May 27, 2015 12:59 pm

How we are improving Windows Store app catalog

Today I want to share with you adjustments we are making to Windows Store app certification policies to improve the Store experience for your customers. 

How we are improving Windows Store app catalog
As of today, we are enforcing a more robust approach to 10.1 app certification policy (“Distinct Function & Value; Accurate Representation”) for both new and existing apps to ensure customers can easily find high-value, high-quality apps when shopping in Windows Store. These changes will help customers more rapidly find the apps they are specifically seeking.

We will identify apps that are not following the policies, informing developers of issues we locate, and removing apps that don’t comply. This effort will be focused in four areas that I will describe in more detail in this post:

  • Eliminating app clutter
  • Ensuring apps are appropriately priced
  • Distinguishing informational apps
  • Ensuring relevant app titles and keywords

Eliminating app clutter
Visual and category clutter negatively impact customer experience with Windows Store.

This includes apps with similar icons and titles that can be confusing to customers, in addition to app icons and titles when they don’t match the app content.

Apps that can’t be distinguished from other apps in the Store, have icons or titles that are too similar to other apps already in the Store, or don’t properly represent the functionality of the app may be removed.

We may also remove apps that do not offer unique content, creative value or utility. For example when there are many apps that do not provide differentiated value (e.g. many flashlight apps with the same look and feel and functionality), some may be removed from the Store. This will help customers access high value content in each of the Store categories. 


Ensuring appropriate app pricing
The price of an app must reflect its value. Customers need to know that when they purchase apps from Windows Store, they are paying a fair price. While developers retain sole pricing discretion, they should price apps based on their app’s value and functionality. This means that similar apps should generally be comparable in price. This also means that while developers may use pricing to promote their apps, they must not utilize irregular or unfair practices that violate Windows Store Code of Conduct.

If an app is priced significantly higher than other apps in its category and it is determined that users might be confused and believe (incorrectly) that the higher price is warranted based on superior functionality or value, it may be removed from the Store. 

Distinguishing informational apps
It is important that when a customer purchases an app, she or he knows what they are buying. Informational apps, like guides, tutorials, instructional content, reference materials, and other similar types of apps must be easily identified, so customers don’t accidentally purchase an informational app when they intended to purchase a functional app (e.g. a game guide vs. an actual game).

In order to make it clear to users what they are buying, informational apps that are not easily identifiable as reference apps, must distinguish themselves by prominently displaying a text or banner labeling it as such. If an informational app violates this policy, it may be removed from the Store.


Ensuring relevant app titles and keywords
Customers can more easily identify what they are buying when an app’s title, description, tags, and keywords are accurate and relevant to the app’s function. For these reasons, Windows Store requires that an app’s description or title does not state that the app is similar to, or better than other apps, unless the apps are comparable.

In addition, developers may not use popular and irrelevant keywords to manipulate an app’s placement in search results or overall ranking. Apps should only have a maximum of eight keywords, and those keywords must be relevant to the function of the app.

If your app has a title, description or keywords that are not relevant to the app purpose, or include keywords that are not related to the app, it may be removed from the Store.

More information on keywords is available here.

Policy 10.1 has been designed to improve Windows Store experience for both developers and customers. As developers, you increase the possibility of success if you follow these practices when developing and publishing apps that are unique, and that add value.

While these guidelines will be implemented to ensure compliance with Policy 10.1, they are not related to intellectual property compliance (more information on intellectual property protection is available here). As always, we invite anyone that is concerned about misuse of their intellectual property to submit notices of infringement to our reporting tool here.

I’d like to suggest that you take a moment to review these guidelines as well as Windows Store app certification policies to avoid any issues. Finally, you’ll want to make sure your account contact email is accurate in Dev Center, as this is the email the Store uses to begin a dialog with you if we locate any problems with your apps.

Updated May 27, 2015 1:04 pm

Join the conversation

  1. Not enough. Bring back the $100 fee and human checked app submissions and uphold style and quality standards like you did with Windows Phone 7.

