Google to have a better app review system with moderated reviews, like Apple has

Google to have a better app review system with moderated reviews, like Apple has

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Robert Delevano started this petition to Google, Inc and

A plea to Google to improve their mobile app experience...

As an Android app developer, I (and others like me) rely on income we receive from our Android app sales and in-app purchases to support our family and pay our bills. Therefore, it's really unfair to us that Google has a "Wild West" policy on app reviews from users - pretty much anything goes.

Into the wild west...

Users are free to lie, insult you, make totally false claims, etc. Sometimes they don't even leave a review for the correct app (when they talk about features in the review that your app doesn't even have) or sometimes they download the app and leave a review without even using it first.

As an example just today I received a review from a user for only a 2 star rating where they were asking in the review what features the app had and if the app worked good. Uhh, what? Believe it or not, this happens frequently. Users think that app reviews are a place where they can say whatever they want, or ask questions about the app, and sadly most of the time even though their intentions are harmless, they don't bother clicking a high start rating and just randomly choose a rating.

Fake news...

Sometimes, you get reviews that are flat out fake news. A colleague of mine has an astronomy app, with all sorts of information about the planets, aurora borealis, asteroids, meteor showers, etc. But a very misinformed user left a 1-star review that said: "does not have any info about star alignment. this is not an astronomy app."   Clearly, this very misinformed user does not know the dictionary definition and common usage of the word "astronomy", and that astronomy related to all things in outer space, not just star alignment (perhaps this user confused astronomy with astrology?). But put yourself in my colleagues shoes - now he's going to get a lot less app downloads because new potential users will see a 1-star review that says "this is not an astronomy app" and not download the app, even though it's a very great app for astronomy.

What happens with these reviews?

Now, clearly all of these types of reviews are against the review posting policy as outlined on the Google Play website - yet Google does nothing really to enforce these policies. Users are free to really say whatever they want, even insult you and call you swear words and derogatory words. Yes, Google automatically deletes reviews that have profanity in them, but it seems to only work if the reviews are in English.  I have a few reviews on one of my apps that has the some very offensive 4-letter words in it, yet the review is still there - all because the review is in another language and the Google algorithms didn't detect it. 

But as an app developer, can't you report bogus reviews? Yes, you can - however nothing ever happens. No one at Google seems to read the report, delete the reviews, or contact you back. I have reported one review several times that is nothing more than a certain 4-letter swear word, and yet the review is still visible on my app page several months later.

I have always liked programming for Android more than programming for iOS, but Apple really has Google beat here with the quality of their App Store and app review process. When a user leaves an app review for an iOS app, it goes into a queue, and an Apple representative reads the review to make sure it's accurate, relevant to the app, and does not contain any harmful language, before they post it. This is truly an amazing thing - my apps on Apple (although identical to my Android apps) have a much higher rating on the App Store because only legitimate and quality reviews and ratings come through, and all of the fake and harmful reviews do not. This leads to a more honest and accurate overall rating of the apps.

Chilling effects...

Not all of us are huge companies making millions of dollars off of our apps. The vast majority of app developers are just average Joes making a few dollars to pay their bills and support their families. Having inaccurate, offensive, and irrelevant reviews on our apps hurt our ability to earn an income and is very not fair to us. We pay a fee to become an android developer and put our apps on Google, and Google takes a 30% commission on all app sales. Us app developers should be treated better than this.

In this petition I am proposing the following measures. It would be good if Google could implement even one of them, but all of them would be great:

  1. Only allow users to leave a rating or a review after they have the app installed on their phone for 24 hours or more. It's completely insane that a user can leave a rating and review for an app immediately after they downloaded it and haven't even used it yet.
  2. When an app developer reports a bogus review to Google, allow the developer to specify a reason why they are reporting the review, and actually have a Google moderator check the review and delete it if necessary.
  3. If a user has a history of having their reviews deleted, ban their account from being able to leave any ratings or reviews from apps ever again.
  4. When a user submits a new review, have it go through a quality assurance process where it gets read by a Google moderator to be checked for accuracy, relevance, and professionalism. 

I'm not complaining about Google. I love Google, they are a great company with very innovative products. I just want to see them improve and do better. This is one of the areas they can improve in.


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