Mobile App Store Rankings and User Growth

Posted on: June 23, 2013
Posted in Mobile


Vine is turning out to be one of the fastest growing networks ever. From launch in late January through June 12th Vine hauled in 13 million registered users.

App store analytics platform AppAnnie provides historical rankings, which is the chart at the top of this post, but not daily downloads, so I interpolated Vine’s published numbers into a curve based on rank and put the results in this Google Spreadsheet.

There are a few meaningful assumptions, one which is a best guess that 75% of the users are domestic US and 25% are international, which is reasonable considering how early social startups grow.

Using those variables and backing out of AppAnnie’s numbers, my calculations show Vine grew about 90,000 users a day in the US when ranked #1 in the app store. Take a look at the entire spreadsheet.

This is really interesting data on how app store rankings map to user growth. Basically being the #1 free app nets you close to 100K daily users.

Early in Pinterest’s life I wrote this post on their virality and Pinterest’s slow breakout. In their first year and a half Pinterest only added 50K- 100K users per month. Vine did this daily from launch.

Vine took just 140 days (< 5 months) to get to 13M users with no Android app. As a comparison Instagram had 22M users when FB dropped $1B, and it took much longer to get there (about 1.5 years). These are apples to apples comparisons – iOS only.

A couple lessons come out of this. You can literally launch an app and have it go to the top of the app store rankings overnight. The unbundling threat to FB that people talk about is best showcased by these vertical specific apps and is real.

Philosophically, sometimes it feels like Silicon Valley is overly obsessed with growth at the expense of making money. Investors argue that while growth may be a priority early over monetization, entrepreneurs should have an understanding of the unit economics and business fundamentals that drive both product & marketing strategy. This is actually paraphrased directly from a comment by Dave McClure on my above-linked Pinterest post.

I think that’s probably true for many businesses but social and network-driven consumer businesses that inherently need tens of millions of engaged users before they can extract value are introducing a lot of entropy into mobile, and acquirers & VCs are continuing to value these networks at massive premiums despite almost total uncertainty on how they can be monetized.

I am sure that Twitter can prove out a monetization model for Vine, but I think it will be harder to do than people think. It’s not only going to be dependent on scale, but  also on how advertisers own and buy media on mobile.

I don’t know the terms of the Twitter Vine deal but it was likely around $20M. Crazy to think that if Vine had held out that today they could be the next billion dollar consumer web startup.

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