Mobility Digest Interview: Luigi Violin, creator of WP7Applist
Recently we had the chance to chat with Luigi Violin, creator/founder of WP7Applist. In this interview, Luigi answers a variety of questions about his site, the Windows Phone platform, and Windows Phone applications in general.
One of the premier resources for Windows Phone 7 application info, WP7Applist provides in-depth information on WP7 applications and can be found at WP7Applist.com.
See the full interview below.
Your site has taken off as a great resource to follow Windows Phone apps. In fact, it’s far easier than browsing through the Zune client at times. What are your plans for the future of the site?
The first thing I say when asked is that the website success went VERY well beyond my best expectations. Right now it has almost all of the features I initially planned: ‘the basics’, so to say. I have, however, a lot more ideas to put into code: in the immediate future you can expect the website to be localized in different languages (as well as watch different Marketplace regions), and keep and eye out for a mobile friendly version. I also have a pretty long list of user-contributed ideas, that should keep me busy coding for a pretty good while.
Do you care to share how you interact with the Microsoft servers to get your reportable information?
I make use of a few public feeds coming directly from Microsoft. I am currently investigating on more specific and efficient ways to do the data-mining that the website needs, but what I have available right now seems enough to offer a decent service 🙂
It seems that you actually post the updated apps so this process is not automated. Is that correct? In other words, you haven’t created a PC app to scour and post the apps. Is that something in your sights?
One thing I’ve learned about developing websites for passion, is that you MUST automate everything that can be automated, as you never know when ‘real life’ will get in the way. So yes, the datamining is fully automated, and so are Marketplace changes notifications. Instead, when working on the website, I spend most of my time fine-tuning the process that controls this all, and adding new features from time to time.
What do you make of the success of the site? It seems to suggest, at a minimum, that there’s strong demand for a web based method to browse all Windows Phone apps and track new releases.
I, for one, REALLY needed some sort of web interface for the WP7 Marketplace, for a number of reasons. I’m not saying that the Zune software doesn’t do an amazing job in presenting the available apps and categorizing them, but WP7applist (and other fansites that offer similar services) opens up a lot of new possibilities (tracking updates, new releases and price drops, getting alerts via RSS or other means etc..). It’s easier, quicker, and always available in your browser, and I’m so glad to see that so many people had these needs 🙂
There seems to be various ways to direct an end user to a download URL in Marketplace. It seems to be that there is a URL to download the XAP (which is locked) and a separate one that calls the PC client and one for the phone client (including an annoying one that asks if you’ve downloaded the Zune software and gets you stuck in a loop). Can you educate us on that?
There’s a recommended route from Microsoft, and that’s what I went with for the website: they set up an easy to use redirection service as described here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff967553%28v=vs.92%29.aspx , which opens the Zune software and brings you to the selected app, whether you’re on your PC or phone. True, it does fail in certain situations and can get you in a loop, but it gets the job done nicely 99% of the time.
You sometimes do app reviews. Is that something you plan on doing more of or is it a distraction from your core concept?
I love doing reviews, and also trying to help indie developers stand out from the growing crowd in the WP7 Marketplace. Right now I have limited time for writing reviews, but it will be my main activity in the near future. I already have a huge list of requests, and surely plan to go through them all.
Why is it important for you to support Windows Phone developers, and how do you help them on WP7applist?
Small, independent developers are the best part of a marketplace for mobile apps in my opinion. They make the marketplace grow, they produce ideas that the OS owner (being it Microsoft, Apple, Google etc..) wouldn’t have come up with. That’s why I do all I can to support them on my website, and try to give their apps the popularity boost they deserve. Developers wishing to have their apps ‘featured’ or reviewed on the website just need to get in touch with me via the contact form, or on Twitter @wp7applist. I get a lot of inquiries and can’t get back to each one, but I can guarantee that I read them all and put pretty much everything in my to-do list. While we’re on this subject, I’d like to tell developers wishing to link to their apps on WP7applist about a rather hidden feature: the url looks like this: http://wp7applist.com/?appID=03175ec2-664b-e011-854c-00237de2db9e . ‘appID’ is, of course, the same id that Microsoft assigned to the app after approval in the Marketplace.
Stats seem to be a big draw to your site. Are there trends that you think are under-reported? What do you make of the fact that Microsoft never went on the record that the 10k app threshold was passed but we have sites like yours to report it?
Well, I actually see it as a good thing: I like to think that it’s up to us (users, developers, news portals, fansites…) to tell how awesome this platform is, before Microsoft does. As for stats, I do my best to make my numbers as accurate as possible, and to provide a clear, independent picture of the Marketplace which I know that people can trust. The Marketplace is still growing at a nice rate and, if you ask me, my favorite charts on WP7applist are ‘Rate of Growth’ (which is a user-contributed idea) and ‘Paid vs Free vs Trial’ apps. These alone show how well Windows Phone is doing at the moment.
Are you a developer yourself?
I am. I have a couple apps under development, but not yet available on the Marketplace at the moment. Of course, the first app of mine hitting the Marketplace will be ‘WP7applist’ instead! I’ll start development once I’m happy enough with the website to drop the "BETA" label.
With the latest update to your site, app rankings play a noticeable roll. Presuming these numbers are provided by Microsoft, do you have any measure of app downloads/user activity solely on your site? Do these figures help to dispel how Microsoft calculates their rankings?
Rankings come from Microsoft indeed, and I think they are a nice tool for both users and developers to see how well apps are doing compared to each other. I have an idea that could make them even better, for which I’d need the collaboration of a good amount of developers. I can’t tell you much more at the moment, but hopefully I can get it started soon enough and unveil all the details!
Do you have any contact with other WP7 developers?
Since I started working on WP7applist, I get in touch daily with A LOT of new people, especially WP7 developers / publishers. Sometimes I wish days had 48 hours, just so I could get back via email to everyone. It’s amazing to see the amount of passion and commitment that many people out there put in their WP7 projects, and also – trust me – this is hands down the best way to find out about new and useful apps on the Marketplace.
On a lighter note, since you naturally see a lot of apps come through your site, what are some of your favorite apps for WP7?
First things first, the more a third party app mimics MetroUI, the more I’ll like it. Perfect examples, among others, are IMDb, 4th & Mayor, Birdsong, Facebook, FeedTso. If there’s one app I couldn’t live without it’s OneNote. Then, there are apps that I use daily and wouldn’t uninstall for any reason: Birdsong (I’m quite a huge fan of Twitter), Shazam, Televideo RAI (Italian teletext), PagineGialle (yellow pages for Italy), TagReader, WordPress, WeatherBug, Unit Converter. Oh, and Mobility Digest app, of course 😉
Special thanks again to Luigi for taking the time to chat with us.
Love the site. For now I’ll keep dreaming that you can do an emulator for WP7 and let people do local trials (like Amazon is doing for Android) 😉