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Today I’ll outline the latest steps we’re taking in our ongoing effort to keep the quality bar high in our rapidly growing Marketplace. I know most of you share our goal of a great shopping experience and already go out of your way to follow our policies and guidance. For others, I hope this insight into a few near-term changes we’re putting in place helps save you time and reduces your risk of having apps pulled from the Marketplace.
Avoiding trademark trouble
When a trademark or copyright owner contacts us about a suspected violation, we investigate and pull apps when the complaint is valid. Lately we’ve been doing more of this, especially for trademark misuse. Sometimes the requests come from the owners of big, well-known brands. Other times they come from new brands. Either way, we often find trademark violations are unintentional: some developers just aren’t clear on what constitutes a violation. But these investigations—and the time and money they can cost—can be avoided by doing a little homework before submitting or updating your app.
If you’re developing an app, please consult our content policy covering trademarks and this related Q&A. (The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office also has helpful background and a trademark search tool.) Our rules boil down to this: Your registered publisher name and everything about your app—name, logo, description, screenshots—must be unique and free of trademarked content unless (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.
For example, using “Microsoft App Co.” as your publisher name would cause problems because “Microsoft” is a trademarked term. By the same logic, you couldn’t call your app “MSN” or “YouTube”. However, you may be able to make an app called “Reader for MSN,” as long as you don’t use the MSN logo or otherwise suggest that the app is published by Microsoft.
Keeping the quality bar high
I’ve posted before about our efforts to help ensure that apps in Marketplace offer clear value. One of those efforts concerns bulk publishing—developers who send us hundreds of similar apps simultaneously. Today I want to mention two related issues on our radar that could affect developers working on app genres that lend themselves to bulk publishing.
First, we’re seeing developers submit the same app to multiple Marketplace categories, a violation of our policies. Instead, you should pick a single category that best reflects the content and function of your app. This not only helps customers find your app but gives all developers an equal opportunity to have their app discovered where people expect. Developers who submit the same app across multiple categories will have it removed from the catalog.
Second, when you create multiple closely-related apps—say, a series of quote apps that vary by theme—the Marketplace tile images must reflect the unique features of each individual app. They cannot be duplicates or near duplicates of each other. Your branding also shouldn’t dominate the tile. Here are a few examples of dos and don’ts:
Creating unique, easily distinguishable app tiles helps customers see at a glance what’s different about the apps you’re publishing, improving the shopping experience and potential for downloads.
Cleaning up keywords
Some developers have been violating Marketplace policy by entering more than the five allowed keywords for an app. A keyword is a word or short phrase that describes your app. Entered during the App Hub submission process, these words or phrases are always separated by commas.
Starting this week, we’re going to start enforcing the five keyword rule for all current and future Marketplace apps. Any app that exceeds this number will have all its keywords deleted. Affected developers will be notified and can then enter five new keywords in App Hub. We’re taking this action to help ensure that customers are able to find the most relevant set of apps for their search—including yours.
We’re also starting to examine app keywords for relevancy. We’ve noticed some developers have been entering keywords that are popular search terms—“Justin Bieber,” “YouTube”—but are totally unrelated to their app and what it does. If we find a keyword that’s not relevant to your app’s function or content, we’ll delete that keyword. Additionally, if you suspect that other developers are using high-impact keywords unrelated to their app— “Skype” for a tic-tac-toe game, for example—email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and we’ll investigate.
Refining our approach to content policy enforcement
The final issue I want to discuss is one that affects all major app stores today: the treatment of apps that are “racy” or sexual in nature. We’re committed to offering a diverse selection of safe and quality apps that appeal to a wide range of customer interests. Items that some customers view as entertainment, others may consider inappropriate. This is a challenge for any big retailer, whether they operate online or down the street.
We think the right solution is (a) to be transparent about what’s acceptable and (b) to show the right merchandise to the right customer in the right place. Our content policies are clearly spelled out: we don’t allow apps containing “sexually suggestive or provocative” images or content. What we do permit is the kind of content you occasionally see on prime-time TV or the pages of a magazine’s swimsuit issue.
