Android Market Apps to Get Content Ratings

by Gaurav Kheterpal on November 29, 2010

Google has now made it mandatory for developers to add content ratings for all apps in Android Market. The company has published guidelines for developers to rate their applications and the move is expected to provide users with additional information to help them select the best applications for them. Developers will be asked to rate their existing apps over the next few weeks.

Though Android Market already has an existing content rating policy, Google has so far refrained from making it publicly accessible. With a plethora of apps featuring sexual and naughty content, it’s often been called the “Sleazy Market” and “Porn Store” with little enforcement rules. It will be interesting to see how Google manages the mammoth task of implementing content ratings in all the existing Android Apps in coming weeks.

As part of the new content rating rules, applications will be rated according to four content rating levels: All, Pre-teen, Teen, & Mature. As the names suggest, apps will “All” rating are suitable for all age groups while those rated “Mature” are only for adult audience. Apps without a rating will automatically be allocated a ‘Mature’ rating.

IMO, it was a matter of time before Google introduced content rating for Android Market and I’m glad that it has been done sooner than later. Android has recently overtaken Symbian in Asia-Pacific and is believed to be on course to challenge Symbian as the world’s biggest mobile operating system by 2014. The stakes are now higher than ever and it’s understandable that Google is practicing its “Do No Evil” ideology for Android Market.

While there is little doubt that Apple gained a massive early-mover advantage in the App Store race, Google too has benefited by knowing what mistakes to avoid. Late last year, Apple was embroiled in a major controversy amidst accusations of hosting and promoting sexual and porno content on its App Store. Subsequently, the Cupertino giant took up a massive cleaning exercise to get rid of apps featuring overtly sexual material as well as those featuring animal, shoe, children and fart noises. Apple currently classifies games with 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+ ratings and iOS includes a feature which prohibits downloading apps that are above a certain rating.

While Apple enforces strict validation rules for publishing an app on its App Store, Google adopts a more liberal approach by allowing most apps to be published on Android Market and then removing them if there’s a breach of conduct. In the past, Apple has promised to adopt greater transparency and flexibility but it continues to axe certain apps without any rhyme or reasoning. On the other hand, Google has adopted the high-tolerance policy in the name of so-called “freedom” for Android customers, but I’m not sure if self-policing is the best way forward.

It’s a fine line and its little surprise that as always, Apple and Google seem to be standing at opposite ends.

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