Leaderboard Driven Discovery

In a marketplace where leaderboards drive discovery and transactions, it helps to putt all your weight behind one offering. Twitter's purchase of Tweetie and release of Twitter for iPhone this week shows what can happen.

App store

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out over a longer period of time, but right now it sure seems like the right move.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. maxniederhofer

    It would be interesting for the developer ecosystem to know what Twitter currently considers “core” to its service, and hence where developers are “just plugging holes”, versus what it considers adjacent opportunities that Twitter is unlikely to ever address itself. I think we’ve understood that clients and media hosting are probably core, but how far will Twitter go in aggregating/understanding the content that runs through it, e.g. offering a TwitterTim.es of some sort on its home page, or ranking its users by doing its own Klout?This may have all been exposed at Chirp, but it would be nice to have clarity.

    1. Mark Essel

      Great questions, there certainly is an interest in a public roadmap to encourage external developers.

    2. fredwilson

      you will get some more clarity very soon max

      1. maxniederhofer

        Thanks! Love the way you interact on here.

      2. William Mougayar

        That clarity is needed badly. I think some people are sitting on the sidelines & waiting for that clarity to emerge so they can focus on the areas where it’s “safe” to innovate.

  2. Fernando Gutierrez

    To put this into context we should compare it with the previous situation. How many Twitter apps were into that top 15? where was Tweetie in the ranks? (I think Tweetie was a paid app -sorry, I’m not sure because I’m a Blackberrier- so there would not be a direct comparison)

    1. Mark Essel

      It was a paid app and I bought both versions. $3 each

    2. fredwilson

      very few, if any

  3. andyswan

    Winning is a vicious cycle.

    1. David Semeria

      A bike that bites?

      1. andyswan

        Unicycle…balance and showmanship are evverything

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Or a fish on a bicycle?

  4. kidmercury

    perhaps a good move for twitter. as for the app developers that got their opportunity kicked to the curb by the acquisition….perhaps not so much.paramendra suggested before that twitter devour its ecosystem, microsoft style. i prefer to beef with paramendra regarding 9/11 truth, but i do think ecosystem devouring is one of the few options twitter has that could lead to profitability — although it remains to be seen how tolerant of such behavior the ecosystem of developers will be. without a federated system, twitter’s moral authority to govern a platform will always be subject to criticism IMHO.

    1. Mark Essel

      The self hosted option is one of the key factors of WordPress that garners developer trust.I blogged platforms up at the bottom of today’s post.

      1. kidmercury

        Definitely. For me, so many apps get ruled out if I cant install them locally. I use vbulletin as my CMS because it is visible source, a requirement of mine.

    2. ShanaC

      no matter what paramendra (and in some ways also chris dixon, though he is a very aware of economics man)- you can’t fully devour the ecosystem. It makes you too big to move with agility. You end up being extremely vulnerable to very small mistakes which very small competitors in your ecosystem (under normal circumstances) could never take advantage of.It’s one of the reasons Netscape got to do what they did. Microsoft was huge. They made a tiny error about the internet and it cost them basically until now. And in some odd ways, they’re still paying (Mozilla is the grandchild of Netscape)

  5. JasonRaznick

    yes, it is swanny…fred this is a little off-topic, so i do apologize, but i wanted to sincerely thank you for the complements on benzinga’s podcast. that means more than you will ever know.also, i’d love to spend 5 to 10 minutes with you on the podcast at your earliest convenience. thanks again!

    1. andyswan

      The FAB RAZ in da house? Prepare for a parade of shots….

  6. Tereza

    In this age of gaming the App Store for a high placement, I’d be interested in knowing the empirical breakdown of those app buyers, whether they came through (1) current Twitter usage (pull-through from core product), (2) free press, or (3) paid marketing/PR.Clearly being at #1 is a self-propagating state and the nirvana we’re all shooting for.I’m tempted to guess most of that those purchases came from (1) above…..Were any marketing/PR dollars spent at all?

    1. fredwilson

      i know the exact number for the past two days but i can’t share it. i will say that a huge number of them are new users

      1. ShanaC

        That’s interesting. I know you may not be able to say, is it correlated to new signups?

  7. falicon

    Love that you posted about this…my hack for the Disrupt Hackathon this weekend is going to be around “what apps do you have installed” and seeing what apps your friends have installed…will be fun to see if I can get it working in the 24hr time frame and how well it’s received/adopted…

    1. Tereza

      I love that idea

    2. Mark Essel

      Hive Mind applications are everywhere. Good hunting Kevin!You gotta publish that network API so services everywhere can compare unknown sets with an anonymous broker that doesn’t know or care of the identity of either network member.