Admittedly, it’s tricky catering to such a wide range of people and markets. But we take this responsibility seriously and evaluate and discuss questionable cases. Recently we decided that we could improve the shopping experience for all our customers by a more stringent interpretation and enforcement of our existing content policy.
Specifically, we will be paying more attention to the icons, titles, and content of these apps and expect them to be more subtle and modest in the imagery and terms used. Apps that don’t fit our standard will need to be updated to remain in the store. This is about presenting the right content to the right customer and ensuring that apps meet our standards. We will also monitor customer reaction to apps and reserve the right to remove ones that our customers find offensive
While this change might require a little extra work on the part of a small number of developers, there are plenty of creative and appropriate ways to comply: showing male or female models in silhouette, for example, is one possible alternative. Here are a few other examples of app tiles that pass muster:
If you’re one of the handful of impacted developers, we will be reaching out to you within the next few days with more specific guidance on changes you need to make. If you don’t hear from us, there is no immediate action you need to take.
I hope this post has provided some useful tips and helpful insight into our policies, and how they’re evolving to reflect both customer and developer feedback and the growing size and reach of the Windows Phone Marketplace. We’re committed to our developer community and appreciate your feedback on how we can make Marketplace better for you and your customers. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Add an "Adult" section that is only available if (1) the user is logged in, (2) they have a credit card in their name registered with their account, and (3) they opt-in to view the Adult section. It's simple, and should make everyone happy.
Please tell us when Microsoft will support multilingual windows phone app details page. Right now if I publish an app in multiple countries the app description and key words provided leaves me only one language to use.
Market place submit app UI needs the option to allow multi language description and key words, therefore when I submit an app in multiple countries, I will have the option on using local specific language in describing the app and tagging it with culture specific keywords.
Current work around is to publish an app for each country which is a maintenance nightmare when I publish app changes.
Another app that I highly doubt has permission to use the Hermes logo: www.windowsphone.com/.../5d81e72f-5865-4d2b-b48c-9b47aaeb8028
You say that you are protecting copyright, but here's an app that I'm sure does not have permission to be using the chanel logo and you do nothing: www.windowsphone.com/.../59a5b100-a6da-4c51-94ec-d03972f5f9f0 There isnt even a way in the app store or on the web app store to report copyright infringement.
You guys have no idea how happy it makes me to see that you've finally started filtering out the adult content. While there are still a few questionable apps remaining, it's much much better. Thank you.
Following your invitation to talk further through email on May 1st, we sent you an email as you requested on May 2nd, 9 days ago, but still haven't heard from you.
„5 keywords” is wrong decision. Constraining to 5 words only facilitates Microsoft team works but does not help users and developers. When searching for app, user applies popular keyword, for example “dog”, which matches thousands of different apps . Result is useless for user and it cannot add efficiently more words to refine search. Typically developer will tag dog related app: “dog, dogs, pet, pets, something”. Where is a place to tell more about app: expenses, pictures, trainings, puppies, health, grooming, whistle, movies, breeds, shows, kennels, food, etc. ? How to reach customers as developer? How can I find desired application as a WP phone owner. This simplified mechanism only cares about top ranked application. THINK TWICE Marketplace team and improve searching engine not simplify.
By the way, when you search for "fashion" our app doesnt come up. Secondly, the fashion app that you featured in your app store (with the pink F) shows a lot of blogger contents that the bloggers dont even know they are syndicating. I really do hope you start respecting people's copyright.
I think that Microsoft should remove the questionable apps from the different "Tops" lists. Even if the app is the #1 seller, just don't show it. Should a questionable app be findable through a search, sure, but not through lazy browsing.
Also, the questionable content apps should not be related to non-questionable content apps. It's strange to be looking at a review of an app targeted towards 2 year olds, flip to the related page, and see apps obviously directed towards adult males. Something is really broken with the related algorithm when that happens.
How about text messaging applications? Any guideline for that..
