People & Dreams

Android app reviews move to Google+ ID system

Google has made it obligatory for Google+ account details to be displayed alongside new reviews of Android apps on its Play store.

Previously posts could be submitted anonymously.The move means the reviewer’s name and profile photo – if they have one – will appear alongside their entry. One developer said the change should help address the problem of fake reviews. It may also boost use of the search giant’s social network. When users attempt to post a review, they will be presented with a pop-up box notifying them of the new policy. The nicknames that used to appear alongside previous entries have all been deleted and replaced with «A Google User».

Facebook’s app centre already requires users to reveal their «real» Facebook identity alongside entries. But Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry and Amazon’s equivalents all allow reviewers to use pseudonyms. Google+’s terms and conditions state that profile names must match«the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you».

Fake reviews

In October, Google announced there were more than 700,000 apps in its store.With so many to choose from, many consumers base their picks on whether the software has a high star rating and the number of people who have reviewed it. One industry watcher said this had given developers an incentive to «game» the results. «It’s very easy to have apps that have nothing but fake high-scoring reviews,» Mark Mulligan, editor of the Media Industry Blog, said,

«It’s only once many people have fallen victim to that and have added their real reviews that the tactic stops working. This is definitely a good move in solving the problem.» Ian Wharton, creative director of Zolmo – the firm behind Jamie Oliver’s 20 Minute Meals app – also welcomed Google’s change in policy.

Posts now identify the reviewer, while earlier ones simply say they were posted by A Google User. «We’ve seen companies release an app and then hundreds of their own employees end up rating them, which is a very disingenuous way to go about things.

«It’s a good thing that there’s now a face and a name. App stores are becoming so saturated with content that any effort to strip away falseness and make them more transparent can only make it easier to find good content.

«If Apple did something similar it could only make our life better.»

Social network support

The move may help the fortunes of Google’s social network, Android is the most commonly used smartphone system. Device owners had previously needed a Google Account to download apps from its store and use some of its other services – but this had not involved setting up a Google+ profile.

They now have an extra incentive to do so. It follows an earlier announcement that Google had decided to allow users to link their YouTube and Google+ profiles.

«Facebook is still clearly the dominant social network player, but Google+ does have momentum and there is plenty to suggest it could make up a lot of further ground,» said Mr Mulligan.

«One of the key tools Google has to its advantage is all the bits of its own ecosystem – it can promote the service by making it the glue that binds together all of its assets.»

He noted that this kind of move represented a growing trend, with another example being the way Microsoft had tied its Xbox Live product into its new Windows Phone 8 operating system via its Xbox Music Store.

However, companies need to be careful about the extent to which they cross-pollinate their offerings.

The EU is already carrying out an investigation into the Google’s placing of its services in its own search results, and reports suggest US watchdog the Federal Trade Commission is considering its own probe.Google has denied manipulating the results to favour its own products

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Christian Johannesen

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