Google links Google+ profiles to Google Play reviews, hopes to make comments more trustworthy.
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In an effort to clean up the Google Play "cesspool," Google has begun requiring Android users who wish to comment on content in the Google Play online store to do so under their Google+ profiles.
Attempting to submit an app review to Google Play using a Google Nexus 7, for example, presents the following menu dialog: "Google Play is now connected with Google+ to help you find reviews you trust. New reviews will be posted publicly using your Google+ name and picture. Your name on previous reviews will appear as 'A Google User.'"
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It was RIM VP of developer relations Alec Saunders who back in April referred to Android Market -- which had been renamed Google Play a month earlier -- as a "chaotic cesspool." But it isn't only rivals like RIM and Apple that have criticized Google Play for being too open. Android developers offering content through Google Play have objected to the damage that can be done by Internet trolls, those in the habit of leaving unconstructive, mean-spirited comments, usually under the protection of pseudonyms.
Google has been laying the groundwork to enforce more online civility since it introduced Google+ last year, through its still-contentious name policy. And in June, it took a step to hinder online trolling in Google Play by allowing its most successful developers to answer their critics.
Now Google is accelerating its push to make Google Play a more civil place by strengthening the association between individuals and their comments. However, if Google succeeds in its war on trolls, there may be unintended consequences.
Developers' ability to promote their Google Play apps by paying for positive reviews may be diminished. That may be good for app buyers but it could increase marketing expenses for app makers. In any event, it probably won't end the practice of "astroturfing" -- shady marketers will just have work harder to create fake Google+ profiles.
Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility and founder of Privacy Forum, observed in a Google+ comment that Google's insistence on accountability may hinder honest reviews. "Many people will hold back on honest assessments when identified -- not wanting to seem too critical in public -- and it also seems likely that many persons will refrain from posting useful reviews since they view their app interest/purchase patterns (which could include serious and recreational apps) as being private to their firms and/or personal information," he wrote. "I believe a combination of better crowdsourced ratings and the ability to post an anonymous review from a Google+ account would have been a better compromise approach."
What remains to be seen is whether Google will pursue a similar strategy to tame comments on YouTube, which remains something of a troll sanctuary.