I'm glad that you guys are putting your foot down on some of these issues.
As for the adult content there are far too many titles that cross the line and while I guess they made it past the certification I think they're really on a slippery slope here. I like beautiful women just as much as the next guy but I don't think a public marketplace is the place for HotBabes HD or SexPro apps. I think filtering them just as games are rated is something Microsoft should seriously consider and let users decide if they want to include these titles in searches or not.
I don't understand if this will change anything but we'll see. Just looking at the "top" apps in entertainment is horrible with all kinds of titles with Sex in the title and pictures of women in lingerie (all I'm sure done without legal permission).
For apps I would really like to see a ban on similar named apps. As someone pointed out, there are some apps that have 5 titles with the same name. I believe that developers should have to come up with a unique name for their apps and the certification process should reject apps that have "too similar a name" as something else. It's like a patent or copyright system and while some people might say it's unfair because the first person to grab the best name wins, there's enough for everyone to go around. We don't need 10 apps named with Fart Pro in the title.
On the keywords it might be a bit harsh deleting all keywords. I agree that maybe the first five should be picked and the rest tossed out. Frankly make it easier to submit if you're only going to accept five. Don't ask for keywords separated by commas, give us 5 text boxes then there's no ambiguity. When you submit there's actually no indication of how to separate keywords. It is commas, spaces, semicolons or quotes? Just make it easier to submit with five distinct boxes and it'll be easier (Steve Krug's Don't Make Me think principle here).
BTW I blogged about issues regarding trial vs. paid (and the lack of visibility of trial apps) along with games seeping into app rankings making it difficult for indie devs to get visibility.
You can read my blog post about it here:
@Michael Hansen: I hope you do understand that you're writing the least understandable english and that combined with the shear mass of your posts makes you come across as a spammer and nothing more. For all matters and purposes you should be banned as such.
Please at least try to put your actual problems in an understandable writing so someone might actually address your problems.
The way you post now makes it incredibly difficult for developers actually working on current WP projects to voice their opinion and discuss it.
@korn1699: It is acceptable to have paid and free versions of an app that are differentiated by content or capability as long as the names are different. This enables users to distinguish the differences between the two versions. For example: “MyAppName” and “MyAppName (Free)” could be used to differentiate a Paid and free ad-funded version
@auty1980, @pastagapp: If you’d like to discuss this further, send me a note via the blog's email account: wpblog at live.com (and please put your publisher name in the subject line to flag your mail).
I think it's kinda pointless to have a walled garden of "safe" apps when you have a web browser which gives access to anything imaginable. I do agree it would be nice to have an adult area. I do cringe a little when watching a new phone review and see them showing off the marketplace and flip though a bunch of bikini icons under new apps - may not be the best first impression.
When are they going to start showing developers new capabilities of WP8?? Isn't it about that time??
With 2000 downloads/day your voice matters as recently (last week) Microsoft made a big PR push around a developer with only "900 to 1,200 downloads a day" making "$245K in a year":
Microsoft is showing questionable ethics with double standards: advertising for porn on Windows Phone while cracking down on "bikini" apps: pastagapp.com/microsoft_calvin_ball
24 hour notice to comply for apps they have already been approving for more than a year (and re-approving again and again at each update as they check the policy at every update) is an insult.
It's also unrealistic as many times in this very blog Microsoft admitted the App Hub is slow and delays of more than 7 days should be expected when submitting an app for approval.
Now everyone's accessing the App Hub and the apps cannot even be taken down within that time frame.
Not only Microsoft changes the rules as they please (actually here they don't even modify the policy but just the decided on a "more stringent interpretation"), they give such a short (and unrealistic) time frame to comply (24 hours!)
Check the mail they sent us: pastagapp.com/microsoft_calvin_ball
For Calvin and Hobbes fans, that's what we call a Calvin Ball.
