For months, developers have been complaining about a big problem with Microsoft’s Windows 10 app store: their apps never show up in the search engine.
At least one of them says the situation is so bad, he thinks no one should write new Windows 10 apps.
That coder is Nikolaus Gebhardt, who has been writing apps since the early 2000s. He’s best known for a an open-source project popular some years ago called “Irrlicht,” which helped developers write 3D games. His current crop of apps includes other game development software and other apps that do everything from drawing diagrams to creating websites.
Earlier this week, he grew so frustrated, he wrote a post called “Why you should not develop apps for Windows 10 .”
It went viral on Reddit.
“Since Windows 10 arrived, the sales of all of my apps, which have been very low compared to other apps stores, have gone down significantly, nearly to zero (even the one I upgraded to Windows 10),” he wrote.
“And it is not surprising that this is the case: 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 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,” he explained.
“Why should any developer create an app for Windows 10, if the sales will likely be zero?” he concludes.
He says that he did not have the same problems with the Windows 8 app store.
To make matters more infuriating, Microsoft shrugged him off when he asked for help, he says. They told him Microsoft had made some changes to the app “searching algorithm” and “we do not control or guarantee the way an app is found within the store.”
In other words, tagging an app, using keywords — none of that matters if the algorithm doesn’t want to include the app in a search.
Ironically, Microsoft blogged earlier this month that the Windows 10 store will “create new developer opportunity in 2016.” In that post, Microsoft said that the skyrocketing adoption of Windows 10 meant that the Windows 10 store has been accessed over 3 billion times. It listed new features for the store including “Increased app discoverability.”
That post received several angry comments from developers also complaining that their apps couldn’t be found on the store. Similar complaints can be found from developers dating back to April and continuing through now. At one point, someone even started a Change.org petition about it (though it didn’t get very far).
Microsoft is aware of the problem. After Gebhardt’s post went viral on Reddit, several people from Microsoft reached out to him.
We asked him if they were able to fix things and he told us, “No, at least it wasn’t fixed for my apps. I’m just in the process of talking with a couple of people from Microsoft. They are looking into it. Not sure what will come out of that,” he says.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has published a post advising developers on how to get their apps found on the Windows 10 app store which includes advice like, “Make sure your app stands out and has compelling capabilities” and “create an original app. Make sure you own the name, brand, icon and content.”
The implication is that developers who complain might just need to write better apps, or tag them better, or follow the app store rules better.
When we reached out to Microsoft and asked about the issue, a spokesperson told us (emphasis ours):
We strive to make the Windows Store a high-quality experience for customers and also accessible to the broadest audience of developers. We’ve provided clear guidance to developers on how to ensure their apps are visible in the store and are constantly identifying, auditing and removing problematic apps. We continue to evaluate our policies to strike a balance between the opportunity for developers and the app quality that our customers expect. For more information, please visit this blog.
This attitude wasn’t lost on some of the readers of the blog post.
“The information in your post sounds great, but in reality the Store isn’t quite behaving as you say,” replied commenter Richard Walters.
Microsoft needs developers
Microsoft has always been known for how well it treats developers.
The success of Windows 10 still depends on them and Microsoft is trying to encourage them to use its new “Universal Windows Apps” platforms. Write an app for Windows 10 and it can be run on all Windows 10 devices, which includes PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox and, perhaps, Hololens.
But, like Gebhardt says, if their apps can’t be found in the app store, they won’t be motivated and the whole plan falls apart.