An open letter to Google: Unplug Google Plus from the Play App Store

Steve Yegge was right: you guys at Google really don’t understand platform.

by Philipp Berner, KeepSafe co-founder and CTO

I was pushing a new update to our app, KeepSafe into the Google Play App Store this Tuesday (Nov. 27th), and something caught my eye. The reviews looked different. After looking in to this, I was able to figure out that App reviews in Google Play are now linked to Google Plus.

After a couple of hours I read the first news that google now made linking Google Plus into app reviews mandatory. That sounds messed up, I thought.

So I tried posting a review for an app that I haven’t rated yet. I was shocked. There is no way to post a review without having a Google Plus account.

Is anyone ever going to leave a review again? Because I’m probably not.

Look at the crappy user flow on this:
Google Play App Storefffhmbiwgn-1fffhmbiwgn-2

When you hit cancel, it does not just cancel the “account linking process”, it cancels the entire app review attempt. EPIC FAIL.

I was amazed to see that it gets even worse! There’s an authorization process with the existing Google Plus app that on my phone where I’m also already logged in. The signup process doesn’t bother to ask if one of the existing Google accounts on this phone is also my Plus account. Typing on a mobile devices sucks, so what are you thinking making every one of our KeepSafe users type their credentials onto their device when they just want to leave a review.

This is more of an epic fail than Apple trying to add “Ping” to iTunes. At least that failure tried to add FaceBook as a feature to iTunes instead of trying to prop up a failing social network by strapping it to the side of your App Store. The fact that it’s mandatory is irksome.

After 4 days of this new roll out, I still see reviews on our app from people with the name “Google user”. Users that left a review before the update. I assume that the Google Play update is not rolled out completely to all android users.

KeepSafe is lucky to already have over 300k ratings with a 5 star average on Google Play. My guess is, that this is going to be very hard for new apps to get there in the future.

Mark Zuckerberg once famously said – “Google Plus is the fastest growing social network that no one is using”. Looking on the first profiles of the people who left a review, I have to agree.

Google, you have let internal politics screw around with your user experience. This is something you would never see from Apple or any self-respecting company. Dragging Google Play down with Plus is an Epic Fail Whale.

Leaving reviews on apps is a core function of an app store. It drives the ecosystem and tells users which apps they can trust. Making Google Plus mandatory is a pretty hard barrier to enter the review system that has no purpose. It doesn’t even benefit Google, since the user experience is so horrible. It just makes people hate Google Plus even more than they already do. It screws with the person who writes the review, the people who read  reviews, and App Developers.

Please make Google Plus accounts for leaving app reviews optional.
If you argee on this please leave your email address so we can let the Google team know that this was not a good idea.

Leave email HERE and make sure to follow KeepSafe on Twitter.

18 comments

  1. I don’t see why this is such a big deal, give it time, the dots are being connected…

  2. Gonzalez · · Reply

    There were already numerous difficulties in the usage of Android such as having to have a Google Account just to be able to install an app.

    While using my Android smartphone this summer, I was guessing worse things might come up, and this is one of those; a horrible one.

    FirefoxOS might be the solution against such nuisances.

  3. GetMyNameAtGooglePlus · · Reply

    Yes, it’s going to be very difficult for app developers to stuff the review boxes with fake reviews from their developers or PR teams now that Google Plus is required, and it’ll be more difficult for trolls to whine in their 1-star reviews that “doesn’t work on X model.”

    As a developer, you should be happy you have an avenue to reach out to users who do post their problems and ensure their satisfaction. The only reason a dev wouldn’t be is because they somehow fear having to put their real names to review. “User flow” and other similar excuses (seriously, half of this post is griping about Google Plus and how difficult it is to sign up for it, when in reality once you’ve done that once you can post to your heart’s content) are strawman distractions from the point. You even ask people to leave their email addresses to bolster your point – when Google Plus reviews at Google Play would give you exactly the same opportunity to reach out to your community.

    If Google+ means that there are higher quality reviews at Play even if there are *fewer* reviews (and certainly less useless reviews and hopefully NO dev review stacking – so we don’t have to hear crap like “look at our 300k reviews with 5 stars!” anymore) overall, I’m all for it.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. We feel (obviously) really strong about this.

      I don’t think your first arguments about having your developer friends and PR teams post reviews. The reason is that it will make the same as much sense as before to have these people leave a review, as the avg. user who is downloading your app has no idea who the other person is (even with a photo) and because you don’t even get from the Play app to the Google Plus account of that person.

