Taking a Tougher Stance on Bulk App Publishing

Taking a Tougher Stance on Bulk App Publishing

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Updated 10/7 with link to App Hub for information on how to seek an exception to the new policy.

Today I’d like to revisit a topic I raised in June with my post, “How Marketplace Manages Bulk App Publishing.

Windows Phone Marketplace is committed to providing customers with a wide range of certified applications, increasing and curating app quality and providing a safe, reliable and convenient shopping experience. Delivering on this commitment requires that we carefully track behavior within our Marketplace and share with you when we adjust our policies to improve the Windows Phone experience. The good news is that the growing popularity and global availability of Windows Phone have already begun attracting more developers. However, we have also seen another spike in what we call bulk app publishing. This is the phenomenon whereby a developer publishes a large number of very similar apps in a single day. As a result the popular “New” Marketplace category fills quickly, pushing the other new apps out and reducing the diversity of the shopping experience.

The first step we took to curb this behavior was to limit the number of apps that one developer can have certified in a single day to 20. We are again observing a small number of developers publishing apps in bulk. Therefore, Effective Friday 9/30 we are limiting the number of apps that can be published in a single day without prior agreement to 10. This means that no more than 10 apps by the same developer will be certified per day (down from 20). In addition we will monitor the number of apps published – not just certified – in a given day and be more proactive in correcting instances where the 10 app limit is exceeded. This may include the unpublishing of apps, and in extreme cases, temporary or permanent suspension of an offending developer’s Marketplace credentials.

This new policy should be appropriate the vast majority of you, but we do appreciate that there may be some instances where there is a legitimate business reason to seek an exception to this policy. For more details about how you can request an exception to the new 10 apps per day limit, please read the following App Hub post.

As is generally the case when addressing policy abuse, we fully recognize that there are really only a few offenders. The vast majority of you understand and respect the value of maintaining a great Marketplace experience, where downloads and reviews dictate just how prominently an app is featured. Still, I’ll take this opportunity to share a few related reminders:

  • Unique apps can only be published in a single category. Any duplicate apps showing up in other categories may be unpublished, per the Windows Phone Marketplace FAQ’s
  • When applying similar templates to multiple types of apps, we recommend differentiating apps through unique iconography, titles and other metadata to help potential customers make informed decisions about downloading apps.
  • As mentioned in application certification requirement 2.10, apps must have distinct, substantial and legitimate content and purpose. Differentiation between your apps can help meet this requirement.
  • There are several ways for your apps to be featured in Marketplace on the phone and now on the Web. Apps are featured by category based primarily on their number of downloads and customer reviews. The same is true for the cumulative top and free sections. The New panorama that makes up the background is algorithmic based on timing.

Marketplace will remain subject to a fair, transparent and responsive certification process. That’s not to say that we’ll always reflect each individual’s assessment of an app’s value. We will, however, continue to base our judgment on our published policies. As you see today, we will regularly assess our own policies and practices to help ensure that our certification and merchandising efforts deliver the best experience in the industry so that your apps can thrive in a safe, reliable and convenient marketplace.

Thanks for your continued support and feedback on how we can make the Marketplace experience better for you and customers.

Todd Brix,
Senior Director, Windows Phone Marketplace

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  • Line40
    1 Posts

    I dont see why any developer would have to publish even 10 apps per day, or even a week. I totally agree with Nian. Absolutely useless restrictions.

    And regarding "increasing and curating app quality": It is HIGH time you start monitoring the quality of apps on the Market, AT ALL! It feels like there are a ton of absolute useless junk crAPPS that require phone identity, data connection and media library access and don't even provide any useful function. And I can see why those apps need that info...

    I am a developer and user of WP7, and digging trough the junk on the Marketplace in search for something useful is really wearing out the fun. I literally stopped visiting the marketplace. It really feels like every time I go there to search for something, I just find junk.

    I don't see how the Windows Phone team is supposed to use WP7 themselves, or you are not having a proper feedback line in effect. If you don't listen to the "idiots" that use your OS, at least listen to the people on your team. If you already do, then fire them all ;)

  • Just to inform you, there are a whole lot of important applications that are only accessible in the US or the UK. Applications like Kindle, amazon, ebay, twitter and so on, are not accessible worldwide.

    This is a much bigger issue than bulk publishing of applications. At the moment, all we have outside the intial launch countries are crap-apps.

  • PaulMdx
    1 Posts

    How about combating keyword spamming too?  When I search for 'twitter', I do NOT want to see "Sexy babes FREE".

  • While I appreciate the fact this problem at least got someone's attention, this is not an adequate solution. Marketplace spam is an extremely serious problem for WP7 and I hope your team soon realizes this is a woefully inadequate change. It's a step in the right direction though, but I can't imagine the new rules are going to make any meaningful difference. As a user, I have almost completely stopped using the marketplace because of how difficult it is to find useful stuff among all the bulk apps and other apps I have zero interest in but I have to perpetually sort through regardless.

    There are two easy things that could be done to improve the situation by quite a lot.

    First, it seems very reasonable to me that a developer should only be allowed one single app in the "new" list at any given point in time. This could be done by the server, or by the user who could toggle whether or not they want to see more than one app per company in the new lists.