  2. 1. I notice all of the “distinguished icons” violate Modern design. Can the store icon be different than the tile?

    2. I don’t envy how you intend to choose which apps stay and go due to similar functionality. Will quality apps under active development be removed under this rule, even with similar functionality?

    3. I would strongly encourage separating out informational apps. Most that I’ve seen appear to only take advantage of demand from the real app and usually aren’t that helpful.

    • @Craig, thanks for the comment. The additional validations should help reduce this problem.

  3. This is generally good (though I am unsure what is the proper way to handle my Share to Speech Phone Edition – I have to pack it separately as somehow Microsoft misses the point that phone users don’t want to pay for the desktop app included in the pack, but I’ll try to differentiate the icon).

    What is missing and is a huge problem:
    – fake downloads
    – fake purchases
    – fake reviews
    – forced reviews (used by several top developers) – the app asks to be reviewed on each launch.
    – undoing cumulative damage of the time that this above was allowed.

    • @Ivan, manipulation of ratings and ranking or fraudulent behavior are not tolerated per the Developer Code of Conduct and ADA (App Developer Agreement). Both apps and accounts will be removed if we determine such behavior is at play.
      Bernardo Zamora

  4. This will practically empty the store and we can finally see what few popular/useful apps are actually available

    I just installed win 10 the other day. I took out my android phone and did a search in windows for every app I use heavily on my phone. Not one of them is available in the windows store. So yeah, big fail there.

    • Click on the top grossing, it is category with least spam. If you look for phone apps, you will see that most of them are missing on Mac Store, too. That’s why those are phone apps, not desktop apps.

  5. While enhancing the standards to get rid of “Spam” apps ( while this is not everytime easy to determine ) it would be better, to give more power to the appstore user like black/whitelisting certain vendors on the store, to filter out many of the hundreds of simply “one-we-page-rss-viewing-apps.

    I think it is also difficult to really determine the useless / usefullness of very similar apps. It would be also better to give better filtering mechanism to the user like “show only good ratings in the last 4 weeks), “rating tendency” or else. This would maybe give a more solid base for better identifiy the constantly good rated apps etc.

      • Well, I’ve seen a lot apps which were first rated great, then added ads and nag screens and got bad ratings afterwards. But this wasn’t easily recognizable because the overall ratings were too high that they were listed on the first places. If you would have a filter “last 2 month ratings average” or something else this would show such tendencies more clearly.

        • Apple has ‘ratings of the last version’. As a side comment, there is nothing wrong with starting free and adding ads, even Google and Facebook did that. There is something wrong with adding annoying ads, though.

          • No, adding ads is not generally bad, but it looks like a lot of apps are free at first and then crippled , but still announced as free. Then its better to offer a pro version and leave the free version unchanged. I surely understand the idea behind but it is a misleading strategy and not fair for the user, who relies on ratings which are based on a totally different experience. The apple “ratings of last version” strategy sounds interesting, but a rating tendency in general would be also interesting.

    • “black/whitelisting certain vendors on the store”. I totally agree.

      Please consider this too.

    • @Shivin, using uservoice, as you are doing, is the best mechanism to help identify the highest priority items that the store needs to work on. Thanks for helping drive users to uservoice to vote for features or bug fixes.

  6. What Microsoft MUST do for the Windows App Store is to allow users who have installed an app to remove that app completely from their device…AND…from their App Store history as well.

    Right now, EVERY APP I install on my devices will be shown as part of my purchase history. If I install an app, decide it does not appeal to me, and uninstall it from my device, it will still appear forever in my list of apps that I can re-install again.

    I have installed apps that were created for specific time-limited periods, such an app for a conference I went to in 2013. I will NEVER use that app again and I uninstalled it for that reason. But when I view the list of apps I can install on my device, that old, obsolete, useless app still shows in my list, needlessly cluttering up my app inventory.

    If Microsoft DOES NOT fix this problem, they will face an increasing number of users who will NOT try out apps from the Store, because they know they will have to look at them in their purchase history FOREVER, even if they uninstall them. I can remove apps from my purchased list in the Google Play store…Why can’t I do the same in the Windows Store?

