Store’s 65,000-plus offerings, which author Thomas Claburn cleverly describes as “a needle-in-a-haystack scenario appstoreimagewith more hay being added daily.”

Lack of discoverability in the App Store is a problem I’ve written about before (GigaOM Pro, subscription required), and it’s only going to get worse as more storefronts come online and bulk up their libraries. But there’s another side to the issue, as GetJar CEO Ilja Laurs pointed out during a panel I moderated at Mobilize 09 yesterday: There are far too many developers for the mobile app ecosystem to sustain.

Laurs argued (and I’m paraphrasing) that while perfect discoverability would certainly level the playing field, it would also drastically decrease sales for a vast number of developers. Overcrowded shelves at Apple’s (or GetJar’s) warehouse benefit developers in that they allow users to stumble across their wares, something that wouldn’t happen if those users searched for a specific kind of app and were subsequently directed to the most appropriate title.

The lack of more effective discovery tools continues to plague users, who may find themselves with a shoddy imitation of a game or productivity app instead of the real thing. But for now, it seems, the lack of perfect discovery is keeping plenty of developers in business.