CTIA - The Wireless Association and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board have announced a new ratings system for mobile apps, and chances are you'll probably never see it. The new system, which apes the ESRB's video game ratings system, rates apps based on the age-appropriateness of their content. Games deemed appropriate for all ages will receive an Everyone rating, while games with mature content will receive a Mature.
The problem with this new ratings system? Neither Apple or Google, the curators of the two most widely used app stores, are supporting it. According to Bloomberg, Google decided not to participate in the ESRB ratings system, because its Android Market already has a ratings system in place and thinks, "it's best for Android users and developers to stick with Android's existing ratings." Apple, which also has its own content ratings system in place for its iTunes App Store, had no comment.
Content providers who are supporting the ESRB system include Mircosoft, which has a pre-existing relationship with the ESRB through its Xbox 360; AT&T; Verizon Wireless; T-Mobile; Sprint; and U.S. Cellular Corp. Apps are assigned ratings through a multiple choice questionnaire that developers fill out when they submit their app to a participating app store. The questionnaire is designed to determine the age-appropriateness of apps based on any included violence or sexual content, as well as the exchange users' personal information and location tracking.
The purpose of the CTIA and ESRB's approach is to provide consumers with a consistent ratings system across multiple platforms. The reason ESRB's video game ratings system took off in the first place was because of widespread participation by console makers and game developers. Without the support of Google and Apple, its hard to see the ESRB gaining any real traction in the app market.