      1. falicon

        That’s def. an interesting idea…probably too far ahead of it’s time for the average user (story of my life as a developer)…version one of APPSiGOT (the name I’m going to be using for this weekend’s hack) probably won’t have too much of a Hivemind approach (because of time constraints) but it’s something I would def. work in over time if the system gets used 😉

      2. Dave Pinsen

        Does that mean other apps will be assimilated?

  8. Mark Essel

    While this is great for Twitter it underscores the problem with app stores. Users generally see and only pick the top X apps in each category. Getting users or sales becomes a challenge of marketing your app outside the store in which case why are you selling in the store to begin with?Web apps have all the power of search technology and user reviews. They scale much better than the “invisible” 200k AppStore apps.Finding services through AppStore is like going back to cable to find video. The Net has proven to be a stronger tool for user discovery.The big question for me is how rich can web apps become?

    1. falicon

      True, but you’ve got to sell through the app store if you want your app on the iPhone, iTouch, or iPad right now…and there are a lot of advantages to being on these popular consumer mobile device…so you jump through the hoops, you do the dance they demand, and figure out workarounds.

      1. Mark Essel

        Yup, they own a lot of eyeballs. Sad thing :(Still don’t understand leashing hardware and os to app stores.

  9. RichardF

    What interests me is the power that Apple has when it comes to promoting companies within the app store and in their ads. That’s how many of the apps get to be top of the leader board. Look at Shazam they identified their 1 billionth song this week and have 75 million users. Whilst they are now busy diversifying onto every mobile platform they can, the initial explosion in their growth is down to their iphone app which Apple featured in a lot of the early iPhone ads

  10. BmoreWire

    it’s inevitable that a cross platform app search engine that searches the content of apps is the next thing on the horizon. want google to buy you? make that….

  11. Harry DeMott

    Anyone seeing a market develop around this. Kind of like adwords – but for apps. paid placement in categories. I think we have definitively seen where getting there early with a good app is absolutely imperative on a new ecosystem. Shazam did it in music – and Pandora certainly went into overdrive having the app ready for the iphone. Now to cut through the clutter is extremely difficult. So how are you going to get there if you don’t have the brand name recognition of facebook or twitter?

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      If devs have to pay for placement of their apps, margins are gonna go thinner and make the business less attractive. If Apple (or any other company in a similar situation) wants to make those devs more successful -and users happier- they should develop better filters and search tools.

      1. ShanaC

        Keywords, not placement per say? Top app for the word “paint” plus a paid advertisement for an app (paid search) ala google?

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          That sounds good, but you should put some quality control on that ads to avoid “the rich developers” placing their apps everywere. Google already does that in Adwords. It doesn’t matter that you want to pay, if you don’t get enough click throughs you are out (the idea is that you don’t get them because you are not relevant).

    2. Tereza

      Totally agree with you Harry. That is the natural progression. Where there is newfound scarcity, people will pay for access!

    3. ShanaC

      Not if you follow this example, which is so much more clarifying for what you want:http://nymag.com/realestate…Otherwise, sure. Why not. Though my example is better designed.

  12. Michael Johnston

    I’ve long felt that the emphasis of the leaderboard approach in iTunes (and now the iBookstore) provides a superficial and, ultimately, unsatisfying shopping experience. Unlike Amazon, where I can browse to my heart’s delight by visiting a book genre and its sub-categories, Apple makes users work a whole lot harder to find things. Perhaps in their bookstore this is due to a lack of breadth of content, but in the app and music stores, where there are a gazillion choices, the same approach is used. Ultimately, this approach really puts the screws to those in the long tail, which grows longer, thinner and more elusive to those who seek it; I can’t easily browse to it.The bottom line is that I love Apple’s products but their shopping experience leaves much to be desired. Amazon has them beat hands down in that particular department. The implication for developers is that they’ll need to resort to some potentially shady tactics to see their app reach the leaderboard.

    1. ErikSchwartz

      I totally agree that both the app store and the music store are really weak from a usability standpoint. At the end of the day I think apple is great at hardware design, apple is great at OS design, apple is terrific and the integration of hardware and OS, but apple has never built a quality online experience in anything.Anyone here remember Applelink Personal? eWorld?.mac is weak, mobileme is weak.This is just not in their DNA.fwiw, this is why Android will win, it’s not about the handset or the software on the handset. More and more mobile will be about the software running in the cloud. Don’t believe me? watch the android 2.2 intro yesterday at IO.

