Dear Microsoft, Please stop playing Calvin Ball
Attention all users: Microsoft is pulling out a lot of the apps you love starting tomorrow May 2nd!
Worse: we had only a 24 hour notice.
The apps you love and are using every day will soon be removed from the Marketplace, because Microsoft changed their rules overnight, giving us only 24 hours to react.
If you still want to enjoy the freedom the Windows Phone Marketplace offered to this day until it becomes a closed system like Apple’s App store, please support your favorite apps by tweeting Microsoft and let them know your side of the story: a lot of you out there actually love and enjoy our apps everyday.
Background: The Marketplace rules change overnight
Microsoft started asking users to report apps on April 13th.
Our concern is that Microsoft heard only one side of the story: people can easily report apps they don’t like or find offensive by their own standard.
Others that enjoy more adult apps while not finding them offensive cannot as easily send praise about the apps they love directly to you.
There is no “report awesome app” button.
What makes us think a lot of people actually love our apps?
Take a look at the app ratings and user reviews below in our open letter to Microsoft.
An overnight change without notice already happened last week: Microsoft pulled access to the Marketplace from Zune.
Some people buying apps using Zune got lost and confused with not even an explanation message.
Some apps have been accepted more than a year ago, while section 3.6 Adult Related Content of the Content policy was already in effect.
These rules are checked again for each subsequent update that was pushed out.
Microsoft had plenty of occasions, at each update, to voice their concerns, and we complied and fixed every one of them.
Dear Microsoft, why are you playing Calvin and Hobbes’ favorite pastime Calvin Ball, effectively changing the rules overnight without even a transition period?
It’s no secret Android is the phone of choice for adult content, while Apple’s App store is devoid of it.
Microsoft’s Marketplace was a just balance between the two (forbidding porn while still allowing bikinis) … until now.
This middle ground policy allowed you to grow (no pun intended) the Marketplace, but are you leading by the example?
We don’t think so, and here is the proof according to this screen shot taken today April 30th 2012!
It’s easy to get those results on a Windows Phone: Click your phone search button (the one at the bottom right of the phone), type your search and there you go.
The results are clearly not filtered and have nothing to do with kittens.
No adult filter, no option to turn adult content off, and it’s enabled by default!
Also do you see the “Sponsored site”?
It’s a Bing search, so it must be advertising by Microsoft no?
Microsoft, are your directly profiting from porn on Bing search on the Windows Phone while banning “adult” apps featuring only women in bikini?
If you did, we don’t think that would be a shame.
Let’s face it, the 500M PCs running Windows worldwide are not doing only Microsoft office.
But profiting from porn while banning bikinis (yes, bikinis, the women in the apps are not even naked) has questionable ethics for a leader.
The email from Microsoft
This is the actual email we received from Microsoft:
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED: Hide & Modify Windows Phone Application(s) – Policy 3.6
As explained in the blog post, one or more of your Windows Phone Application(s) need to be updated to meet policy 3.6.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED:
1. Change the publish status of your application(s) to Hidden by Wednesday, May 2nd
2. Update and resubmit your application(s) by Monday, May 14th
3. Keep your application(s) in a hidden status until your application(s) pass certification
NOTE: If you do not follow the steps above, Microsoft may remove your application(s). You can resubmit your application(s) several times; however, your application(s) must be compliant by Monday, May 14.
Moving forward, an open letter to Microsoft
While we support your will to “improve the shopping experience for all [your] customers”, we believe the changes are rushed and biased.
We would appreciate you consider 3 important points:
1/ The changes are too fast: please consider a transition period
At multiple occasions in the Developer Blog your warned developers that “it’s taking at least 7 calendar days to certify apps—a number that could increase”.
Yet you take the liberty to change the rules overnight, giving us only 24 hours to react.
Can’t there be a grace period?
What is the hurry? Especially when you consider that some apps you complain about have been released over a year ago.
You approved the apps in the first place when you needed to show meaningful numbers of apps on the Windows Phone, and again approved all the updates numerous times.
