New Scientist (04/11/12) Paul Marks
University College London researchers Soo Ling Lim and Peter Bentley have developed a simulation of the Apple App Store to study how it works. The researchers note that Apple's online marketplace of more than 500,000 apps is a self-regulating ecosystem that does not tolerate copycats. The simulated App Store, known as AppEco, uses software that obeys unique behavioral rules to mimic apps, developers, and consumers. The simulation mimics four types of developers, which are known as innovators, optimizers, milkers, and copycats. The researchers ran a series of simulations, each time starting with all four categories of developers contributing an equal number of apps. If they forced the proportion of apps from each group to stay constant, the copycats quickly made the most money. But their advantage soon disappeared as the ecosystem suffered from a lack of novel products. In another simulation, consumers' choices dictated which apps thrived and which did not. Under those conditions, optimizers sold the most apps, followed by innovators, milkers, and copycats. "Surprisingly, it naturally suppresses the copycat 'bad guys' without even needing the App Store owners to start imposing rules," Bentley says.