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July 24, 2015

Changes to Store listings and search algorithms

As we near the launch of Windows 10, I want to share with you some changes coming in the new Windows Store: lists and search algorithms, a new web Store, changes to the app listings and updates to ratings and reviews. These changes may impact how your apps appear in the Store.

The Store has been built from the ground up for Windows 10 providing for scalability, and the ability to support a single Store for apps, plus a wider variety of content types: apps, games, music, video, and TV (and more content types in the future).

This new Windows Store experience will continue to evolve, so as you explore, please send feedback as you see areas to improve, using the “Windows Feedback” app (search for it in the Start menu.)

Store listing and search algorithms

Windows 10 uses new algorithms to determine search results and top lists for the Store (optimized for more digital content types). This change has an impact on how Store lists are shown and search results are returned for Windows 10:

  • Search algorithms optimized for apps, games, movies, and music rather than the general web search used earlier. These algorithms take a more holistic approach when evaluating an app’s relevancy to the search terms, factoring in attributes such as click-through rates in the Store listings, ratings and reviews, keywords, and total downloads.
  • Apps that customers have previously acquired are not currently filtered out of searches or app lists. As a result, customers may see apps they already own in the Store lists and recommendations. We are planning to remove previously-owned apps from the recommendations in a future update.
  • Lists will not include ‘top grossing.’ The lists available today include ‘top free,’ ‘top paid,’ ‘best rated,’ and ‘new and rising.’ The ‘top grossing’ app list, which is currently available in the Store on Windows 8, will be temporarily unavailable, with plans to bring back this capability in a future update.
  • Searches in the Windows Store Home page always return Apps first, then Games, then Music, then Movies & TV. This ordering of the results might not be the ideal, and that is also a focus area for future improvement. Searching for items inside a category works correctly, for example in the music tab, will return Music items first.

We’ve started with existing Windows 8 and Windows Phone data to help with list formulation and search results at launch, though this is a brand new Store and the algorithms take some time to mature and develop to their full capabilities. As a result, your app may experience some ranking changes in both Store lists and search results.

To help mitigate the impact, we highly recommend evaluating your app’s description and keywords to ensure they are optimized for the lists and search results you’d like your app to appear in. Irrelevant keywords can hurt your app’s rating as the algorithms detect inaccurate keywords, the app could potentially drop in the rankings.

If you notice any obvious errors in Store lists or search returns, please contact Developer Support to open a ticket.

App listings and web Store

The product description pages have several changes resulting from the integration of Windows and Windows Phone apps. We also launched a new web Store that for the first time is able to show not only apps and games, but also music, movies and TV shows. As all of these capabilities are new, some of the previously existing functionality is not available in this initial launch.

  • Windows Phone screenshot auto-rotation orientation no longer available. Windows Phone Dev Center enabled developers to submit vertical screenshots and Dev Center would rotate them. The new Dev Center does not have this ‘auto rotate’ filter. So you might see some Windows Phone screenshots appear vertical instead of horizontal in the Store. The fix is easy: re-submit the screenshots rotated with any image editor, then upload to Dev Center.
  • New web Store and URL redirects. The previous Store URLs and now redirect customers to the new web Store Existing URLs and links continue to work and automatically redirect customers to the new Store.
  • Installing apps from web Store not available. Installing apps to a Windows Phone when using the Store in a PC browser is not supported. Apps must be installed from the device itself.
  •  Logged out customers may see both Windows and Windows Phone apps. If a customer is not logged in to their Microsoft account on Windows 8.x or Windows 7, the web Store will show both the Windows and Windows Phone apps. This means the customer may see duplicate apps (for non-linked apps).
  • URL to show all apps from one publisher no longer available. The URLs that pointed to all apps from a single publisher in Windows Phone (e.g. are no longer supported. Customers can select a publisher’s name in an app’s product description page to view a list of the publisher’s apps.
  • You might need to adjust your app description. Existing Windows 8.x apps will also be available to all Windows 10 users, so make sure the description does not indicate that the app only ‘runs on Windows 8.x’ or similar description. The Store will try to detect the OS of a user, and will adjust which apps to show or indicate if an app is not compatible with a user’s device.
  • App version, last update date, and device compatibility not visible in the app page. The app description pages do not include which devices the app works on, nor does it show the app version and last update date. We are working to bring these popular features back in a future update. One recommendation is to add the app version in the app description when you update your apps.

Ratings and reviews

The Windows Store includes updates to ratings and reviews that enable the store to show Windows and Windows Phone apps together and support more content types. These changes impact all apps, though will be most apparent for apps that were previously linked in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores.

  • Migration of all the Ratings and Reviews. Ratings and reviews in the Windows 8 and Windows Phone Stores were migrated and will be visible to Windows 10. Ratings and reviews provided by customers using Windows 10 will not appear to customers using a previous OS.
  • New Ratings and Reviews Algorithm. The Windows 10 Store uses new review sorting logic to improve the customer experience in a variety of ways:
    • The most recent reviews with most ‘helpful’ votes are bubbled to the top of the list, ensuring comments on are relevant and useful for customers looking at your app.
    • The profanity detection algorithm has been updated and improved. As customers change the way they use profanity in reviews, the algorithm will adapt and further refine the way it detects inappropriate language.
    • New spam detection will detect and remove more spam before customers see it.
  • Review filter: Customers will be able to search reviews in both the Store app and the web Store. Filters can be set for star ratings, most helpful, newest, highest-rated, and lowest-rated.
  • Unified Ratings and Reviews for Linked Apps. The unified Dev Center dashboard treats linked Windows and Windows Phone apps as a single app with multiple packages. Ratings and reviews for any package in the linked app are applied to the app, regardless of whether the rating was provided on a Windows Phone app or a Windows 8.x app. In Windows 10, customers will see combined reviews and ratings for both apps in the new Store as well a unified star rating.  Customers accessing the Store on earlier OS versions (e.g., Windows Phone 8.1) will not see the new combined rating.  A device-specific filter is planned for a future update, enabling customers to see just reviews for their device type.
  • Ratings and reviews submitted in Windows 10 previous to July 15 were deleted. Ratings and reviews submitted by customers using the preview versions of Windows 10 were removed from the Store on July 15, 2015.  This action was taken to ensure an app’s rating and reviews are not based on customer experiences with preview versions of Windows 10.  Instead, apps will only show Windows 10 ratings and reviews generated after July 15. Depending on the ratings your app received in the Store preview, you may see your average star rating change.

We have built the new Store experience from the ground up, so if you discover any issues with the new Store (both the app and the web) please contact Developer Support. In addition to the changes I described today, we will be adding new capabilities to Dev Center with the Windows 10 launch. You’ll want to check back next week to learn more.