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Someone please rid me of this turbulent Windows 10 Store

Build the apps and they will come? Er, no they won't, say developers

The Windows 10 Store
The Windows 10 Store

Microsoft has invested huge effort into building the Universal Windows Platform, but it is failing at the last hurdle - getting applications to users, according to frustrated Austrian developer Nikolaus Gebhardt.

What is the problem? According to Gebhardt's blog:

Since Windows 10 arrived, the sales of all of my apps, which have been very low compared to other apps stores, have gone down significantly, nearly to zero (even the one I upgraded to Windows 10). And it is not surprising that this is the case: You cannot find my apps anywhere in the app store. Unless you know the exact name of my app, you won't find it. You can type any of the keywords my apps have in their title, description or even in the list of keywords submitted to the store, and it won't list my apps. Instead, the app store will simply list 2 or 3 other, useless apps.

This is the problem of discoverability. In principle, a store built into the operating system helps developers, since it gives users an easy way to find trusted applications, with user ratings and reviews to guide them. However it does depend on smart search algorithms combined with human curation, so that appropriate applications can be found quickly. In Windows 10, Cortana includes Store results in response to searches, so you might think that Microsoft has cracked this key feature.

Not in this case, apparently. Gebhardt contacted Microsoft support for help, but was told only that "we do not control or guarantee the way an app is found within the store.". His conclusion? "I won't develop any apps for Windows 10 anymore, since I cannot make any money with them. And I can recommend other developers to do the same: Don't start developing apps for Windows 10."

Gebhardt is not alone. A browse of the Windows developer forums soon turns up others, like the user Frommert who said that searching for keywords specified by him in the app description does not find his app, published three months ago. "I spent many hours of programming for this app and it drives me really crazy when no one can find it," the developer said. "I already contacted the Microsoft Support three times, but they couldn't help me."

Another user reports that their Windows Phone app is no longer searchable on Windows 10 Mobile or Windows Phone 8.

A common thread in these reports is that support contacts could offer no solution or reason for the search issues. In some cases, even searching for the exact name of the app will not find it.

There are several caveats here. Managing an app store is hard, with submissions including malware, copycat apps, stolen apps, and apps that are barely functional. Imperfect algorithms may mean that some apps are wrongly suppressed from search results, in an attempt to improve the perceived quality of the store. Further, it is hard to tell from a few reports how widespread the issue really is.

Looking at the developer forums though, it seems that official guidance and assistance for this issue is not easy to find, which will not help Microsoft in its efforts to establish a strong Windows 10 app ecosystem. ®

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