If you had casually tried to search for Instagram on the Google Play market using either the web version of the store or the one on Android devices today, you may have come under the impression that it’s not out yet. That’s because, despite actually launching on the platform 5 hours ago, Instagram is still buried buried deep in the search results.
In fact, what you do get for the first hundred results or so in the Google Play market on Android is mostly garbage apps that are trading on the Instagram name to get downloads. Mixed among these is a few viewers and few outright clones.
The situation on the Google Play web market wasn’t much better until just about 30 minutes ago, over 5 hours since the launch of the app, where it has finally creeped onto the first page of results, coming in at 20th behind a host of crapware and a couple of actual photographic gems like Lightbox and picplz.
Our own Matt Brian put it well, when he expressed his incredulity at the placement of the app, two hours or so after its release this morning.
For an app that has probably been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times already, it’s inexcusable that Google’s algorithms — or even an editor — haven’t ensured that the results are relevant and actually match the term when it is entered.
Google’s speciality is search, so why is this happening?
Indeed, the irony gets even deeper. If perform a vanilla Google Search for the term Google Play, what do you guess would be your first non-ad result? Probably not Instagram for Android. Yet, there it is. I’m not even searching for Instagram for Android, and yet its the first result for the Google Play market. Why isn’t Google surfacing it in the search results on the market itself?
Google isn’t the only one with an app search problem like this. Apps on Apple’s App Store also suffer from discoverability issues. I’ve had to look deeper than average for even some very popular apps from time to time. That’s probably one of the main reasons they bought app search engine Chomp.
The question is, if the search is this bad for a huge marquee release like Instagram, how bad is it for regular developers without its kind of clout. If you were a developer that had just launched an app in a common category and someone was looking for it, would you feel comfortable that they can find it?
Both the Google Play market and App Store are enormous repositories of hundreds of thousands of apps. It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the issues of app discoverability that come along with that growth. Apple had to buy a company to help it build what it needs, but Google already has those tools at its disposal, now it needs to make them work for Android users.
For more on Instagram for Android, you can check out our side-by-side comparison with its iPhone predecessor here.