How Marketplace Manages Bulk App Publishing

How Marketplace Manages Bulk App Publishing

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Windows Phone Marketplace has been steadily evolving to reflect developer and customer feedback. We recently unveiled the next version of Windows Phone, code named Mango, and talked about how Marketplace is evolving to give developers more of what they’ve asked for. Most notably, Mango will bring support for both app submission and purchase in 19 more countries, improved search and discovery of apps and the introduction of a Web based Windows Phone Marketplace from which customers can shop for apps and install them directly to their Windows Phone. We’ve also maintained and evolved our commitment to transparency in the policies and communications that impact the developer community. Today I want to share another policy that we’re implementing based on input from this community.

In recent weeks a handful of companies have individually published hundreds of apps in a matter of a few days. We call this bulk publishing. While these apps meet our certification requirements and give consumers a wider selection of content, we’re also finding that publishing them in bulk degrades our customers’ experience. By publishing hundreds of apps in a short amount of time, the popular “New” Marketplace list category fills quickly, pushing the other new apps out and reducing the diversity of the shopping experience.

Microsoft’s philosophy is that an app marketplace should balance quality, choice and variety with a great customer experience – which includes easy shopping and discoverability. We offer customers thousands of apps and games, and we don’t want to compromise the quality of our shared customers’ experiences in using – or shopping for - any one of those apps. We’ve evaluated the impact of bulk publishing, reviewed some very thoughtful input from both our user base and our developer community and concluded that we need to take the following steps to restore the balance of choice and experience.

To avoid the scenario where bulk publishing crowds out other apps in Marketplace in the future, effective immediately, we are limiting the number of apps any one developer can have certified in a single day to 20.  Developers creating a large number of apps can still submit all of them for certification, but they will be certified at a maximum rate of 20 per day rather than all at once.  This change helps us retain a balance of choice and customer experience by enabling customers to see a broader and more representative assortment of new apps from the developer community when they see “New” apps every day. As with all policies, the limit is subject to change based on the ongoing evolution of Marketplace and input from customers and developers.

In addition, we are reaching out to the companies who most recently published a large number of apps with similar functionality in a short period of time. We’re offering to work with these developers to explore how they can better take advantage of the Windows Phone platform to improve the functionality of their apps and reduce the need for large numbers of similar apps. Many of the most recently published bulk apps are being removed from Marketplace while these developers update and republish their apps. We’ve also committed to create and share additional guidance and best practices in the near future to help developers create compelling apps that offer localized or targeted experiences, without having to create dozens of unique apps.

I hope that you view the above explanation of the steps we’re taking to manage bulk app publishing as affirmation of our commitment to listen to feedback, make timely changes and to maintain a balance between user experience and developer transparency. As we move toward Mango, we’ll continue listening and doing everything we can to deliver on our commitment to transparency, choice and quality.

34 Comments
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  • Kr0nyxx
    1 Posts

    "Yalla Apps"is another that needs to go as well!

    Hopefully, they really are paying attention (which it seems they have been doing a better job of lately) and will find a way to flag this spam apps and reject them until they are conslidated into "one app" per similarity.

  • @Todd: 20 may be slightly more than the number of markets we can publish to, but I do not see anyone publishing a unique app per market.  Just looking at the list of new apps today shows several developers using online app making tools to publish 20 RSS feed apps each per day.  Perhaps you could extend Application Policy 2.14 to include apps that simply republish a RSS feed.  But that would only fix a small part of the problem.

  • andycted
    43 Posts

    It's good that you already bolted from here, this week it's 300 apps a day in the new section.

    Mickey mouse rule, that's what looks to me, the 20 app a day. You can debate what you want, but you can't deny publishing an app today is a nightmare with all the bulk publishing that takes place

  • andycted
    43 Posts

    @Todd: how are we supposed to report obvious misses by the certification/marketplace team, regarding spam, or simply unappropriate apps ?

  • NiallG
    10 Posts

    @Todd Brix -

    If the case for 20 was simply to allow for 1 app per each market - why not also enforce a sensible 'Y per market' limit alongside that.

    ie. if this limit of Y was '5'

    developer could publish up to 5 apps per specific market (or 5 per apps marked global/publish everywhere).

