Anumber of smaller,paid applicationsscoreda spot on the App Stores Top Grossing chart over the weekend in what mayhave been either the test of a new App Store algorithm or a fairly significant bug. The issue began on Friday, and only seemed to affect the Top Grossing apps, butnot the other charts, like Top Free or Top Paid apps.
However, the Top Grossing Charts were affected across all App Store categories, not just themain Top Grossing chart for the whole App Store.
As one developer noted, their app had dropped from the No. 2 position in their category to the No. 35 position.This is what first alerted them to the problem, as they had just finished a very strong day and were having what may be their best month to date.
Throughout the weekend, apps that typically ranked well on the Top Grossing charts fell, while other, less popular apps tooktheir place. It appeared as if the algorithm was now favoring paid apps over those that monetized using in-app purchases.
For example, the algorithm shift benefited some emoji apps, like Steph Currys StephMoji.But while its somewhat plausible that a handful ofemoji apps had seen some sort of sudden popularity, others hitting the charts seemed out-of-place, like the more niche Construction Manager Pro or a $15 text translator app. (See below).
Image Credit: Sensor Tower
One theory put forth by softwaremaker Equinux is that Apple was experimenting with a new algorithm that would put less weight on things like recurring subscription revenue, and more on paid apps.
This would make sense, given how stagnant the Top Grossing charts have become.
Today, the App Stores Top Grossing charts are often dominated by evergreen games, like Supercells Clash Royale, Candy Crush or Pokmon GO, for instance, along with top streaming services such as Netflix, Pandora, Spotify and others.
Though Apple more recently opened subscriptions to a wider varietyof app businesses, the popularity of subscriptions has led to Top Grossing charts thatconsistently feature the same apps. This makes it harder for new apps to break in, and makes the charts less interesting to browse.
Following the change, paid apps were competing on equal terms with subscription-based apps, as the new algorithm appeared to only include new and first-time subscriptions, not renewals.
For indie apps, the change was welcome, as they finally got a chance at ranking in this section alongside the big names.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Things returned to normal around 12 AM Monday morning.
Of course, this could mean that Apple is at least consideringa change tohow this part of its App Store works. But whetherit matters all that much in terms of app discovery is another question. While some percentage of users may turn to the Top Charts to see whats trending, they often now just search the App Store by keyword, or browse through the editorially curated sections. That said, the Top Grossing charts are due for a shake up, and it wouldnt be surprising to see Apple continue to experiment inthis area.
That said, given the brief appearance of the change and quick rollback, its just as likely that this was a bug and nothing more.
Update Some additional data from Sensor Tower:
Six out of yesterdays top 10 Grossing iPhone apps were paid apps. However, it doesnt appear that the paid game that made it into the top 10 benefitted from the additional exposure, in terms of new downloads.