Consumers will benefit from removing apps that are published in the US marketplace, but have names that cannot be understood by most consumers in that marketplace w/o a dictionary. I imagine an old lady in the store who wants to buy a Windows Phone, and in top apps in card and board category she finds 斗地主, 象棋 or 中国象棋, even though ratings of these apps are not the highest (2+ with 3-9 people who rated these apps).
Are you saying that apps with paid and free versions will have issues, since there would be 2 listings per app?
All reads fair, however we have recieved an email (today) requesting us to hide our app(s) (today), make a few hundred changes (Icons and screenshots in 22 cultures) and re-submitt. We dont have time to do that for two weeks so our Top 5 entertainment App will dissapear of the chart for three weeks assuming they pass certification first time.
Will they jump back to thier top 5 places in free and paid entertainment...no.
Both Apps passed certification three weeks ago and met policy 3.6, today, after no changes, it does'nt so it has to be hidden. We would have been happy to make the changes, an email today advising us we have three weeks to edit and re-submitt, but 12 hours notice is not fair. It will not be worth our time to make these changes now as it will re-enter at the bottom of the app charts and the revenue will drop to zero again while it climbs for months.
Next time the policy is updated, we may recieve an email saying apps have to be hidden again untill they comply. If Microsoft can take us offline that quickly when their are the ones who have tested it only weeks before, then it is too risky for us as a business so we have decided not to re-submitt either of them and drop the platform.
Hardly a loss to Microsoft or us as it only gets 2000 downloads a day, but it is a clean app in every language and we have 1500 5 star ratings which means happy Windows Phone users, which helps everyone involved in the success Windows Phone. We would not have made any money off the apps this year, which is hardly suprising, the UK Television is bombarded with Android and iPhone ads and Microsofts response is to advertise Internet Explorer 24 hours a day, notepad will be next. However, still a shame as our direct competitor apps are tacky as hell and we were quite happy to maintain it until next year when the platform takes off with W8.
We have never had such an show stopper like that from Google or Apple and would not have expected one from Microsoft either.
Our 2 pence.
Can't Microsoft implement age-restrictions like those in place on the iOS app store? Only allow "adult" apps to appear if the phone user has been verified as over 18. This then means more adult apps could be allowed.
App purchases should also require the user's password before continuing with the purchase.
When will the Marketplace have a "Report app" function built-in in alongside Try, Buy and Share. It seems silly that users can't report apps themselves, rather than having to remember the reportapp email address.
You'd think something this important and visible to end users would have built-in grievance reporting.
Incidentally, I also agree that 5 keywords is too few. Or at least synonyms should be counted as only one - for example "football,soccer" and "Manchester United,Man Utd,MUFC" should only use up two of your five, not the whole quota.
Will you stop playing Calvin Ball and change the rules on a moment's notice?
Last week, overnight, you decided to pull out apps from Zune to everyone's surprise.
That's a Calvin Ball rule.
For the keywords:
Todd in your post dated October 18th 2011 you write:
"ensure that the first five keywords best describe your app to potential customers. App Hub will still allow you to enter more than five keywords as part of your submission or application update; however, the search functionality across Marketplace will now use only the first five keywords."
That clearly means it doesn't matter if you have too many keywords, you just use the first 5.
And overnight you change the rule.
Calvin Ball again.
For the "adult content:
It's fine to want to segregate content based on the user's age but that's not even the solution you propose here.
Actually you don't even have a solution: you're just changing the rules.
Two real solutions to consider would be:
1/ Have a specific section in the Marketplace for such apps (btw they are more "bikini app" than real adult content, so they comply with the "swimsuit issue" you mention).
Maybe have this section locked until proof of age is shown.
2/ Programmatically restrict the content.
Why not provide an API like if user.age < 18 no bikini. Or "if rating PG-13 no bikini"
You gave only 24h notice to take down the apps (see email here: pastagapp.com/microsoft_calvin_ball)
That's not even possible, as the app hub is not working (everyone wants to re-submit their apps, at least for the keyword mess you just created).
Not only it's impossible to resubmit the apps (because, as you acknowledged many times in this blog, the App Hub is too slow) but we cannot even pull them out of the Marketplace within the time allocated.