    This way you would achieve your goal of allowing up to 20 apps on a day where developer intended to support all 20 of these markets.

  • nitro52
    28 Posts

    @Todd, Thanks for the feedback i'm glad MS is being active with the community. In the end i think we all want a good system to develop for.

  • andycted
    43 Posts

    OK, I hope you can take these views in consideration. What I don't really see that much though, is many views differing from the fact that 20 apps a day is way too high

  • Todd Brix
    84 Posts

    @andycted - No offense taken at all. You’ve offered some fair suggestions and I appreciate your taking the time to share them. You’re highlighting a number of the issues that we need to balance in delivering both choice and quality. I respect that many in the community will have varying views about what constitutes the right balance, and that’s why I appreciate the input.

  • andycted
    43 Posts

    I find interesting that you addressed everyone on this page but me, evidently I've been more blunt than allowed.

    Apologies, but I'll add one last final opinion, I hope not to offend anyone. There should be a differentiation between who has a reason to publish 20 apps a day, like one who has one app for every localized market, and those that absolutely don't. In fact I don't see why with all the certification process you can't simply say 20 localized apps count as 1, regarding the spam limit.

    Good luck fighting spam.

  • Todd Brix
    84 Posts

    @NiallG, @Steve Williams, @Alimaggs, @Entegy, @davidhayes & @nitro52 - Thanks again for all of the input and let me reiterate that we’ll continue to evaluate limits and policies based on your feedback and Marketplace behavior. For now, we've placed the daily certification limit at 20 because it is slightly more than the number of markets we support for commerce today. This means that developers can still easily publish a unique app for each supported market.

  • nitro52
    28 Posts

    I agree with these comments 20 a day still seems to high. If your releasing 20 apps a day i would still consider this spam and is not the type of quality you should be aiming for. i thin andycted comment is reasonable.

  • andycted
    43 Posts

    Here is what a clean solution looks to me:

    - publish max 2 new apps a day (not updates)

    - publish max 10 new apps a month (not updates)

    - make some exceptions on request, on a case to case basis

    - absolutely forbid cloned apps. Maybe a 5x limit could do if it's useful for some reasons.

    - enforce a very strict control on publishing keywords and app names

    (these are more debatable)

    - have a completely separate marketplace for books

    - enforce a better quality check, even for non-spammers, refusing "dumb" apps.

    Lastly, regarding your statement that you would let the marketplace "decide for itself", I would say that's pure naive. Spammers will always heavily impact your platform if you let them in. If anything, they will make real developers fell like you are doing a very poor job in taking care of them and they will leave your platform. Having tons of useless spam by someone like Eric_Rulz or some similar silly name is like an android nightmare Deja-Vu. It makes me look at my phone like it's a cheap toy, instead than a beautifully crafted system.

  • NiallG
    10 Posts

    @ToddBrix - it looks to me you are simply ignoring the feedback being put in these blog post and on the dev forums.

    Almost everyone has commented that the 20 per day limit is way too high a figure and will not stop the problem. It's one thing to say something is being done - but then following it up with such an ineffective measure makes a complete mockery of it all.

    Can you please explain how the '20 per day' is actually going to solve this problem - given that 20 apps is still over 3 pages of results in Marketplace app. In ALL recent examples of 'bulk publishing' - it appears the authors didn't submit them all in a single day anyhow (and did it over a few days).

    Failing any valid answer to this nor intention to fix this - I can only currently conclude that this new rule is completely for show (=farce) - so Microsoft could say 'they were doing something' (only after blogs etc started raising this issue).

  • I'm happy to see these changes to the marketplace! Please give us better filtering tools...as a woman, and at the risk of sounding like a prude, I'll share that I am somewhat offended by all the "boob" apps in the marketplace that perpetuates the stereotype of young women as nothing more than sex objects. I understand that these kinds of apps appeal to certain users but they are a complete turnoff to me. I have no interest in them & don't want to see them when I browse the Marketplace. Filtering options that allow me to blacklist a developer's apps would be much appreciated.

