Apple Store’s search engine has come under scrutiny recently for favoring Apple’s company created apps in its results. Scrutiny by regulators in Europe and the United States forced Apple to change its search algorithm in July.
The New York Times had analyzed the search results for six years and found that Apple’s own apps ranked first with at least 700 search terms used in the store. According to the newspaper, the analysis since 2013 included a ranking of more than 1,800 specific apps for 13 keywords. The Wall Street Journal confirmed The Times reporting with its review that found similar results; Apple’s own apps often took priority.
Before changes to the algorithm, when one searched for common terms such as “music” or “podcast,” Apple Music or Apple podcasts would come up and you’d see unrelated Apple apps, forcing Apple’s competitors down the lists. This is a natural result of the company’s tight control of the process. iPhone apps can only be installed from Apple’s Store and Apple’s software competes with many of the independent developers in the store.
Newspapers get involved when governments get involved. This issue is the subject of a civil lawsuit in the US and the US Department of Justice is considering an Apple investigation. The Dutch are looking into it as well. Apple told The Times that it has made changes to help users better find the apps they are looking for. After the changes, it appears that fewer of Apple’s own apps appear at the top of search results.