The beauty of organization is efficiency, especially when it comes to product. At close to 1 million offerings, Apple's App Store is full of great inventory, but with most of it hidden in the store's setup, developers and consumers are missing out.
OttoCat is an automatic categorization system looking to reinvent the way we search and find apps. The new service uses a language analysis system to categorize the entire App Store. A patented computational linguistics and information retrieval system organizes the entire store, making finding apps as easy as browsing the aisles of a well-organized supermarket.
"What we do is look at all of the text in the apps and find common groupings in all of those apps," explains OttoCat's founder and CEO Edwin Cooper. He says the problem with the store is there are whole categories we don't even know exist. "It's very hard to know what's there. Because an app is visible, it's popular. Because an app is popular, it's visible."
There are 23 top categories in the store (and rumors of the addition of a new category for kids), with subcategories for games and newsstand. Twenty-three categories for almost 1 million apps means most get buried. Existing categorization services are only able to search a fraction of the store because tools limit users to the keywords they choose; and if an app has never been downloaded or reviewed, it's unlikely to come up unless the exact title is queried.
"A lot of people haven't really known what's been in the App Store until now," Cooper says. "All these great developers who made these great apps really need to be recognized for what they've done."
Cooper says his research has found that only 0.5% of the entire store is available via search. Those that don't make the top 100 lists for most categories or have any ratings to be reported are lost. Cooper says 30% don't have any ratings to be reported; 70% have 10 or few ratings. Meanwhile, apps in the top 100 list can have literally millions of ratings. Because of this system, the change in the top 100 list from January through April is about 2%, he says.
OttoCat has created 500,000 subcategories, breaking up categories like entertainment into divisions based on data such as cinema, music, comedy, etc. On average, an app is cross-referenced in about 10 categories.
Right now OttoCat is just web based but built to work well on a tablet or smartphone, Cooper says. An app is on the way.
Cooper learned search as a founder of InQuira, an enterprise search tool employed by Fortune 100 companies like Bank of America. Oracle bought the company in 2011, and Cooper left to spend a year developing the technology system that would become OttoCat.
His new Berkely, Calif.-based company makes money through an Apple affiliate program; OttoCat makes 5% off the purchase price of any app bought through the site.
This opening of the floodgates has developers excited.
Osurv, the mobile research app, surveyed 93 mobile developers in the Southern California area, all with apps in the store. When queried if the App Store is disorganized, on a scale of one to 10, one being unorganized, 10 being very disorganized, the average reported score was 8.1. When asked if they would use a new service to find new apps, 91% answered yes.
Greg Cohn, the co-founder of Ad Hoc Labs, a Los Angeles developer known for the disposable phone number Burner App, says he's not sure OttoCat will catch on. But, he is open to new and improved ways to search.
"It's obviously a good thing for consumers and ultimately the developers who depend on consumer downloads," he says. "I think it's a bit early, however, to say whether a third-party provider can really get traction in this space."
Are you a developer or app user frustrated with the App Store? Would you use this service? Let us know in the comments below.
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