      1. Michael Johnston

        I haven’t paid too much attention to Android because I’m happy with my iPhone and iPad, but I’ve heard good things about it. It also makes me happy to see Google gaining market share. This may eventually force Apple to improve in some areas and relent in others, though I doubt that Jobs will ever do an about-face on Flash.

        1. ErikSchwartz

          I agree that Steve has gone to a place with Flash that there’s no coming back from.

      2. Joe Siewert

        Was just reading this article talking about Android pulling ahead. Bottom line is there is great competition happening between Apple and Google right now.http://www.cnn.com/2010/TEC

      3. ShanaC

        Their thing is a hardwear/os/desktop program usability. it is not a bad place to be, it just is sort of disappearing with time. they succeed because they force very simple drill-downs unless otherwise notified. Though I suspect some of their techniques will come back with time as the form of the web and the website changes with the box the web is attached to.

        1. andyidsinga

          This is a really interesting question – where is Apple’s success from? Its design or elsewhere?I’ve been thinking that a large part of Apples success is related to their ability to create a highly integrated system where it controls all the parts. It was very valuable to users (and their elegant design was a big help) because it had so much of the right stuff pulled together in one system – software + hardware + distribution + purchasing etc. Its seems that earlier attempts at music players failed because they were modular too early?Google’s arriving success with Android seems to be related to its ability to create a new channel for its core services – search / ads / harvesting buying intent – while allowing the other parts to be modularized. The modular , complimentary parts seems to be on the fast lane to becoming commodities.Maybe there’s a post here for Fred W 🙂

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Unsatisfying, sure, but smart in one respect:Apple makes the developer work a lot harder, spending marketing dollars, to make their product known and popular and thus promoting the app store / ITunes and making the users get use out of the Apple products. Smart.

      1. Michael Johnston

        Matthew, I respectfully disagree. I just don’t see how making it harder for developers to promote a product while at the same time making it harder for users to find that same product benefits anyone, least of all Apple. This would be like a retail store keeping many of their products in the storeroom: customer’s won’t ask for them because they don’t know about them, and manufacturers wouldn’t bother shipping them to the store because they know they’ll be returned as unsold.What Apple has right now is an environment where the barriers to entry for developers are relatively low, keeping the supply side good; on the other hand, those products are difficult to find, even when you know what you’re looking for, so the net result is a concentration of apps being sold that take the lion’s share of profits while others garner hardly any sales, even though they might otherwise merit better treatment.Ultimately, this results in a situation where developers are unhappy because their efforts go unrewarded, while users are frustrated as they’re forced to work to find things in a UI designed by a company that prides itself in delivering products that are easy to use.In short, it makes no sense. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was an alternative app store, but there isn’t. Unlike music, where I can buy from Amazon or Apple or whomever wants to sell me a non-DRM MP3, Apple controls the whole ecosystem. I’m forced to accept it – or move on.

    3. fredwilson

      i totally agree. that was sort of my point. but you made it much better than i did

  13. Rocky Agrawal

    does anyone here know what “top” really means? it’s clearly not all time downloads, active users or similar metrics. the list is much too volatile for that to be the case. besides, you’d expect some correlation in these metrics to the number of ratings. e.g. #2 has 655 ratings, but facebook at #15 has 411,355 ratings.it’s also not in apple’s interests for the list to be too static — you want a mix of brands that will resonate with users (facebook, twitter) but also diversity of app category and change that reflects the power of the platform. a pure leaderboard would be boring… in the search world, the real top terms are things like sex, ebay, yahoo, facebook, etc. the list doesn’t change dramatically.i’d like to see them come up with personalized recommendations based on the apps i’ve already installed. in the screengrab above, only 3 of the 15 appeal to me.