    I know Microsoft might be concerned that someone will delete a purchased app, then decide later that they want it again, and be unhappy that they must purchase it again. BUT…if appropriate warning messages are given that any deleted app must be purchased again, then Microsoft should let the user decide if they want to keep an app in their purchase history or not. To do any less is patronizing and completely unnecessary.

    I appeal to Microsoft now to give us the right to decide which previously-purchased app have the ‘right to be forgotten’. This MUST happen before Windows 10 goes live.

    • @David, I recommend using uservoice to either create this topic or vote on this topic. The Store looks at the requests in uservoice to help plan the next updates. The features or bug fixes with highest votes have higher priority for us to evaluate and if possible, add it to the roadmap.

      • @Bernardo, I must confess I am PROFOUNDLY disappointed in your response.

        This issue should NOT be one that must be run through some vetting process before it is acted upon. This is an issue that should transcend that paradigm and should be implemented because it is the right thing to do. Let me give you an example from yesterday that illustrates why this is a problem that should NOT wait to be corrected.

        Yesterday I had occasion to reset my Nokia 1520 smartphone using the Lumia Software Recovery utility, to put me back into WP8.1 from the WP10TP. I had all my settings and files backed up, so I wasn’t afraid of losing anything I couldn’t restore.

        However, after the recovery to WP8.1 was complete, the recovery process re-installed EVERY app I had previously installed on my phone, including about 50% of them that I had UN-installed.

        THAT is the problem with keeping a perpetual history of all app purchases…they keep getting in the way when they should be totally erased from my app inventory.

        To give you a further example of how this is a problem demanding a resolution…I used to have DirecTV as a service provider and I installed their WP app to control my DVR from my phone. But I cancelled my account with DirecTV and no longer have ANY USE for their app, but it was one of the apps re-installed on my Lumia.

        This issue CANNOT go unresolved. I implore you to move this issue to a place near the top of the projects your team will work to fix. Please DO NOT assume this will not adversely affect perceptions of the app store by customers.

        I am a big fan of Microsoft and Windows and want the new Windows 10 to be an unqualified success. If you work to fix this, and then prominently tell the world it is fixed, I guarantee such a fix will be greeted with approval from all your users, and from the tech trade press.

  7. Major problem in Store is fake reviews and not unclear icons. I even tried to help you and reported over a year ago 4 apps having clearly only fake reviews, but you still haven’t done anything for those apps. And now you planning to remove an app from Store if some tester doesn’t like the app’s icon?

    • @Markku, when the store determines that a review is fake, or more importantly when there is an individual or company either posting fake positive or negative review to boost their rating or affect another app, then the Store takes action. Please let us know if you find review abuses (you can report it either in the Store app pages on Windows, or in for Windows Phone apps).
      Regarding app removals due to issues with the icon, the process is not based on a reviewer preference or not of an icon, it is focused on helping minimize user confusion, so when a user downloads an app, they know what they are downloading and don’t end up for example with a guide for a game, instead of a game..
      Bernardo Zamora

      • I already reported the apps using your official communication channels for this kind of issues. And I did it many times. (Windows Phone) Store did not take any actions. Apps are still in Store on top of “Best rated apps” list. There is no question if those apps have fake reviews or not. They have fake reviews for 100% sure, anyone can see it very easily.

        My comment on icons is based on my recent experience on your app certification (Silverlight app). I tried to publish an urgent update into my app which I had accidentally broken in my previous update few days earlier. Then after two days of waiting (which was already too long time especially in this situation) I got email that my update is rejected because “reviewer did not like the tile icon”. There was not any details on how should I change the icon, I still do not see any issue in the icon and I had updated the icon last time almost 2 years ago (app has been updated regularly). And now when I had to publish my update ASAP they were asking me to improve my icons first. I just resubmitted the update without any changes and 2 days later it was passed this time. So apparently this another reviewer didn’t see any issues in the icon. I am afraid in many cases it is only matter of taste if an icon is acceptable or not. I hope you can improve your processes so that only reviewers who really know what they are doing are allowed to reject apps or remove apps from Store.

