If there's one complaint one could levy against the iTunes app store and Google Play, it would be that both are filled with a lot of trash. Little developers create an obviously lazy attempt at cashing in on the app craze or they outright steal somebody else's app for their own purposes. It's sad, but it's common when both app stores are so open to submissions. Microsoft wants to make sure the Windows Phone Marketplace is home to a higher quality bar and have announced some new initiatives to keep that quality high.
The Windows Phone team announced four new "improvements" coming to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Microsoft hopes that these changes will help decrease the amount of shovelware apps and increase the amount of quality that will hopefully drive more people to the platform.
A problem that has plagued both iOS and Android is that app developers outright steal other developer's content and republish it as their own. While the developer can report these actions, it can take Apple or Google days to respond. Microsoft feels that the majority of copyright and trademark violations are unintentional. To that end, they suggest that app developers follow these three rules:
(1) You own the trademark, (2) you’ve secured permission from the owner to use it, or (3) you’re using a trademarked name (not a logo) to describe your app’s features or functionality without suggesting that the app is actually published by the trademark owner.
It means that you can't publish an app called "MSN" but you could publish an app called "Reader for MSN." If a developer did intentionally infringe on your copyright or trademark, Microsoft will investigate and take down any apps if the complaint is valid.
With Microsoft, it's all about quality. Their next announcement is about keeping that quality as high as it can be. The company has seen a trend where developers submit hundreds of similar apps to different categories. The idea is that at least one of them will hit and they can start raking in that sweet ad revenue. Microsoft will have none of it though. So now they're saying that any app submitted must be to a single category.
If you are a developer submitting multiple apps at the same time, it's fine if they're different in some way to reflect the different categories they'e going in. It's not going to work though if you have the same app icon for each app. Microsoft says that developers are going to have to differentiate the app icons if they want their apps to make it through approval. On a side note, the app's branding shouldn't be the focus of the icon either.
Microsoft has had a rule for app keywords that says developers can only use up to five for each app. Developers have been breaking this rule and Microsoft never really enforced it. Now they are so any app starting this week that has more than five keywords will be denied submission. If you enter more than five keywords, Microsoft won't just delete some until it hits five and let it through. They will delete all the keywords and send the app back to the drawing board.
Oh, and the developers who are entering popular keywords like "Justin Bieber" for your totally unrelated app. That's not cool and Microsoft has noticed that you're playing the system. The company will now start monitoring this more closely and delete any unrelated keywords that you may have added.
Like any good app policy, the final issue is about offensive content. Apple, Google and Microsoft all monitor their respective platforms for any apps submitted that may contain sexually explicit material or other offensive content. Microsoft isn't going to be a stickler about it though. As far as sexuality goes, an app's icon can have content that one would see in a PG-13 film.
If your app does feature too racy of an icon, you will have to change it to remain in the store. Microsoft even helps those developers out by saying that silhouettes are totally acceptable. That opens an entirely new world of possibility in adult app development.
While these rules seem pretty strict, it's really not that bad. Microsoft is keeping a pretty broad line drawn between openness and strict regulations. I think that developers can appreciate a stronger focus on protecting IP as well.
Will these rules help turn the Windows Phone Marketplace into a quality first app store? Or will it just drive away potential developers? Let us know in the comments.