David Smith, creator of personal favorite Check The Weather, wrote a piece about how he wishes Apple would begin culling the “back catalog” of apps that that are no longer actively being developed.
The App Store currently has around 800k active apps listed. I suspect a significant number of these haven’t been updated in more than 12 months. An app that is listed for sale but is no longer under active development creates the possibility for bad user experience. It is like a grocery store that leaves expired produce on its shelves. The best situation for customers is a marketplace where whichever choice they make results in a great experience.
The idea of expiring apps is centered on Apple’s recent announcement that they will no longer accept apps in the App Store that are not retina ready and updated to support the 4″ screen of the iPhone 5 and latest generation iPod touch. I can only think of one app on my phone still not updated for the latest devices1, but I am not as heavy an app shopper as many.
While I don’t believe Apple will likely do this because the app count metric is still worth something, it is something I believe is a positive both for the ecosystem itself, as well as independent developers personally.
Back in August of 2012, I killed both MarkdownMail and the elder statesman of the Second Gear catalog, Today. Both were still bringing in a small amount of sales, but the emotional burden of having apps in the store that I know could use improvements, but have zero interest in working on anymore is heavy. It’s also difficult for me to get over the gross feeling that I would be taking someones $3 – $10 for an app that worked, but really wasn’t actively supported going forward. Financially, it wasn’t my wisest move, but I’ve done way dumber things with money.
This is also why I was more understanding of Google’s decision to axe its Reader project in favor of focusing on other projects. While I sympathize with the people losing a utility they were fond of, tossing rotting software in the dumpster makes room for future innovations from other developers in that space, and allows Google to focus on the things it’s most interested in.