      • windows mobile application very poor performance particulary social networking facebook ,,facebook messenger,instagarm applications are still poor in windows mobile not having new features such photo uploader, actvitity button ( feeling happpy,sad,cool,traveling to ,watching etc),defalut near location on status ,stickers ,tag photos etc,facebook messenger no voice call,map locations not displaying instagram still beta not like android & ios other platform os @ microsoft ceo, microsoft application developers plss intreset to improve all application in our windows mobile too effort on them as poon possible high budjet microsft mobile not worth to buy without youtube,facebook ,facebook messenger ,instagram without proper applications took intrest on developing applicatns giving same features than android ,ios miscrosoft windows os mobie is one the best smart phone…..

  8. I personally could not care less about your ridiculous store. I don’t use windows as a mobile os, and I never will. The store, metro, and everything that goes with it is an abomination, IMHO. Given how win10 seems to be turning out, someone at ms is gonna have a hard time explaining how and why a free os has failed miserably.

    • yeah i’ve been testing win10 for a while now, and i honestly have to say, i don’t think it can succeed, win10 is gonna be a disaster.

  9. Sad. I had to turn my Windows Phone in for an Android because there were several apps that I use regularly and after emailing the developers I was told in each instance that they have no plans to build a Windows app. I want a Windows Phone badly. There app market place just has not attracted developers. Good luck Bernardo I am truly rooting for your success.

  10. Which parts of Windows 10 are finished enough so that we should test it and provide valuable feedback? Most apps are in such a broken state that it is not worth to test them… Thanks.

  11. so DO IT ALREADY, the app store is STILL filled with Fakes and Garbage
    you can start by removing all the FAKES, do you know how many things claim to be VLC media player?
    or pretend to be legit Microsoft software?

    Whats the point of even having an UN-Maintained app store?, if i want an unfiltered pile of unknown software, i can get that from
    the internet, and never have anything to do with the app store.

    app store should be a CAREFULLY SELECTED curated collection, in which MALWARE and FAKES are not allowed.
    You have to provide people a REASON to use your app store, if its just as filled with garbage as the rest of the internet, there is no reason to use it.

  12. My app was removed from the store.

    It was called ‘Mosquito’ and was published on Windows Phone in early 2012.

    It had 141k downloads, a 4 star rating, and 160+ reviews.

    It used a clear app Icon and description of the functionality.

    It may no longer have been unique, as you can see there are a number of Mosquito chasing apps in the store.
    Mine was the first on the platform, I thought that would give me an advantage.

    Why have you removed me from the market and left other people to take my revenue!
    You are picking winners and losers in the market, it’s like if the government banned Coca Cola from selling and told Pepsi to ramp up production.

    Fix your search and discovery, don’t delete the data.

    You guys won’t even respond to my support email inquiries, you have cut me off from a portion of my living, and won’t even respond to me.
    That is so disappointing as I have put a lot of effort into your platform for a number of years, much of that time, while nobody else in the world really cared very much for your platform. So I appreciate your support in return.

    This is not the first time you have removed my apps from the store and allowed others to take my slots.

    “Mosquito produces a high frequency sound from the phone speaker at three available frequencies to target mosquitoes.

    14khz, 16khz, and 20khz frequency.”

    • You are not the one. One of my apps was also uninstalled but no one tell me what exactly is wrong with it! Microsoft do not give a s@#%t about Windows developers! For last 2 years they only thinking about other platforms.

  13. I would like to see radical changes in the Windows App. Even though case can be made Windows is wonderful. My response is steered towards the Windows 10 Professional.

