This week marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of Apple’s App Store. While some in the industry are devoting little more than a Tweet’s worth of thought to the idea, others are reflecting on how much the wider app marketplace has grown since the launch of the iPhone in 2007.
The history of the mobile app is pretty much the history of the smartphone, as engaging with apps is arguably the most compelling reason to own an Android or iOS device. So third-party developers can lose a lot of sleep—not to mention revenue—over the placement of their apps within the App Store.
One story that’s been making the rounds this week alleges that two-thirds of all Apple apps are so-called “zombies,” meaning they’re not found on the top lists of apps that Apple publishes every day—basically, they’re not bestsellers.
There is something to be said about the importance of placement within an app marketplace—it’s just like shelf placement in a brick-and-mortar store. But it's over-the-top to claim that two out of every three Apple apps is “invisible." Sure, most of them will never be featured on a list of best-sellers. But many apps actually prefer to stay under the radar, choosing alternative marketing platforms—like trade shows, the web, or word of mouth—to appeal to niche interests.
PC Mag columnist Sascha Segan railed against this “zombie” idea in a recent post, citing his own experience as an app developer and his reliance on alternative promotional strategies. He argued that this kind of misleading marketing-speak undermines the value and success of Apple’s App Store: “The App Store's success requires both halves of the equation: the relatively small cadre of best-selling apps and the long tail that satisfies every niche.”
That said, you'll know about the next version of Angry Birds way before you see that long tail.