Friday, 12 August 2011

Does The App Ecosystem Needs Its Own Trade Body?

Another day another lawsuit. Another day another developer gets their app suspended by a store front. Another day and another change takes place to the T&C's app stores have for content owners or OS owners have in the way OEM's use their platform. While many of the changes are designed to improve the individual ecosystems they serve at times these changes can also be overwhelming and even confusing for the developers and partners they are meant to serve.

The mobile app ecosystem has indeed come a long way since it started to boom in 2008. Various estimates place the number of downloads in 2010 anywhere from 8 billion to 10 billion downloads. App stores have mushroomed to the point where there are now well over 100 different known stores that can be found on To serve this ecosystem a whole industry of "enablers" has also surfaced to help content owners / developers with anything from development (Appcelerator, Didmo, Ansca) to billing (Zong, Boku, Billing Revolution, Tanla, Mach) to analytics (Flurry, Distimo, Zokem, Comscore).

The reality is that as in any industry, rapid growth brings its own degree of chaos, uncertainty and fear. But is this really necessary? is there a better way to manage all this?

Content owners and developers are overwhelmed by the speed of change and the complexity of the different ecosystems. Each time they want to spread their content to another platform they need to ask themselves a million different questions such as:

- What is the submission process for this particular store / ecosystem?
- What's the policy in terms of the price of my app? who manages this?
- Do refunds exist?
- When do i get paid / how often?
- How long does it take for my app to get approved?
- Who should I speak with if it doesn't?
- What recourse do I have if my app is removed?
- Can I use third parties for billing?
- What marketing tools can I use to create awareness of my app?
- What are the rules when it comes to cross promotion of apps?
- Should I agree to exclusivities proposed by certain stores? what's my downside?

And so the list goes on. The risk today for most developers and enablers as well is that unless they have close, mostly personal relationships with ecosystem owners (OS owners) they either don't get clear answers to these questions or these "directives" are basically handed down via fiat. There is no debate. This is just the way it is. Take it or leave it.

So the necessary question has to be asked, is this really the best way for the industry to flourish? Can most developers even make some real money unless some standard best practices are in place or without having some sort of voice in the process? Maybe we're reaching a point in the evolution in our industry where we need a unified voice that can speak for the little guys and has some power to propose, debate and agree best practices with ecosystem owners. Maybe it's time to make our voices heard....

wouldn't we all benefit?

Patrick "Mad" Mork