  14. everploeg

    Seems like a clear win for Twitter. They get this nice — even if short term — leaderboard effect, and they get a higher yield from app store natural search around “twitter”.It will be interesting to see how long the Twitter app stays on the top of the leaderboard. It is the very rare app that hangs out near the top for long. It seems clear that Apple has an incentive to keep the leaderboard full of fresh applications. More thoughts on this idea: http://verploeg.com/2010/04

  15. andyidsinga

    I think leader boards kindof stink – especially for finding new things. If they’re on top of the board and I download them its more likely because I’ve already heard of them and now being on top of the leader board just allowed me to not have to punch them into the search box.One of the reasons I read blog comments and dig through twitter is the new and random nature of the things So – I guess I disagree – I don’t think leader board drive discovery or transactions – they’re just a form of automatic search – search without the typing.:) 🙂 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      i agree that they stinkbut that is the world apple has created and we all have to operate in it

      1. andyidsinga

        well, no 🙂 We don’t have to operate in it, there are alternatives. For instance, I love instapaper, I found out about it on twitter, I use the web app now, and I found out about the instapaper iphone app though Instapaper’s site.No leader board involved – just good old (new) fashioned awesomeness and word of mouth (twitter) 🙂

  16. ErikSchwartz

    Leaderboards tend to maintain the status quo. Popular stuff remains popular by the because of free promotion based on its popularity.Speaking of twitter filling holes with their own twitter apps, is there any way oneforty.com is not screwed (except by selling to twitter). If twitter is trying to consolidate its offerings (which this post seems to indicate it is) would there be any reason for twitter to buy oneforty?

    1. fredwilson

      there will always be way more third party apps than twitter apps

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Depends how you measure I would imagine.I bet by usage, “Official Twitter Apps” beat 3rd party in competitive spaces in the near future. The fact that the official twitter iphone app is already number one after such a brief time seems to reinforce the idea.That leaves a 3rd party app store trying to make money on the long tail while twitter gives away the most popular/best tools. Besides, generally app stores are loss leaders run at break even. ITMS exists so that apple can sell $300 hardware at 50% gross margin, not to make $.10 for every song they sell.

  17. OurielOhayon

    Fredi think what apple is doing in terms of ranking is not enough. What makes sense for everyone does not make sense for someone in particular. I would love to get MY personal ranking for Apps (Twitter would be there btw) but definitely not the rest that appears on this screenshotThis is why we created Appsfire.com and that we’re trying to bring discovery to a personal level that makes sense. This is why Netflix invests millions in its discovery engine for eg.

    1. fredwilson

      you know i think that is a smart move ouriel

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry


  18. Dave Pinsen

    I wonder if Twitter will buy Woof next.

  19. David Fishman

    Right on …. “bring discovery to a personal level.” I think Fred touched on this in his previous San Telmo post. Retail +eCommerce in general needs a heavy dose! Post was intended as a response to Ouriel.

  20. ShanaC

    I dislike a lot of lists- they tend to promote people jumping onto the same opinion rather than answering the question because we see what other people have done:There is a difference in a ranking and ranking to answer a question about my specific needsEg: Best gym in NYC versus best Gym in NYC if you are young, in your 20s, relatively poor compared to say some of the really big gyms, want to meet people, and also want to start working out with friendly people rather than people who are going to “grrr” and make you feel ugly and not strong enough.The best example about how to solve “the list” problem is here:The livability calculator for 50 neighborhoods in NYC, with 6 presets, by New York magazine It re-ranks based on your needs, and answers your questions, (mostly) irrelevant of what other people are thinking.That is by far the best answer to leader boards I have ever seen….

  21. Jesse

    It would be a better example to just use Facebook to make this argument (and it would show long-term trends, not just launch inflated numbers). Plus, I and many other iPhone users still just use Twitteriffic because it looks better and it’s what we’re used to. Still, this was a move in the right direction for Twitter, for sure.

  22. Brian Hayashi @connectme

    People used to think that computer networking had run its course in the 1980s after the initial corporate networks were built. In retrospect, what seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was really just the first awkward step to the interwebs.The psychology behind Dunbar’s Number isn’t just about relationships. In the packaged goods industry it’s called category management, eschewing brand proliferation for brand optimization. By putting all of its weight behind a few entry-level tools, Twitter is making it easier for people to get started, while clearing some cognitive space for more sophisticated uses of the platform.

  23. RichardF

    ….better to lag your putts for a consistent card 🙂

  24. Mark Essel

    Epic Bill Murray line

  25. Rollaway5

    Careful there, Charlie Crystle. In Kidmercury’s world Ghostbusters is a real documentary. I think they’re called Ghostbusters Truthers or something. I’m sure he’ll provide us with a link.

  26. kidmercury

    rollaway5, if you ever want to beef about 9/11 truth, you know i’m game. please tell us what you think and provide your argument. or, if you’re too afraid and choose to criticize me because i have the courage, education, nobility, and good looks that you lack, then that’s cool too.