Google is amending the policies for mobile apps in Google Play to take into account the current practices in the ecosystem that are at the edge of acceptability. The update to the the Google Play Developer Program Policies features a number of changes. The main focus is on tightening up the best practices to employ around ‘new’ revenue streams such as in-app purchasing and how advertising is labelled to the users.
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There’s also a focus on cleaning up the listings. There is greater clarity around sexually explicit material, and a new ‘App Promotions’ policy to provide guidance on the best way to promote an application inside the Google Play catalogue.
Google has also updated the section on spyware and apps that track user data and behaviour.
New apps and updates submitted to Google Play will need to follow these policies immediately, while existing apps in the store have a short period of grace until April 12th this year so they can be updated, un-published, or removed until they do follow the policy.
Of course the Android app ecosystem reaches beyond the Google Play store. One tick in a settings box and applications can be installed from ‘unknown’ sources. While there are legitimate reasons for this option, the proliferation of pirated apps, cracked freemium titles, and scam apps, make it a risky area to explore.
Having a safe home such as Google Play is vital for the success of the Android platform, and retaining user’s confidence in the central app store is an on-going challenge for everyone involved, but mostly for the Android team in Mountain View. Google’s view of the Android ecosystem is one where apps have prominence and drive the adoption of the platform, and that the apps are monetised through a mix of advertising, in-app purchasing, and one-off payments… areas where Google can take a piece of the action and monetize the regular Android users via the developers.
That advantage is diminished if users lose confidence in the safety and probity of the apps downloaded from Google Play. These changes, while taking the edge away from some rather profitable practices, are good for the long term health of the Android app economy. Google will happily take a small amount of pain from developer feedback now to ensure the user base trusts Google Play in the short, medium, and long term.