      The X model reviews turned out to be very helpful for us. I’d rather have them anonymous and frequent then with a real identity and very few. Especially in the beginning when I publish a new app and there are barely users, I want to lower the barrier to leave a review like this.

      Of course every service is easy to use once you signed up. But we also all know how few people sign up for something, especially when there is no reward for them.

      We ask people their email address so that they can receive a PIN reminder in case they forget it. This is part of the product and not for a outreach to them. We make it very simple in the app to send is a support request (we get around 500 per day of those) when they have a problem.

      We will see if google+ mean higher quality reviews. Where I’m pretty sure it will be less, meaning also less feedback from your users (== less visibility)

  4. Picasa and Picasa Web also suffered when the mandatory Google+-ization took place.

  5. “Google, you have let internal politics screw around with your user experience. This is something you would never see from Apple or any self-respecting company. ”

    yeah, like *chuckle*maps*chuckle*youtube* ahem :)

  6. Menachem Begin · · Reply

    I hate Google+. It’s a massive privacy fail. Any photo I’ve posted to any private or anonymous blog over the past decade is suddenly is featured on my Google+ page. Yeah thanks. Like I want to spend six weeks sorting that mess out.

    Utter disgusting fail. Worse than Facebook.

    1. Sounds like BS or even more, PEBKAC.

  7. agirlwhovaluesprivacy · · Reply

    i will never leave another review if it’s tied to Google plus. it’s a huge invasion of privacy as it allows people top track the types of things you are into and what you’re doing with your devices

  8. All I hear is “whine whine whine”….. Accountability, that’s the problem here. If people aren’t accountable they bullshit apps because “why not”. If they are; they don’t!

    And I’m always amazed when people use the ol’ “G+ is dead” argument…. for a dead network my stream updates bloody fast…..

    1. @SamuelHart, thanks for this, this thread was needing a reality check

    2. Anonymous coward · · Reply

      This is not about accountability, that is a boldfaced lie, and everybody except the spying big brothers know it. It is about violating every form of privacy that we have as a basic human right, just so Google can TRY to make a few dollars more.

      There is no valid excuse for what Google just did, and they should be massively punished.

  9. I absolutely agree that the two should be kept separate, Philipp, and thank you for posting this. I refuse to join Google Plus. It feels like Google is trying to coerce me into joining their social network: I shouldn’t have to be a part of it in order to use the Android store – they are two separate entities with two different functions. It’s ridiculous, and, if I don’t join, it effectively silences users like me. Not cool at all, Google.

    1. Well I for one don’t want a Google plus account. In don’t use face book either. Soooo I will just no longer leave feedback for any app I download. Problem solved.

  10. [...] another side to the story. Apparently, to rate and review Android apps on Google play, you have to have a Google Plus account. That would definitely explain some of this growth for [...]

  11. I don’t use Google plus and am so annoyed that I can’t review without it. I opened a Google plus account , found it to be useless to me . Very few people I connect with are on it so I cancelled it. I will never have the opportunity to leave another review for an app. I don’t like there privacy options and I shouldn’t be forced into letting people know my name and device and location. Its going to be no good for the app developers either. They won’t get as many reviews , and just cause you have your name on it doesn’t mean its trustworthy and reliable. Just another way of trying to get more details out of me so they can shove more marketing in my face :-(

  12. Spike Robinson · · Reply

    Totally agree. So far Google+ has been harmless as long as I never used it. Now it is DEEMED HARMFUL. Reviewing an app – a social good, that helps the world and helps Google – is now a privacy violation that harms *me*. And Google forces me to put my *picture* up there too? What ever happened to “do no evil”? This is an Epic Fail even on Google’s own terms.

    1. Spike Robinson · · Reply

      Other posters mention authenticated reviews. Fine. How about making that an *option* rather than mandatory. Then you can gather stats separately for non authenticated, and/or weight authenticated reviews higher. How about “authenticated but anonymous”?

      This is an attempted privacy ream to try to bolster their “who cares” social network. They have divided support even from app publishers, the only ones who might gain (though I would agree they lose more than they gain). From a user perspective, it’s an unvarnished “lose”. And I already have a Google+ account, so I am not bitching about the lousy user flow; It’s the privacy, stupid.

      Sadly, Google just do not get user privacy. It’s inimical to their business model – or so they naively think – and it’s just not in their business model.

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