Microsoft once again commits to cleaning up the Windows Store

Microsoft once again commits to cleaning up the Windows Store

They have good reason to get serious about this now since the plan with Windows 10 is to have a one-stop shop for all apps, music, videos and games for installation on those Windows 10 devices ranging from IoT to Surface Hub.

This is not the first time Microsoft has made a commitment to fix the issues in the Windows Store.

Last August they addressing the misleading apps in the store and subsequently removed at least 1,500 apps in that process.

Then in October the company updated their app certification policies and highlighted a Developer Code of Conduct that had this paragraph in it about fraudulent activities in the Windows Store (emphasis added):

“You may not engage in any fraudulent or dishonest activities in the Store or Dev Center. This includes, but is not limited to, attempting to manipulate the ranking, ratings or reviews for your app or any other app, interfere with any other party’s use of the Store service (or any related services offered by Microsoft), attempting any form of financial fraud (including, but not limited to any advertising impression or click fraud), or engaging in any fraudulent activity with regard to the advertising inventory and advertising creative in your application.”

Another link in that post went to the Windows Store Policies page which laid out these three basic principles for app developers (emphasis added):

  • Offer real value with your app. Provide a compelling reason to download your app from the Store.
  • Don’t mislead our joint customers about what your app can do, who is offering it, etc.
  • Don’t attempt to cheat customers, the system or the ecosystem. There is no place in our Store for any kind of fraud, be it ratings and review manipulation, credit card fraud or other fraudulent activity.

The areas I want to discuss are those with the emphasis added because real value is in the eye of the beholder and the other stuff is flat out criminal.

Back in March I wrote about the spammy nature of apps in the Windows Store which also have an impact on getting the apps with real value in front of customers.

In their latest missive about taking care of the issues in the Windows Store Microsoft has laid out four areas of focus to move the store in a direction that allows customers to easily find high-value, high-quality apps.

Windows Store Policy Update

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.

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.
  • 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. 

Windows Store Policy Update

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

All of the above items are meant to address app compliance under Microsoft’s new 10.1 policy but one area they specifically mention as unrelated to these issues is the protection of intellectual property (IP).

While they do have policies in place for addressing these IP issues the store is littered with apps using copyrighted images, logos and names.

By the way, anyone can report apps that may be violating a company’s IP.

That IP and the new 10.1 policy is great to see on paper and they have potential however, a proactive response is needed to clean things up otherwise the store will continue to languish as it has for some time.

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