updated 10:00 pm EST, Tue November 29, 2011
ESRB-backed plan would have unified ratings
A plan introduced by the Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association (CTIA) to issue a rating system for mobile app has met with apathy by the two largest players in the industry, Apple and Google -- both of whom have chosen not to implement it. The ratings, which would be operated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), would evaluate games on violence and sexual content and rated with age-appropriate groupings.
CTIA has pushed for the ratings system, saying it prevents "unnecessary government regulation" and would unify ratings across providers. Both Apple and Google currently have their own rating systems, and have not seen wide complaints about the ratings. The ESRB system would start with an "early childhood" label and progress up the scale to "Adults Only (18+)." Apple in particular has tried to be vigilant about keeping overly-suggestive material off its curated App Store.
A Google spokesperson expressed confidence in the current Android ratings system, while an Apple representative declined to comment on the CTIA proposal. Microsoft, AT&T and Verizon have agreed to use the ESRB rankings in their own app stores. The program requires that developers answer a questionnaire about the app to be rated, looking at the amount of violence, adult content and the use of social network connectivity or location data. Once the questionnaire is submitted, the rating is issued in a matter of seconds. A developer can appeal a rating if they don't agree with it.
Some in Congress have expressed concern that the mobile app industry and its ratings are not regulated, meaning different companies are free to assign their own "ratings" to their products without third-party review. The lobbying group Common Sense favors an independent panel to evaluate and rate apps before they are released, but with the staggering growth rate of the mobile app market may make the idea untenable.
Apple's App Store sports over 500,000 apps and is expected to continue growing, both in app count and revenue.