Highlights from 5 years of the App Store (pictures)

A half decade after Apple launched the App Store, we take a look back at a few of the main drivers of the app economy, as well as some notable evolutionary moments.

James Martin
1 of 19 Screenshot by CNET

Five years of the App Store

What's the first app you downloaded? Five years ago, when Apple's App Store launched, it wasn't something we even knew we wanted or needed, but today we spend hours each day checking out social networks, playing games, listening to music, and perusing information wrapped up in tidy, beautiful packages known as apps -- short, of course, for applications.

Apple started it, and Google continued it, and today we can barely live without these apps. There are hundreds of thousands of them out there, just waiting to be discovered.
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Apple launches the App Store

The App Store launched on July 10, 2008, with 27 pages of applications, including games like FreeCell and Sudoku, and applications for Facebook, MySpace, The New York Times, Pandora, PayPal, and Twitter.
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Candy Crush Saga

Though a recent entry in the App Store, Candy Crush Saga has enjoyed enormous success with casual gaming fans, with just the right amount of tried-and-true game mechanics mixed with competition among friends. Even though there have been a ton of match-3 type games in the App Store over the years, Candy Crush Saga shows the evolution of the genre and how a simple game mechanic can still hold peoples' interest.
4 of 19 Sarah Tew/CNET

News Corp. launches The Daily

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. launched The Daily as an iPad-only newspaper in February 2011 with a lot of fanfare, and held the hope that consumers would pay for stories on their iPad. Things didn't go so well, and it became clear the iPad wasn't the publishing savior some hoped it would be (not yet anyway; perhaps that remains to be seen).
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How to Cook Everything

Whether you're looking for holiday recipes or a way to make something fancy out of that chicken you have in the fridge, this app has made it easy to browse by category and come up with something to eat in seconds. With more than 2,000 recipes, illustrated tutorials, and suggested kitchen techniques, it's no wonder How To Cook Everything has enjoyed the success it's had in the App Store.
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On October 28, 2010, Instagram was featured as App of the Week. Today, more than 130 million people use Instagram, generating 1 billion 'Likes' everyday.

What Instagram brought to the table was a way for people to easily snap a picture, add a simple filter, then share it with other amateur smartphone photographers everywhere. Since the initial launch, it's added small features to streamline the process and, more recently, added 15-second videos to keep people interested in sharing their work. There are hundreds of copycat apps, but Instagram was the one that really got the image-sharing revolution on its way.

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Doodle Jump

An extremely simple concept, bright colors, a cute hero, and endless fun -- what's not to like? Doodle Jump made a big splash because it was so easy to pick up and play. Start a game, then tilt your iPhone to jump and get to higher platforms just to see how high you can go.

Since it launched in April 2009, Doodle Jump has received several upgrades to add themes that change the overall look of the game, but it's kept the same simple gameplay mechanic. Now the franchise has gone on to surpass $10 million on iOS. It just goes to show you that sometimes "keeping it simple" is the perfect recipe for success.

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Adult content and 500px

In January 2013, the 500px photo app was removed from the App Store, allegedly because its photo-sharing capabilities meant that you might search for and find naked bodies.

Later that month, the app was back, with an updated version that includes a new "report" button to flag inappropriate content, along with a restricted-search function.
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Bang with Friends

In additional efforts to thwart porn and keep us pure, Apple pulled the Bang with Friends app, which facilitated hookups with your Facebook friends.
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Fruit Ninja

There were games in the App Store before Fruit Ninja, but none that really took advantage of the whole touch screen like this game did. Fruit Ninja's bright colored fruits flung into the air begged to be slashed with ninja swords, and the satisfying colorful splat made the game all the more addictive. As the game has evolved, new game types have emerged, but the tried-and-true swipe controls are what made this game a hit and continue to keep it high in the most-popular lists even now.
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Path to privacy

After a blogger disclosed that photo-sharing service Path was uploading and storing people's complete contacts lists without having asked permission, user outrage ensued. A month later, a group filed suit against Apple, Path, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and eight other sites for doing the same.

The scandal led to Apple saying any apps that collect user contact lists without permission are in violation of its app guidelines. It then rolled out a software change to begin actively enforcing stronger contacts protection.
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Google Play

Google Play, formerly known as the Android Market, launched in October 2008 and has been steadily gaining ground as an app provider as Android-powered devices spread.
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On September 25, 2008, music identifier Shazam topped 1.5 million downloads, with users having tagged 20 million songs. But when it first came on the scene, Shazam was like magic for the uninitiated. When you heard a song playing, you could just hold up your phone and it would identify the song as your friends looked on. Amazing! Though we might be used to the technology now, Shazam was an early hit in the app store for being an app that let you show the cool things you could do with your iPhone.

Later iterations added more ways to interact with and buy music and share your favorites with friends, but it's no wonder Shazam has continued to be a success on the App Store for its simplicity and impressive ability to identify just about any song in seconds.

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Temple Run

There were already several other endless runners in the App Store when Temple Run first launched in August 2011. But none had the cartoonlike graphics, 3D environments, and overall polish that Temple Run had. Simple swipe controls meant anyone could pick it up and play a game, but the increasing difficulty and speed, along with the need to go for a high score are what kept people coming back for more.

Now there are tons of 3D running games available, but none probably would have flourished if Temple Run hadn't paved the way.

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In 2008, the year the App Store launched, Facebook was the year's most downloaded app, with nearly 5 million downloads.
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Angry Birds

In December 2010, one year after its launch, the popular bird and pig slingshot game Angry Birds was the year's most downloaded game. And why wouldn't it be? It's the perfect mix of cute characters; a slingshot mechanic that anyone from age 7 to 70 can understand; and tons of challenging levels that make you want to go back for that perfect 3-star rating.

There have been several new versions featuring new characters and new holiday themes, and there's even been a "Star Wars" version. They've all spent time on the top-10 list and continue to be some of the top downloaded games to this day.

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Ten billion downloads

On January 22, 2010, App Store downloads topped 10 billion. Paper Glider was the 10 billionth app downloaded.
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Two billion apps in December 2012

More than 2 billion apps were downloaded in December 2012 alone, with Temple Run and Draw Something standing out as the most downloaded of the year.
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More than 50 billion downloads

On May 16, 2013, the App Store surpassed 50 billion downloads, more than 800 every second. Today, 900,000 apps are available, with more than 350,000 native to the iPad.

Update, July 10 at 8:45 a.m. PT: Specifies number of apps available in Apple's App Store.

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