Search giant Google recently updated their mobile developers policy for their Google Play mobile application store. In an answer to some of the recent problems with the Google Play Store, Google has sent out a newsletter telling mobile developers of these changes to tighten up app policies. The changes made cover areas such as app naming, app icons, spam, advertising, payments, and privacy. Here is a link to the actually policy that includes the updates, but we are going to talk about each one individually.
Naming and Icons
Mobile developers now need to be more careful as Google tries to reduce copycat apps. Google states in the new terms “Don’t pretend to be someone else, and don’t represent that your app is authorized by or produced by another company or organization if that is not the case.” This means that a mobile application cannot have a name or icon that appears “confusingly similar” to existing apps, including the standard apps on devices such as Camera, Messaging, and Gallery.
This standard will not be difficult to hold to new mobile applications; however old ones will be a different story. This could lead to some interesting disputes as Google must decide who came first and even if a name or icon is too similar.
Spam is something that we are all familiar with and hate with a passion. Google is laying out exactly what will be considered “spammy behavior” and will start to eject or reject offending applications.
Things that Google now consider spam are as follows:
- Mobile Applications that send automated SMS or email messages without confirming with the user first.
- Misleading product descriptions or “loaded with keywords in an attempt to manipulate ranking or relevancy in the Store’s search results.”
- Repetitive content.
- Mobile developers should not attempt to tamper with their app’s placement by rating it multiple times or offering incentives to users to rate applications to raise or lower its rating.
- Apps that are created by an automated tool or wizard service should not be submitted to the store by the operator, and can only be submitted by the developer.
- Avoid posting an app that only serves to drive traffic to an affiliate site or app.
There is a new section now for Google’s bread and butter. The basic statement is that mobile ads are considered a part of the mobile application and will be treated as such. Mobile developers are now responsible for how ads and the like behave within their application. Ads are now considered content and all of the policies now apply to them as well.
As mobile ads become more complex, the rules governing them must adapt. Google Play has stated that ads “must not make changes to the functioning of the user’s device outside the ad by doing things such as installing shortcuts, bookmarks or icons or changing default settings without the user’s knowledge and consent.” and that “ads must not simulate or impersonate system notifications or warnings.” “Ads must not force the users to submit personal information for advertising purposes to access the app.” Ads must not “interfere with any ads on a third-party application.”
Google Play has made it very clear that all transactions that relate to Google Play content, whether they be downloads or in-app purchases, must be completed using Google’s payment system. The only exceptions are for goods or content being used outside of an app or for physical goods.
With the rise of viruses on Android, Google has made it clear in their “dangerous products” section “Don’t transmit viruses, worms, defects, Trojan horses, malware, or any other items that may introduce security vulnerabilities to or harm user devices, applications, or personal data.” With viruses growing for mobile devices, this is a good policy to have.
What I Think
This was a necessary move that shows Google’s seriousness on the matter. Some mobile developers may be impacted by this negatively; however the consumer experience should see an improvement. These issues have been around for a while and many users were frustrated by the lack of response from Google. This answers most, if not all of them and pushes Google Play into the right direction.
By updating the Google Play Store Policy, Google has shown its users that they are aware of the problems that exist in the store and are not going to let them just stick around. Mobile developers should care about the user experience and this policy simply ensures the security and painless use of the Google Play Store.