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article imageWindows 10's app store is so broken that developers are quitting

By James Walker     Jan 23, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft's Windows Store has a major problem and recently it's become so serious that developers are threatening to quit the platform entirely. As the company calls on app creators to write for Windows 10, it is refusing to acknowledge the issue.
Reports of the issue have been floating around for some time but recently the coverage stepped up another notch, helped by the viral Reddit post of a frustrated developer and the dismissive attitude of a related Microsoft blog entry.
The problem with the Store is simple: the search bar doesn't work. Developer Nikolaus Gebhardt, a respected programmer who has written code since the early 2000s, explains in a blog post titled "Why you should not develop apps for Windows 10": "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 of 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. In total."
This issue has plagued Windows developers for months and got even worse with the launch of Windows 10. Developers write an app and submit it to the store tagged with keywords to make it more visible, only to have it completely hidden from the world. These "invisible" apps simply can't be found by the 200 million Windows 10 users unless they know exactly where to look, using a URL in a web browser to find the app.
Gebhardt isn't alone in the problems. Clearly, there is a fundamental problem with the Windows Store search that is preventing smaller app developers from making any money at all. In Gebhardt's case, he claims his sales since Windows 10's launch have decreased "nearly to zero" simply because nobody knows his apps exist.
Microsoft isn't helping matters. When developers complain via email or on its forums, the company sends back simple copy-and-paste responses, advising they have no control over the search results. The company only just admitted the problem exists but hasn't said what causes it or how it will be fixed. It's unclear whether it evens knows what is wrong.
Last week, it managed to surpass itself in the eyes of many developers. In a blog post on its Building Apps for Windows site, it provided six "recommendations" on improving app visibility, noting there are "several bugs impacting the Store" that result in some apps not showing up in search.
The company advises developers to "create an original app" with "compelling capabilities" and "accurate" metadata including relevant keyword and category tags. It goes on to inform app creators what to do if their app is hidden in Store search, telling them to open a support ticket. Unfortunately, that usually results in one of the simplistic copy-and-paste messages being sent back.
The "you're not writing your app properly" attitude wasn't taken well by developers. Unhappy community members were quick to accuse Microsoft in the comments for its unwillingness to help. Richard Walters wrote: "The information in your post sounds great, but in reality the Store isn't quite behaving as you say."
The blog post followed another from early January in which Microsoft boasted of increased store growth and "new developer opportunities," citing "increased app discoverability" as a key advantage of Windows 10. Irate developers quickly contested the claims in the comments, accusing Microsoft of being "detached from reality."
Microsoft has got itself into a potentially serious situation but appears to be making minimal effort to resolve it. Windows 10 needs app developers to get onboard if it is going to be successful but that simply won't happen if a developer spends weeks building a quality product only for it to disappear entirely when published in the Store.
Microsoft has repetitively cited the millions of Windows users — expected to grow to over a billion in the next few years — as a key reason to build for Windows. But that is meaningless if nobody ever finds the app.
Developers like Gebhardt have invested time and money into Microsoft's platform only to get nothing back in return. The company promised more users from Windows 10's launch and overall Store usage has grown. But for the unlucky few, sales have plummeted dramatically due to a prolonged major bug the root cause of which Microsoft still hasn't found and fixed.
Business Insider reports Gebhardt has since been contacted personally by Microsoft but only because his Reddit post went viral. With thousands of developers now having read a post telling them not to waste their time on Windows, the company has been forced into responding.
It still hasn't fixed the problem though and couldn't even help Gebhardt. He told Business Insider that the company is "looking into it." In the meantime, an unknown number of apps remain invisible to Windows Store users, slashing developer revenue and threatening to stifle the entire Windows ecosystem if a patch doesn't finally come soon.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, App, Apps
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