Crosswa.lk Augments the App Store
An app that I glowingly reviewed more than a year ago at CNET has flopped. Badly. The awesome Crosswa.lk iPhone app discovery engine, while a hit with tech critics like me, was a total flop with real users. “We had no idea how wrong we could be,” Crosswa.lk CEO Tom McLeod says. But this story could still have a happy ending.
Crosswa.lk’s core technology is its ability to reach deep into the iTunes App Store on behalf of users. Crosswa.lk’s original user-facing app used its powers to find out what apps you had. It combined that with data on your social network contacts to recommend new apps for you based on what your friends had that you did not. Cool! Except that real-world users don’t think that “app discovery” is the big problem that app developers do, and they didn’t adopt the product in droves, or even in dribbles.
“Even I wasn’t using it,” McLeod told me. That’s not a good sign.
So the new Crosswa.lk doesn’t do app recommendation at all. Instead, it just makes it easier to get apps installed on your iPhone or other iOS devices. Crosswa.lk now lets app developers (or anyone else) create a button or link that will push apps directly to your hardware (by interacting with the App Store servers), bypassing the usual steps that Web users have to go through: Clicking a link to go to the App Store Web page for the app, then clicking on the “View in iTunes” button on the page to fire up iTunes itself, then on the “download” button to actually get the app.
At every stage in this process, publishers lose potential users (in the lingo, we say that, “users don’t convert”). Furthermore, publishers can’t control the display of their content on the two iTunes pages (on the Web and in the iTunes app) and can lose people because their message is muddled.
So Crosswa.lk’s direct, one-button installation button should be a big boon for apps developers. Crosswa.lk can even enable developers to push multiple apps to a device with one click. (How’d you like to get Evernote, Hello, Skitch, and Food all at once?) For sites that recommend apps (Lifehacker) or sell them (Humble Bundle) it’s also great: It makes it easier for readers to get products while not having to leave the site they are on. Furthermore, these direct links can be tracked, A/B tested, AdWorded to death, and so on. The Crosswa.lk function gives developers a lot more power and insight than they have with Apple-mediated commerce. McLeod takes pains to remind me it should also help Apple sell more apps. He also says that although Crosswa.lk is a bit of a hack, Apple has known about it for a while and has not interfered so far with its access to the iTunes servers.
Here’s a demo: I asked McLeod to whip up a demo button for me, for Evernote Food. Eventually, creating these will be self-serve:
The company will sell a premium version of its services to high-volume users of its buttons and links; small-fry developers and end users will be able to use it for free. An Android version is planned.
I do believe that Crosswa.lk has real potential (again). It could also be a nice acquisition for Apple, even though Apple did buy the competitor Chomp in February.
The moral of the story today? We can’t be definitive, since we don’t yet know if the new direction will succeed. But it should, because it follows a model that’s been known to work: Take something that users do a lot, and make it better. Crosswa.lk also does that for apps developers. There are risks with any business, and definite pitfalls for Crosswa.lk to avoid, but at the moment it does look like a win/win.
A message from Evernote
Build knowledge. Share ideas. Get things done. Evernote Business.Back to Top