Apple has assembled a secret team dedicated to exploring potential changes that could be made to the App Store, reports Bloomberg. Among the features being considered is an option that would allow developers to pay a fee to have their apps "more prominently displayed," perhaps at the top of a list of search results. Changes to "improve the way" customers browse in the App Store are also under consideration.
Among the ideas being pursued, Apple is considering paid search, a Google-like model in which companies would pay to have their app shown at the top of search results based on what a customer is seeking. For instance, a game developer could pay to have its program shown when somebody looks for "football game," "word puzzle" or "blackjack."
Apple is said to have approximately 100 employees working on its App Store project under vice president and former iAd leader Todd Terisi, including engineers who formerly worked on the iAd team. According to sources who spoke to Bloomberg, the search team is relatively new and it is not yet known if and when changes will be introduced to the App Store.
News of work on App Store changes comes four months after Apple made a significant change to App Store leadership, bringing it under the umbrella of Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller instead of iTunes chief Eddy Cue.
App discovery has long been an issue in Apple's App Store. With upwards of 1.8 million apps available in the App Store, it is difficult for users to discover content that isn't available via Apple's featured section or through Top Charts, which often favor big name developers able to spend a lot of money on advertising. Paid discovery via search offers another avenue to help customers find new apps, but it is unlikely to be popular with many of the independent developers that struggle to get their apps noticed.
Apple's last major change to the App Store came in November, introducing significant improvements to App Store search algorithms to return more relevant, intelligent results.