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Few seem to heed Tim Cook's directions on mapping apps

Apple Maps competitors fail to crack the top of the charts after Apple CEO's recommends that users try alternatives.

For developers, getting noticed is more than half the battle.

At a time when the big operating systems have more than half a million apps available for sale, developers have an increasingly hard time breaking through. A whole industry has sprung up around "app discovery," offering developers ways to promote their work to an audience that likely wouldn't find them otherwise.

In such an environment, recommendations are essential. And it's hard to imagine a more valuable recommendation than a personal endorsement from the CEO of the world's most valuable technology company.

But less than a week after Tim Cook suggested that iPhone owners unhappy with the new Apple Maps application try out its competitors, few appear to have gotten any long-term boost in traffic. Neither Bing nor Waze, both recommended by Cook, has risen the top of the charts in the wake of his widely read letter. After an initial spike in downloads, both have fallen precipitously.

Waze, whose chart ranking has floated around the 70s over the last month, briefly made it to 20 after the announcement, according to AppShopper. It has since fallen to 36. That's not to say the app is not popular -- Waze claims more than 20 million users worldwide. But Cook's recommendation does not appear to have given it a long-term boost.

Waze's chart position rose after Cook's letter by quickly trailed off.
Waze's chart position rose after Cook's letter by quickly trailed off. Screenshot by Casey Newton/CNET

Bing, which was not in the top 200 apps before the Cook letter, rose to 72 after the announcement. It rapidly fell out of the 250.

Bing hit the charts after Cook's letter, but rapidly fell off it.
Bing hit the charts after Cook's letter, but rapidly fell off it. Screenshot by Casey Newton/CNET

It's harder to assess traffic to the other two apps.

Cook suggested users try out the Web apps for map products from Nokia and Google, where usage is harder to track. It's possible both companies are seeing a sharp rise in traffic via mobile Safari.

None of the companies involved wanted to talk about recent trends in downloads and traffic.

For its part, though, Google has worked to capitalize on Apple's newly disadvantaged position in the maps space -- releasing a flurry of improvements to its map products since iOS 6 was released.

On Wednesday, the company put up a new site targeted at developers, More Than a Map, that touts various features of the company's maps API. In a blog post, the company said that "millions" of people visit, and that 800,000 active websites and apps use its API.

There's little doubt that a version of Google Maps for iOS would have a long run at the top of the charts, should one be released. (It is apparently in development.) The standalone YouTube app, which users had to seek out for the first time after it disappeared as a pre-installed app in iOS 6, has been the top free app since it came out last month.

But outside Apple and Google, mapping companies appear to be having trouble winning new users in large numbers.

Strangely enough, the response to Cook's letter appears to offer comfort to Apple. Few are saying its Maps app is great -- but judging by their downloading patterns, they may be finding it good enough.