    Windows have a long way of incorporating the Windows Store App for the Business like Apple Store App. But I think for for Business they can do much better.
    Scenario – Suppose a company have many departments and I am working in Sales then I need to only see the App in Windows Store that meant for Sales Dept along with the App in General category. So there will be 2 tabs – General & Sales. In Sales also if some users are not permitted for certain app, then can be restricted by greying out. Those who require can enable them via OTP( Mobile).
    Also Like installed updates you can introduce Installed Apps (which are again sub divided as General & Sales). So users are awre which apps have been installed successfully or whether there was failure. Also sorting of these apps like other programs (alphabetically or date wise) should be done.
    If apps comes into Enterprise via WSUS server, then these can be done. Version updates for the apps can be done by the server by yearly basis so that lot of bandwidth usage can be minimized. What I mean is that if apps is present in Windows Apps Store for Enterprise which is subset of Windows Apps Store, then they should be ready for deployment and no bugs.. Patches for the apps plus the windows would not only disown but unnecessarily irritate all the Business users. If this can be minimized to the minimum, far better.

    Suggestion 2 : Mobile version – There are apps which are downloaded in Mobile version. But I have to get permission by my admin to automatically install them in Office Pc. This is critical since the docs are shared between office Pc and Mobile. Also apps in Pc can be cascaded to mobile if user needs it.

  14. windows mobile application very poor performance particulary social networking facebook ,,facebook messenger,instagarm applications are still poor in windows mobile not having new features such photo uploader, actvitity button ( feeling happpy,sad,cool,traveling to ,watching etc),defalut near location on status ,stickers ,tag photos etc,facebook messenger no voice call,map locations not displaying instagram still beta not like android & ios other platform os @ microsoft ceo, microsoft application developers plss intreset to improve all application in our windows mobile too effort on them as poon possible high budjet microsft mobile not worth to buy without youtube,facebook ,facebook messenger ,instagram without proper applications took intrest on developing applicatns giving same features than android ,ios miscrosoft windows os mobie is one the best smart phone…..

  15. Reminds me of how picky the Zune Marketplace was for my Zune HD. Only quality apps. I’d make it more strict through a different approach using repositories.
    – showcased apps (heavily moderated)
    – not showcased apps (medium moderation with current policy)
    – open source repository (medium moderation with current policy… but a lower cost of entry)

  16. Old post but still actual somehow.
    Do you happen to look lately at what the state of the WP store is?
    Junk and spam and scam apps everywhere. Dozens of imo messengers and the original is not even on the store, fake votes for poorly built apps, you can’t even select the “new and rising” section without being submerged by a tsunami of trash. This in my current Store (Italy).
    But, most of all, people can not report apps anymore to MS, page redirects to the new store.
    Is this the improvement, mr. Zamora?
    Angry as hell, I was a WP die hard fan, now this makes me think again if I can stand the platform: All in all if I have to face the same problems the Android’s Play Store has, at least they have more apps.

    • Hello everybody,
      I have received the error “your application has limited functionality”. Yes, but my application is really simple. How I can fix it?

  17. While I agree completely that an app should never have a name that is known/copyrighted and is misleading, I got burned by cracking down on keywords and I don’t think it’s fair to independent developers. Having keywords that mention other famous apps is perfectly relevant so that people can find similar applications.

    Even as a consumer, I’m not happy about this, because searching by a keyword of, say, Far Cry, should be able to return games that the creators think is close. I don’t want the app creator to name their game Far Cry, but I certainly want them to be able to suggest that Far Cry fans would like it. Making the person search more generally like “open world” once they don’t find Far Cry is ridiculous because that space is so huge and even includes irrelevant apps in addition to games.

    To this direct point, I think you’ll notice even fewer results being returned these days if you type something. I really believe it’s true that I get “not found” a lot rather than the Windows Store suggesting SOMETHING. I have a hard time believing customers think it’s fair to exclude anything with keywords like famous apps. As long as the app itself isn’t described or named misleadingly this doesn’t make much sense.

  18. The Windows store lags far behind if compared to Apple and Andriod. There arer plenty of apps which are just not made for Windows which leaves us stranded. If windows wants to get into the competition, present apps which are comparable to the rivals and also can work across platforms.