  • andycted
    43 Posts

    First of all, let me just say that I'm sorry if I come up a bit blunt.

    But this sounds like a fake solution to me. 20 apps a day or 100 doesn't make almost any difference. The controls in check shouldn't be only quantitative, but qualitative. If someone publishes one single same format app, cloned to dozens of versions where only the name and part of the content changes, you should stop them.

    Imposing a 20-a-day limit per account does absolutely nothing, especially since a spammer can open 10 accounts if he wants. Even a single spammer can publish 1600 apps per year with this limit.

    Getting "into talks" with some developer who deployed many applications, like you are pretending they didn't do on purpose, sounds naive. There is no difference in my view between a completely useless 100-times replicated app that could be done with a single one, and what you call 'spam'. Also they have the same effect on developers and users. .

    To put it bluntly and be honest, this feels to me like you are aware you opened the marketplace to spam, in order to play the numbers game, from the moment you raised the limit to 100 apps. Once upon a time, your mantra was that this wasn't going to be another android market.

    The extremely tiny userbase WP has can be balanced (in the view of the developer) with the good visibility and quality perception on the market that you can give to the user. If the user searches for something and is inundated by applications TOTALLY UNRELATED to the keywords he used (I'm so sure you know it happens already), not only he will give up the search, but the perception of the platform will be heavily affected.

    A few adjustments are understandable, but this in my  view appears like an inversion of tendency with a very mild attempt to lower the damage.

  • Todd Brix
    84 Posts

    @kendollmelb - While I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on a specific app or developer, I would say that today we focused on bulk apps but appreciate that there are questions about what does or does not constitute “spam apps” in every marketplace. We’re doing our best to adhere to our commitment to transparency and open policies. As such, we may err on the side of passing an individual app of questionable value that meets all certification requirements in order to let the market decide its value through ratings and reviews.   We continue to enhance our certification requirements based on your feedback, and as the Marketplace grows, will look for opportunities to increase overall application quality while meeting our commitment to a clear and transparent process.

    @Marauderz - We do not intend for the new daily app certification limit to impact our Global Publishing Partners. Our Global Publishing Partners are enabling developers from a 100+ countries around the world not yet covered by App Hub to participate in Windows Phone Marketplace.  We will continue to enable these unique apps through our Global Publishing Partners, while still being mindful of issues like bulk app submissions that appear as a marketplace grows in volume of apps and consumer engagement.

    @Alimaggs - I appreciate all of the feedback on what a good daily certification limit would be, as well as additional steps we can take to maintain a high-quality bar. As I noted in the blog, Marketplace is always evolving to incorporate new features and capabilities and reflect feedback from customers and developers like yourselves. We will factor the great feedback you’ve shared here into our plans moving forward.

  • I just had a conversation with an iPhone user who was curious about WP.  I explained to them that Microsoft will start cracking down on the "crap-app" mentality to make their market place less of a swap-shop and more of a metro-mall.

    For those other market places who try to compare number of apps, Microsoft has proven in a very short period of time that they can round-up-the-troops to make the numbers.  I am glad, but not surprised, that MS understands the value of a great marketplace.

  • Excellent, I agree 20 is too high for new apps (I think updates to existing apps is fine) even 5 seems high for most publishers. Please remove some of the junk apps in the Marketplace. Quality is way more important than Quantity

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    Scuba, I didn't even know what BusinessObjects was until your post and then my wikipedia lookup ;) So no.  Interested to know what's behind the question... I just like to probelm solve in what I hope is a rational and logical fashion...and thought the ideas I raised above could work.  I have no idea re: coding etc :)

  • @Strider_Auz, you wouldn't happen to be a BusinessObjects user, would you?

  • luizaso
    2 Posts

    Great Job and thanks for save us from Spam Apps.

  • Entegy
    42 Posts

    I would like at something like 10 apps a day, but this is a step in the right direction.

