Jean-Louis Gassée: Apple’s App Store needs curation by humans, not algorithms

“Dear Tim,” Jean-Louis Gassée writes in an open letter to Apple’s CEO for Monday Note. “You know the numbers better than anyone — I don’t need to quote them to you — but we all know that the iOS App Store is a veritable gold mine. Unfortunately, the App Store isn’t being mined in the best interests of Apple’s customers and developers, nor, in the end, in the interests of the company itself.”

“The App Store may be a gold mine, but it’s buried in an impenetrable jungle,” Gassée writes. “Instead of continuing with this complaint, I’ll offer a suggestion: Let humans curate the App Store.”

Gassée writes, “The result will be a more intelligible App Store that makes iOS users happier.”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. I long ago abandoned the app store, I’m sad to say. I’ve already got the apps I know I need. What I really want are challenging, well-made strategy games. God help me after about 30 for rays into the store over the last few years and lots of purchases that were abject failures and immediately abandoned I’ve just given up. All the ways they have set up for me to find such things have proven vapid. If some dude or lady would be willing to comb the hundreds of millions of apps and give me recommendations I’d thrill to follow them up. For now I’ve abandoned the store. And I play Tiny Wings an awful lot.

          1. I originally spelled it “forrays” and genius Siri decided that “for rays” was more likely my intention than “forays.” That, friends, is why iPhone autocorrect sucks so bad. It has no sense of grammar.

    2. So you’re saying that the curating should be done by 1,000+ people that each have their own opinions as to what category the app should go into and what is important and what is not rather than software that can do it consistently? Plus, assigning that many people to curate such a large online store will virtually guarantee that Apple makes nothing off the App Store. (Remember, a huge fraction of the software on the App Store is free for which Apple makes nothing and supports storage, store front and downloads for free.)

      Do you not remember all the complaints Apple got during the year or so after the App Store started up? Developers were nearly constantly complaining about how the *humans* controlling entry into the App Store and where there software was placed within the store. Returning to that would be a nightmare for Apple.

      Additionally, back when the App Store was *mostly* human curated, developers nearly constantly complained about how long it took to get their apps posted to the store.

      You think it needs to go back to that? Apple will have developers leaving and going to Android or Windows Phone if the arbitrariness or the delay happens again.

      Yes, there should be some level of human curating. I’d be shocked if there is zero human curating now. There needs to be more. However, 80+% of the curating needs to be done in software.

  1. I don’t know who’s spending that ($4 billion/quarter!?) at the app store, but it’s not me. I stopped browsing a long time ago because it’s not user-friendly and it’s hard to find the good stuff I know is in there somewhere.

    I’m quite sure I’m missing out on one of the greatest aspects of the iOS platform — great apps.

  2. You didn’t quote the best part where he offers to do it for Apple without being paid :
    « I look back on my years at Apple with a certain affection, and would be happy to repay the company for what it did for me, so, yes, I would do it for free… »

    Copland almost killed Apple and now Gassée wants to kill the App Store ?

  3. I don’t know if curation is more important than the lack of a robust filtering capability. The ability to: Eliminate all apps from developers with more than 10(?) titles and in-app purchases and the need to set up a log-in. With this sort of filtering power and a reliable search, beyond the single-word jumble you get now.

    But even curation requires a reliable curator. I’ve bought apps on the word of stunning reviews from well known web sites, only to find over priced, barely functional eye candy. So much for the quality of review from those sites.

    Like a lot of commenters, I don’t spend much time in the App Store, not because I’m not willing to spend money, I just hate to waste it and have to spend time doing it.

    1. I, erroneously, had not read JLGs article before my post. He links to an earlier post suggesting Apple produce the equivalent to Michilein Guides for apps. Both posts are worthy reads, IMHO.

      The key is, not every app makes it into the Guide, but it is an honor to do so.

  4. Im not sure whether human curation or better algorithm are the answer.
    But one thing is for sure… App discovery/search is very poor in the app store .

    1. I have to agree regarding app search. I have never understood why Apple has consistently had lousy search. Searching on their website for documentation is a nightmare. Use Google to search Apple’s site instead! Unless you’re merely an average Mac user, Spotlight is a PITA! Users are constantly complaining about searching the Apple app stores.

      So Apple: Get with modern search quality please! Not Good Enough!

  5. Mr. Gassée is asking for something ideal. Unfortunately, it would add man-hour costs and slow down the already too long waiting period for app updates.

    Apple actually has a remarkably positive reputation for successfully vetting (‘curating’) apps for iOS and Mac. Such a successful vetting process has never, to my knowledge, previously existed.

    No way is the process perfect. As I said, the process is slow. The awful state of ‘artificial intelligence’ in our age has meant proof-of-concept malware has snuck into the stores repeatedly. Utter crapware is constantly being allowed while some useful and innovate apps have been blocked by archaic rules.

    Meanwhile, what vetting does Google offer over at the Android Google Play store? NOTHING, until after mass user infections have already occurred. Therefore, malware runs havoc on Android, even if you stick with Google Play versus the gawd-knows-what other stores. Android malware continues to grow exponentially in number. Android continues to be the single most dangerous OS currently available.

    So please Mr. Gassée: Write a letter to Google! OK?

  6. @DC It is a more intelligent search facility that is sorely lacking in the AppStore (whether crowd-sourced or algorithmic), as well as international (rather than country-only) visibility of the reviews (one should be able to specify allowable languages/countries because most apps are NOT language/country agnostic)

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