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Fixing the Microsoft App Store: A Better App Certification Appeals Process

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The Microsoft App Store has an app certification problem and we propose to fix it.

We appreciate how Microsoft works well with others; hence the heart leading this post. But, Microsoft App Store has a problem app certification apps and we propose to fix it.

Generally, the problem ariseswhen an app is refused certification for the Store. The route of appeal is an email to Frequently, these emails receive no reply beyond an automated acknowledgement of receipt. There is no apparent tracking, status, or accountability.

Findability is a key advantage of the Microsoft App Store.

Microsoft is harmed when its developer partners cannot get their problems addressed. When support performance is measured as 'issues closed,' for tough problems that take time and thought, the incentive is to ignore, skip, and move on to low-hanging-fruit. We have encountered several such problems with Store support and part of this post outlines one such example.

To be clear, we have received support from good people at Microsoft App Store Certification; Jason, Alex, and others have been responsive. But responses are generalliy slow and while you wait, weeks sometimes, there is no visibilty into the process and whether any response will be forthcoming.

The purpose of Microsoft Windows, Word, Teams, SharePoint are crystal clear from their names. Excel, Azure have opaque names. But for millions in marketing dollars you would have no idea what those apps do. We believe to make your app findable, its name should say what it does.

Google treats web pages this way. Write a blog post on “Coding throughout the day” better make that the title and not “The many moods of your keyboard.” The former better indexes making your page easily findable.

we have received support from good people at Microsoft App Store Certification

The same holds for your app in the Microsoft Store. If your app acts in support of another platform, you want to do better than describe that connection in the few paragraphs that the customer will skip as they search for a solution. You want an app’s title to clearly state the platform it supports.

But Microsoft bans the use of third-party product names in App titles; see Product Policies, 10.1.1 (bullet #3) “Your product title or name must be unique and must not contain marketing or descriptive text, including extraneous use of keywords.” However, fair use of tradmarks “permits use of another’s trademark to refer to the trademark owner’s goods and services associated with the mark.”

We have run afoul of this inconsistently applied rule. And yet here is a list Microsoft Store Apps very reasonably using third-party product names in their titles:

To Microsoft’s credit they have their policies open for revision on GitHub. Accordingly we have proposed a change and have opened a pull request with our trademark permissive edit allowing third-party names when italicized and accompanied by disclaimers citing the trademark owner. That request and our associated conversation have been unaddressed for two weeks.

But there is a bigger problem. A Q&A posting, a help request to Stackoverflow closed for not being code-centric, and of course several messages to have been fruitless. Currently, when an app is refused certification, the only option is to send an email to, and often, these emails receive no response beyond an automated acknowledgement. The problem is accountability.

The Store will improve rapidly when Partners are engaged in setting Store policy.

The Microsoft App Store is facing a challenge with the certification of apps, and it is crucial to their partners that they improve this process. The problem is partly in the appeal process when an app is refused certification. Further, the Store will improve rapidly when Partners are engaged in setting Store policy just as opening the Microsoft frameworks to contributions on GitHub has advanced those platforms. In addition to open software, Microsoft needs an open Store where Partners can raise issues, track them, and all parties can be held accountable for the results.

For our issue with app certification, we propose:

To the deeper question of how to open the Store, we additionally propose:

  1. Support performance must be measured by the satisfaction of the Partner so that tough problems are addressed and not ignored.
  2. The certification appeal process needs to provide a more structured and accountable system, with tracking and status updates.
  3. Store policy and practices must be open to and include Partner input. Current Microsoft practice of putting its code and documentation up on GitHub is an excellent model.
Proof of success will occur when a cooperatively, restrictions on app titles are relaxed to allow the use of third-party product names in app titles, making it easier for customers to find the app they are looking for.

With these changes, Microsoft and its partners will make the Microsoft App Store more attractive to its Partners by improving app findability and Partner trust and engagement.