Could you please consider a longer compliance period that would allow for re-submission and approval of the updated app?
Ultimately 2 weeks would be a minimum if you consider the time for approval, the slowness of the App Hub, and the lack of details in the emails you sent out (meaning we'll have to submit, wait for rejection to pinpoint the problems, then submit again). And that's not even accounting for the time for the developer to make the changes!
May 2nd to comply? Tomorrow? Come on that's unrealistic!!
Should you be reminded that Bing advertises for Porn on the Windows Phone itself?
And it's just a button away?
Full story (with screenshots - but safe for work) at pastagapp.com/microsoft_calvin_ball
Is it really down to the trademark owners to report infringements as per the Q&A?
In the area that my app is in (football/soccer), I've been very careful to avoid trademark infringments, but most of the other apps are completely blatant. For example, each of the 120 apps on
quite deliberately copies the Sky Sports branding and also uses club crests and club names on the icon without permission (clubs simply don't give permission to use their trademarks - just check the iOS App Store, only official club apps have the club crest). Similarly,
not only uses club crests and club names in the icons, but also uses player images as backgrounds, infringing the players' image rights. And there are many other apps also using club crests and names, these are just the worst offenders.
As each of these apps gains a competitive advantage by breaking the law and looking more "official", do I have to wait for each of the clubs and players to trawl the marketplace and report the individual apps, contact 120 football clubs myself and hope they pay attention, or can I report them to email@example.com?
I can't help but feel that 5 keywords is too few, for example in my app I have more than 5 quite different calculator and reference features. So I can no longer have a keyword for each feature and thus the users will not be able to find the app any longer.
What about identical app names for 10 different apps?
I have no idea which one to get
Hmm. Why not just leave the first 5 keywords and remove 6 and up? What's the point of removing ALL keywords?
Excellent! Glad to hear u are serious.
I appreciate the filtering of adult content. Definitely hard to show family top phone apps when so many of them aren't what I'd want to use to showcase the phone!
Thanks for the update. Hope to see the changes soon.
@Daves_Desk "There are plenty of other ways to get adult content, we don't need it in the Marketplace."
No there aren't. In a walled garden OS like Windows Phone there is only one way to get adult apps. Clearly these apps are amongst the most popular on the platform. Killing them is stupid and hurts everyone involved. As someone who has never downloaded one of these apps and as someone who has complained to Microsoft to address the issue I am totally against censoring and removing these apps as Apple has done. You are only going to push more people and developers towards Android and open platforms by engaging in censorship.
Simple solution is to require the phone owner to enter a credit card number with the same name as their user account name. Only show the adult app category to users who have opted-in. If a kid doesn't have a credit card in their name then they can't access the adult apps category.
PLEASE can you also enforce a rule to all new and exiting apps to have CONSISTENT upper and lower case app titles. App title name should be like this:
'My New App' and not like' my new app' or 'mynewapp' or 'my_new_app'. It all looks messy.
Just stick to all lowercase except first letter of each word.
Examples of existing messy app titles include:
Bubble_Guppies___Spot_It (should be Bubble Guppies Spot It)
Periods_Keeper (should be Periods Keeper)
pedometer (should be Pedometer)
sciencedaily (should be Science Daily)
TalkingBabyUtan (Should be Talking Baby Utan)
@Zartan I disagree, Adult content should not be allowed, filters/parental controls don't work. There are plenty of other ways to get adult content, we don't need it in the Marketplace.
It shouldn't be allowed to switch to 'paid' an app that originally was 'free'. Some exploit this to trick their rankings. I.e., submit the app for free for a month, then switch to paid so it jumps to the top on the TOP category (they also remove the trial option). Once the magic is off they remove the app and resubmit, and again and again.
On the subject of Adult content I think they should just create an Adult entertainment category placed at the bottom of the store and give parents the tools necessary to toggle adult content on/off like they do on Xbox 360. I don't think they should censor or remove adult content from the app store since it is obviously very popular among consumers.