announced this afternoon that it will add a new voluntary App Rating System to its list of industry guidelines. Participating app stores will allow parents to block access by children to apps rated suitable for adults only. It seems likely that new adult apps will thus be made available as well. From the sacred to the profane, effective content ratings and guidelines could create a safe haven for all kinds of new apps and commerce to flourish.The CTIA Wireless Association
No such ratings system has been built yet, but the organization announced today the availability of a Request for Proposals for outside vendors to build it. The guiding principle will be that app creators will submit information about the contents of their apps at the time of submission to participating app stores and then the ratings would be applied automatically. No list of which app stores will participate is available yet, but the organization's membership includes both Apple and Google, among many others.
CTIA uses the number 800,000 to reference the large number of apps at issue. That's substantially higher than the number of apps included if you add up the iTunes and Android Marketplace numbers together (that would be 500,000). In other words, it seems that the organization is hoping or presuming that Google and Apple will participate. It seems unlikely that the system would be announced without some favorable consultation of those two most relevant members of the association.
This Could Get Complicated
While a system intended to protect childeren by offering app ratings sounds like a good idea, it also sounds like it could become complicated. Voluntary ratings could prove ineffective, for one thing. The line between what's appropriate or innapropriate for children is also a subjective one. Wherever the line gets drawn regarding innapropriate content, you can probably expect someone to protest it.
Dirty dirty apps don't seem like a big problem today, either. Perhaps that's just because there's no way to keep the kids safe so they all get nuked from iTunes. It seems likely that app producers and marketplaces would like to draw a line in order to cash in on apps that are on the other side of it.
The industry may also be creating voluntary parental control ratings proactively in order to pre-empt a non-voluntary, independent ratings system created by government or other parties.
Crazy Days Are Over?
In seperate but realted news, members of the US Congress today asked Apple to remove from its app store crowd-sourced traffic tracking apps that allowed users to alert eachother to the location of drunk-driving police check-points.
In as much as it's been a self-policed Wild West out there in app land so far, those days may soon come to an end. Where there is rule of law, they say, there can be scalable commerce.