    Second, much of the problem of bulk apps could be easily solved with a few minor changes to the marketplace software on the phone & desktop zune app. Being able to apply ratings to developers, in addition to their apps, along with a 5-star filter control on visibility, would allow users who decide  they don't want to see a company's products any more by clicking "hide publisher", "hide application", or apply a star rating to the developer or app that is below the user configurable marketplace visibility threshold. Visibility threshold controls would allow the user to automatically hide any companies below the user's 5-star filter setting. A toggle for showing all hidden, and for clearing all hidden flags, would be necessary. Unrated companies would be visible by default, unless the user chose to use the public rating level for the developer or application. Any rating specified by the user would override the community rating for visibility filtering purposes.

    This is not a terribly complicated scheme that would allow users to fix the problem for themselves as they saw fit. Developers could have access to stats about how many people are hiding their apps as well as their rating so they could perhaps respond to being hidden too much by making apps that people actually want to see. Making these new filtering controls readily accessible to the users would go a long way to improving the marketplace experience, and would encourage developers to focus more on putting value into a single app instead the spamming bulk app approach that  is effectively encouraged by the way products are presented to the user in today's marketplace.

    tl;dr: The new rules aren't going to make a difference. The marketplace needs better filters and the ability to persistently hide publishers or apps because right now the system rewards bulk apps with more exposure.

  • SamJost
    4 Posts

    I hope you find more ways to get rid of these Spam-Apps. As  long as the marketplace is buried  in r*bbish I see no point in developing apps for it. They'll just get lost in a cr*apps.

  • hades32
    21 Posts

    Aren't you doing this the wrong way round?

    If someone has 100 apps to publish, so be it.

    BUT simply only ever display a maximum of 10 apps within the 100 newest apps. Then just distribute these apps evenly and you're done.

    PLUS you should disallow templates to be used by multiple users (probably with some exceptions). Thus you could easily find and ban duplicate accounts...

  • rgelb
    2 Posts

    How about 5 per month?  Can you seriously produce more than 5 non-trivial apps per month?  Doubt it.  If someone does manage to produce more, deal with it on a case by case basis.

    As it stands, you have 20,000 apps in the store and maybe 10% are actually useful.

  • Why not limit to one per day?  Who, apart from spammers or, the more politically correct "bulk publishers", needs more than that?

  • gaurav
    10 Posts

    Would like to understand more about this: "The New panorama that makes up the background is algorithmic based on timing."

    Thank you!

  • Great idea, lets hope this slows down the crAPPS on the Marketplace

  • Niall
    109 Posts

    seriously Todd.....   #facepalm...

    Once again a completely useless and inneffective set of rules has been proposed which will have no impact on this problem.  Do you guys simply not look at Marketplace and see the many different ways your 20 app / 10 app etc rules are being circumvented..  

    Once again all the suggestions made by developers for actual/effective rules (which have any hope of actually stopping these issues) have been ignored...

    Just look at the news/weather + sports categories... People are simply stepping around the rules by publishing under multiple accounts (most likely free ones given out via your DPE's or student programs).  The other new trick these malicious folks are using is to simply wait a few days so multiple apps are approvide - and then click the 'publish' button so they all appear at once.

    As a developer I was extremely annoyed to have one of my sports apps recently being buried under 45 apps from SAME PUBLISHER just 2-4 hours after it was published (this was about 4 weeks ago - while your 20 app per day rule was supposedly going to fix problem).  All the hard work that I spent on the app were wasted (as it was driven out of both visible range in 'new' range  AND out of search keyword contention almost immediately) - all because marketplace failed to offer any effective and working measures.  

    Publishing these days is like taking a lottery ticket - either your app will sell (because people can find it) - or it will get burried comprehensively and immediately - and it's all at the mercy of spammers.

    It's just not good enough.. and it's just insulting to read these posts that clearly show either you guys just have no handle on this situation - or that you knowlingly are feeding us rubbish whilst focusing on what appears to be the number one intrenal goal - quantity NOT quality (simply to increase the total apps count brag point).

    and ffs - please STOP CALLING THEM 'bulk publishers' - they are spammers, IP Theifs and pests/nusances to everyone.

  • Vedichymn
    10 Posts

    I'm all for encouraging people to develop for the platform, but honestly these kinds of apps make the marketplace a lot less enjoyable to use, even limited to 10 a day.  They're all still useless apps

    How do apps that don't meet the "distinct content" requirement even get past certification anyway?

  • Although this is brilliant news, and I'm certain, just like every other developer who actually submits apps they spend time and effort on, I think you should go one step further and make a defined limit on the cookie cutter RSS apps which are used as the spam.

    Limit people to having a maximum of 5 of those EVER.

    I reckon 5, because I can understand its good to have one or two of those to encourage people to do more DIFFERENT apps, but the spammers insist on loading this particular type on - there's one guy who has a staggering 44 of them in under a month! all with the same icon.

  • Dharms
    1 Posts

    Always good to see pro-active approaches to tackling Marketplace span, but how will this 10 apps per day stop recent offenders such as Straitstime that have been published not by one dev but seemingly two seperate devs (Brandon TJS and francischeng) who published 29 App's all with the same icon, all RSS feeds and would have still been able to bypass these new rules by publishing as two people even though they must be the same?

  • thank you and those that do abuse the marketplace should be banned