When Microsoft launched Windows 10 eight months ago, it made a point of telling developers that it was working to improve the capabilities and usefulness of the Windows 10 Store. Whatever the company did, it apparently wasn’t enough, and one longtime Windows dev is calling for a boycott of the storefront until Microsoft fixes it.
According to Nikolaus Gebhardt, developer of the open-source 3D engine Irrlicht, the Windows 10 Store’s search function is broken, almost to the point of being useless. Gebhardt’s recent blog post describes how sales of his various Windows applications, which were already low, have gone to nearly zero under Windows 10. He writes:
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. Instead, the app store will simply list 2 or 3 other, useless apps. In total. Judging from the developer forums, there are many other developers with this problem. When contacting Microsoft about this, they apparently sent the other developers a prewritten text, saying basically that “they have no control over the search results shown in the store.”
The response to Gebhardt’s post proves he’s not alone. Numerous devs have reportedthat their applications can only be found if you search for the precise name of the app. Another reported apps vanishing from the Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Phone 8 store. Developers have been asking Microsoft to address these issues for months, but the company is stonewalling both publications and the devs themselves.
BusinessInsider reached out to Microsoft to inquire about the problem and was handed a boilerplate response that boiled down to “Read this blog post and follow its instructions to ensure your app will be surfaced in search results.” None of the recommended tips seem applicable to the problems developers are having, particularly when it comes to keyword searches that should return relevant results and simply don’t.
Why the Windows Store matters
In theory, the Windows Store is the linchpin that ties the entire Windows ecosystem together. Consumers who want Universal apps that are guaranteed to work across phones, tablets, computers, and even the Xbox One are supposed to get them from the Windows Store. And Microsoft has been searching for new revenue streams since it launched Windows 10.
Discoverability has been a major problem for both Apple and Google, but Microsoft has a theoretical advantage there, in that the majority of PC users have devices with much larger screens; it should be easier to surface applications when the user has more space to consider their options. Bing only has a fraction of Google’s search volume, but Microsoft still owns a fully functional search engine. It shouldn’t be this hard to help people find useful applications, but apparently, it is.
Microsoft’s app ecosystem is a fraction the size of what Apple or Google manage. In theory, that should make it the best platform to surface great content. In practice, killer apps tend to make a splash on iOS or Android and transition to Windows at a much later date, if at all. We’ve previously criticized Microsoft for the vast numbers of terrible applications that filled the Windows Store, and balancing the need to weed out garbage versus limiting legitimate developers is hard to do. If these complaints are any indication, however, Microsoft has yet to find its feet. Until it does, developers may have even less reason to write code for Redmond’s platform than ever.