  • Good choice but one questino is unanswered:

    How get they certified? (there is no quality check)

  • hades32
    21 Posts

    Very good! But I think many of those bulk apps are created due to the fact that there are no in-app purches which would allow to extend a single app...

  • Alimaggs
    22 Posts

    Even 20 a day seems too high to me.

    It's a shame that there's so much "crap" in the Windows Phone Marketplace.  I understand that it comes down to opinion, but there are apps in there that are clearly spamming the marketplace and therefore creative and inventive developers are losing out.

    I think more needs to be done, to be honest...  Either to stop the flow of spammy apps further, or at least give better promotion to those developers that are backing your platform and trying to do interesting things with the platform and wonderful tools you've given us.

    As a developer myself, I love the development story with Windows Phone.  It's the best experience I've had, having developed for iOs and Android previously.  That said, it's early days for the platform, so developers are counting on getting their app seen by as many people as possible and I think more could be done to promote the developers that are doing interesting things.

  • @Marauderz: I'm sure known publishers with a good reason would be exempt from these limits, if common sense is used.  It looks like Microsoft is using common sense here (except for the rather high 20 cap), so it should all be good for publishers like Yalla Apps.

  • 20?  Legitimate publishers will not be publishing more than a small number on any one day.  I think it needs to dropped to a much lower number, like 5.

  • Good stuff Todd, much appreciated

  • How would this affect the Global Publishing Partners like YallaApps?  I think I figured out that they are just a couple of people manually submitting the apps by proxy, so now that there's a 20 app / day limit wouldn't it mean that users of these services are at a huge disadvantage once such services ramp up to speed and have to deal with more than 20 users submitting apps in a day?

  • NiallG
    10 Posts

    Great that this is being finally addressed! However I think that the 20 per day is still way too high... (that is actually 3 1/2 pages of results in Marketplace app) - and in 1 week that would be 21-25 pages of results in Marketplace.

    Also I put a lot of feedback in dev forums on how to proactively address this problem - and one suggestion is that the 'results' returned by the call to New apps web service (which services Zune and Marketplace App) be ammended so that only X amount of their apps are shown in 'new list'. This way you can still allow unlimited publishing of apps per day - but only max of X apps gets 'shown' in top of the 'new' list. All the other apps submitted that day by publisher can then be discovered by search /or/ the 'more from publisher X' link inside the app description.

    I think this number of 'X' should be something along lines of 5-10 - and done in a way where aren't sequentially return (ie. other apps allowed to populate spaces in between these X entries).

    This change would then be isolated to only the web service which services the 'new' apps list - and not require any changes to anything else (ie. marketplace app, app hub, submission/certification systems etc) - so considerably simpler and a change that could be done 'today'.

  • Agreed with @hopmedic, The apps submitted and published by "Eric_Rulz" is an embarrasing testament to how uncurated the Marketplace is currently. I want Windows Phone and the Marketplace to suceed and this users apps are nothing but spam and should be removed immediately. I know you guys will do the right thing and pull these apps.

  • hopmedic
    13 Posts

    Yes, please remove the spam apps by Eric_Rulz.  How in the world did they get certified??

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    Thanks Todd - a much needed first step in restoring the balance in the quality-quantity mix for the marketplace.  

    Improved web-based slice 'n dice search capability will certainly help.  In the App submission, process, you should make any bulk app (ie significant multiple submissions with minimal code difference) a flagged field in the upload/certify process.  I imagine you could then build your web search capabilities to have this as a category that can be de-selected ot selected for search results by marketplace viewers!

    Another option - is to force bulk submitted apps to instead have a Single app - that allows a setting field to be selected that filters the appropriate content to the app - instead of separate apps for each of these content selections.

    An example would be a RSS newsreader.  The App could select from a predetermined list, state then filter to city, for instance to access the RSS feed of your local tribune or real estate options, rather than one being raised for each city.

    A much more streamlined approach.

    Cheers,

    Strider/Sheeds.

  • Kentrepid
    13 Posts

    Fantastic - great work Microsoft!

    I hope that the spam apps made by Eric_Rulz that were somehow certfied will also be removed from the Marketplace - as they don't do anything.