Change in Google Play Reviews

It’s a short while that Google has forced users to have a Google+ account in order to put reviews. Personally it is not a long time I am using Google+. I have always had an account eversince it came to existence. However, I almost never used it.

The first day I found out about this change was when I saw all comments on Hungry Slimes had changed name to “A Google User” along with a blueish avatar. In the beginning I didn’t know what this means. To find out, I opened Google Play app on my phone and went to one of my favorite apps to put a review. There was when I got the pop-up message to say from now on all reviews will be from my Google+ account.

Reviewer Comment

I found this kind of interesting. Now everyone had to have an identity to be able to put reviews. As a developer this could be a good thing for me. Now I could have direct contact with reviewers to see what their concerns are. Of course his is assuming they accept me into their circles and allow me to message them. But at least there is a link! Other than that, this could mitigate fake reviews to a high extent. So legitimate reviews, contact opportunities, all good.

But soon I found out the dark side of it. The same thing I was happy about is actually a concern to many. Even to myself I have to say. Looking at reddit and other networks and listening to what people were talking about, I found many of their concerns right!

The truth is, I don’t want to be blackmailed and otherwise offended because of a bad review I might write for an app. If I write a review, I want to remain anonymous and just pass a message. I don’t want to reveal my identity to everyone that might see the app. My Google+ page has my real name and information. As much as I like to share this information with people I know, I don’t want others to see my personal information.

Having to have a Google+ account is another point people are complaining about. This is of course not my concern as I have always had one. But many have to actually create one to continue putting comments. There is rumour in social media that Google has done this to attract attention to Google+ and increase the number of accounts there. I don’t completely agree with that, but I can also see why people think that way.

Have a look here to see what people are saying on Android subreddit.

Benefits

There are of course good points about this change. This may boost the quality of reviews, as bullies can no longer put their reviews freely. A reviewer can be investigated and assessed by readers before their review is taken for granted. To list the benefits:

  • Users are less likely to put unthoughtful reviews. It is a speed-bump according to this.
  • You can view the reviewer’s profile to see how reliable his reviews are. You can find out a lot about them in their profile! So if somebody creates a new Google+ account just to drop the ratings of an app or spit his anger, readers will know easily. The same happens when somebody just puts good reviews for an app that doesn’t deserve it.
  • Reputation comes into play. Reviewers now have identities and can be a good source of information for others. You can follow good reviewers to see what they think about apps

Concerns

As a result of this change, many refuse to put reviews for the above points, and I think this will not be any good for the eco-system in Google Play, and as a developer I am highly concerned about this. To give a summary of concerns I have to write:

For Reviewers

  • Possibility of offensive reactions from the developer
  • Exposure of real identity to people they don’t even know
  • Exposure of their reviews and ideas to people they know!
  • Having to have a Google+ account – “who goes that far… I’ll pass!”

For Developers

  • People are too cautious now to put reviews
  • Users don’t bother to create Google+ accounts
  • Drastic decrease in the number of reviews
  • Out-weight of bad reviews as a result of the lack of new ones. So improvements may no longer be that rewarding for them.

While this new change might have solved some problems, it has introduced so many concerns that I think Google should address as soon as possible. With other shortcomings such as lack of app verification which in many cases makes users wary to trust apps, this can further discourage developers and users to work in this environment. I think introducing some kind of anonymity while keeping the identity verification provided by a Google+ account might be a way to deal with this problem.