A few weeks of transition, while still achieving the same goal at the end, would not make much different to you, yet it has a tremendous impact on developers.
Your email also does not point exactly what the problem is with the apps (is it the Title? The Icons? The Keywords? All of the above?), leaving us in the dark to guess which one it is.
This means we will have to get more detailed explanations using the usual feedback loop: submitting the app, getting rejected, correcting the problem and submitting the app again, meaning 2 times the 7-day submit period to finally get the updated apps out!
And that’s without anticipating the surge of app updates coming, if not for adult content, at least for yet another Calvin Ball rule that has changed: “Any app that exceeds this number will have all its keywords deleted”.
Previously Microsoft stated that only the first 5 keywords would be used, and the rest dropped:
ensure that the first five keywords best describe your app to potential customers. App Hub will still allow you to enter more than five keywords as part of your submission or application update; however, the search functionality across Marketplace will now use only the first five keywords.
Now suddenly all keywords are dropped? Gotta love the Calvin Ball on that one.
And of course, as all Windows Phone developer knows, you admitted the “App Hub had become less responsive”.
The App Hub is so slow and poorly designed for scaling (“We’re already in the process of developing a more robust and scalable Marketplace service”) that we will have to wait until “late summer” for a complete rewrite to arrive as “engineering work this significant doesn’t happen overnight”.
Really? You give yourself so much time to adjust and give developers only 24 hour notice?
Your deadline is not realistic. Not with an unresponsive App Hub.
By the way as we’re trying to resubmit apps today, the app hub does not work at all with this message: “We’re sorry, an error has occurred. Cannot load information about the app. Try again later.”
How are we even supposed to take the apps down with an unreliable App Hub?
2/ The decision seem to be the result of a biased study
Let’s take a (plausible) guess.
On April 13th, Microsoft started asking users to report apps.
Two weeks later you rush a decision to pull out (no pun intended) “adult” apps from the Marketplace.
It seems you heard only one side of the story.
Yes there will be users offended by “adult” (read “women in bikini”) content. It is even illegal in 9 countries of the Markeplace: Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
Please realize “Offensive content” is very subjective, depending a lot on religious background, culture, country of residence…
One way to get the pulse on what the other side thinks would be to look at the ratings and reviews of the apps you deemed offensive.
“Hot Images” Ratings 4.5/5
“1000 sexy girls HD” Ratings 5/5
“Asian Fever” Ratings 5/5
“Bikini Car Wash” Ratings 4/5
“Cleavage” Ratings 5/5
3/ Please provide the tools to developers to protect younger audience
Here are two suggestions:
3.1/ An “Adult” category in the Marketplace
It is so obvious, please listen to the customers.
Look no further than the user comments on this TechCrunch article to see the overwhelming response in favor of not removing adult content, because most of us are adult and perform adult activities.
Here are a sample of comments (obviously biased here, but please take the time to count the number of comments in favor of “adult” content vs. those denouncing it):
“Those apps that you call porn? The girls are all clothed”
“If a bunch of sexy chicks is porn for you, then you need to get out more”
“Microsoft gave the Developers the freedom! Yes, it is FREEDOM why those apps exists and TRUTH is why they are at the top!”
3.2/ An API to lock content based on age
Developers should be able to programmatically restrict content based on the user’s age.
Dear Microsoft, what happened to sweaty Steve Ballmers’ “Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers.”?
This much sweat is borderline offensive content that would not have transpired had M. Ballmer worn a bikini on stage ;-)
Dear Microsoft, as you know, we are now reaching 2 Million downloads and believe to represent a significant user base that actually enjoy ours apps (check the ratings and reviews).
Do we not count?
Do the tens of thousands of daily users not count?
How can you disregard 2 Million users on an emerging platform struggling to get a place among Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android?
We believe it is an insult to our users (your customers remember?) to take down the apps overnight and again urge you to please allow more time.
We are more than open and happy to work closely with you to satisfy the needs and expectations of both your vision for Windows Phone and those who matter the most in the end: “Put people first”.
The pastaGapp Team