Mobile App Rating System Readied for Year’s End
CTIA, an industry trade group for wireless telecoms, has announced that a mobile app rating system it has been developing will be available by the end of this year. Age-appropriate ratings will be assigned based on developer advice and integrated into most app stores, including the granddaddy of them all, iTunes.
The new app ratings aim to help parents decide if certain apps are appropriate for their children. In style and substance, the ratings will follow those already adopted for movies, TV shows, music and video games.
The initiative has gained support from some of the biggest players in the mobile industry. Apple, AT&T, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular & Verizon Wireless are all on board, according to Amy Storey, director for public affairs at CTIA.
"This is a win for the industry and consumers because the end result is more information and common content rating tier types across all participating storefronts," Storey told TechNewsDaily.
New restrictions on ‘Restricted’ content
Currently, the association sorts carrier content into just two categories: Restricted and Generally Accessible.
As long as content does not contain "intense profanity, intense violence, nudity, hate speech or graphic depictions of sexual activity, sexual behaviors, illegal drug use or any activities that are restricted by law to those 18 years of age or older such as gambling," it gets the Generally Accessible badge.
The new system, however, will break down the generally – and perhaps too broadly – accessible content into age categories.
Apps with restricted content will still be labeled as such and will be subject to additional distribution limitations. The CTIA program will prohibit app makers from releasing restricted content until controls are available that allow parents to bar access.
Daunting for developers
The CTIA-designed system might be adopted for use within existing systems, Storey said.
With more than 800,000 apps available from numerous stores on at least 11 different operating systems, the work ahead may be daunting for developers.
But once the information about the app's content is submitted, the system is designed to automatically generate an age-appropriate rating.
Android ahead of the game
Google launched a parental rating system in its Android Market at the end of last year. App developers must select one of four ratings – All, Pre-Teen, Teen or Mature – before they can submit apps to the Market.
Although Google's guidelines are similar to CTIA's regarding what constitutes restricted content, Google's policy is to remove apps that contain content that could be construed as too mature, as such, for some audiences.
By way of further example, apps that ask for a user's location cannot receive an "Everyone" rating in the Android Market.
iTunes does not have a rating system in its App Store , but has strict policies on content that Apple deems inappropriate. Unlike Google, Apple vets apps before allowing them to go on sale for Apple's mobile devices. Apple, as noted, will integrate the CTIA system when it becomes available at the end of 2011.