"The game you're about to download has been rated…." That warning and others might be coming soon, with all Google Play apps getting age-based content ratings. The ratings will be decided by Google reviewers before the apps are made available on Google Play.
Google experts have already begun to evaluate apps over the last several months, prior to letting them into the Google store. If the apps do not violate developer policies, Google said, the apps are added to Google Play within hours of submission. Among the content excluded by the developer policies are sexually explicit material, gratuitous violence, hate speech, gambling, dangerous products, spam, and infringement of intellectual property.
The moves give Google more control over what makes it into its store and gives users and parents a closer look at an app's content. Google long allowed apps into its store without any human oversight, but that led to criticism that the policy left the door open for inappropriate content -- even while giving developers quick access to the growing number of Android users.
Google said Tuesday that it is introducing age-based ratings for Google Play's Android apps and games. Google won't develop its own age-based ratings, though, choosing instead to use rating systems already in use across the world -- for example, the Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings employed by the games industry in the United States.
Outside the U.S., Google will follow the lead of Pan-European Game Information, Australian Classification Board, Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle and Classificação Indicativa. Territories not covered by a specific ratings authority will display a generic, age-based rating.
Apple Is Ahead
Apple has reviewed apps prior to allowing them for sale ever since the iTunes App Store opened in 2008. That process can take several weeks, if not months, to the chagrin of developers who sometimes have to make numerous changes to apps before they're accepted.
Google says developers will see little delay compared with its previous unreviewed model. The company also has updated its publishing status page to help developers understand why their apps may be delayed or rejected. Google Play, which offers 1.4 million apps, has long had user reviews that come with a rough content rating that ranges from "everyone" to "high maturity."
Google is giving developers until the end of April to get their apps rated. Until developers fill out the paperwork, their apps will be listed as unrated.
"To help maintain your apps' availability on Google Play, sign in to the Developer Console and complete the new rating questionnaire for each of your apps," instructed Eunice Kim, product manager for Google Play. "Apps without a completed rating questionnaire will be marked as 'Unrated and may be blocked in certain territories or for specific users. Starting in May, all new apps and updates to existing apps will require a completed questionnaire before they can be published on Google Play."