Apps Now Required to Have Content Ratings

Scott DeVaney

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Today we have a guest post from Kevin Ngo, one of the fine engineers on our Firefox Marketplace team. Via his personal blog, Kevin recently wrote about his experiences integrating the new International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system into Marketplace. This content rating system will help users more easily identify age appropriate apps.

Before we dive into Kevin’s mind, app developers please take note: April 15 is the deadline to get your content IARC rated or it will be removed from Firefox Marketplace! To learn more about the super simple process of obtaining your IARC rating, go here.

And with that, take it away, Kevin………

Our little webapp marketplace is growing up so quickly. Over the last past two and a half months, robhudson and I have been working with the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to integrate their new IARC system into the Firefox Marketplace. IARC is a framework that unifies multiple age rating systems respective to different countries to make it simpler for content creators to obtain a content rating for their products.

For those not familiar with age-based content ratings, they are most popularly known for their use in games and movies, such as Rated M for Mature for Violence or Suitable for Ages 13 and Up. Firefox Marketplace has become the first app store to implement IARC, and as such it was a bit of a new experience for both parties.

For some background, Firefox OS launched in Brazil and Germany in late 2013. Brazil and Germany have strict and legal age rating requirements for digitally-distributed games, with laws requiring self-rating through an approved age rating system (i.e. CLASSIND for Brazil or USK for Germany). Our Marketplace, in order to list the games in those regions, had to display content ratings for those apps. Before implementing IARC, we built a temporary system that allowed our app reviewers to manually enter content ratings for individual games that were only applicable to Brazil and Germany. Now with IARC, developers can obtain content ratings on their own which are applicable to all regions.

Developers are led from Marketplace through an IARC portal where they can fill out a yes/no questionnaire that inquires about the content of their app (e.g. Does it contain violence?, Crude humor?). Although the app is self-rated, IARC will occasionally do spot-checks and manually update the rating. Marketplace app reviewers may also spot any inconsistencies between the app’s rating and content.

Upon filling out the form, developers are redirected back to Marketplace where their content rating will be registered to their app by both Marketplace and IARC. If the developer ever releases his app on another storefront, the rating would conveniently follow that product. When people visit their app’s details page on Marketplace, they’ll be able to read all about the its content rating.

We organized development in this Bugzilla tracking bug. Throughout development, ESRB has been very responsive with communication, in making sure our system was correctly implemented and in ironing out bugs on their side. Currently, the IARC supports the ESRB, PEGI, CLASSIND, and USK rating systems. More will likely follow.

Geo-Targeting: Keeping Developers in the Driver’s Seat

Jenny

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Geographical targeting—allowing developers to choose where their apps are available—puts the developer in the driver’s seat, and Mozilla believes that’s the right road to take.

It’s the developers’ content, and they should be able to choose what they want to do with it. The circumstance of political, legal, and geographic boundaries and of monetary exchange complexities is the reality today and in the foreseeable future. Developers have to work within this context, and we believe in supporting the often unique and nuanced needs of regional developers everywhere.

Today, about 15 to 20 percent of Firefox OS app developers take advantage of geo-targeting. That’s not a large percentage, but it’s significant enough for us to want to address their concerns.

Here are just some of the reasons developers prefer to control the geographic availability of their apps:

  • Licensing or geographical restrictions limit a developer’s rights to distribute content within an app (e.g., videos or characters in a game), and thus she is unable to list her app on the Firefox Marketplace unless she can limit distribution to specific countries.
  • An app is a paid app. (The Firefox Marketplace currently only facilitates payments in certain regions.)
  • An app is relevant only to certain regions, and the developer doesn’t wish to provide language and/or other support for customers elsewhere.
  • A developer is concerned about legal matters, such as liability for copyright infringement, for user-generated content within the app.
  • A developer is concerned about political, censorship, and/or privacy issues within certain countries and doesn’t wish to distribute to those areas.
  • A developer may have maps for different regions in different languages, and due to the size, it’s preferable to divide them up and target certain regions.

A few intriguing hyper-local apps you’ll find on Firefox Marketplace include:

On a related note: We also plan to give hyper-local communities a voice in choosing “Featured Apps” that are best suited for their region. (Stay tuned for more on this.)

Speaking of the driver’s seat, if you’re going to Mobile World Congress  (24-27 February in Barcelona), cruise on over to Mozilla’s booth to see some of the hyper-local apps we’ll be featuring.

Valentine’s Night on the Town? Take Our Apps Along!

Jenny

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You’ve mustered the courage to ask that special someone out. Now, you need to plan a fun night on the town. Why not download a few apps from Firefox Marketplace to help make it a night to remember?

First, check the weather. An outdoor concert in a downpour won’t make a good first impression. F&C provides current weather conditions as well as a forecast for up to three days. You can view the temperature in either Fahrenheit or Celsius (F&C: Get it?), and the app changes colors dynamically to express current conditions.

If you’re struggling to decide what to do, Hot Trends lets you see what people are searching for around the world, so you can get a sense of the local zeitgeist. Once you decide where to go, use Easy Taxi to get around.

If it looks like rain, a restaurant is a safer bet than that outdoor concert. Yelp is great for checking out restaurant reviews, but we have many other apps, too: Depending on your location and language, try kekanto or foodfindr. Then look for restaurant discounts with Offerum. (Thrifty and romantic aren’t mutually exclusive, right?) Tip Calculator is another handy tool.

What about after dinner? If your friend likes movies, Joblo will help you do your homework: Find movie news, commentary, and previews, so you’re up on the latest.

There’s nothing like humor to break the tension on a first date. So, come prepared with a few jokes from 9GAG and Chistes. And if things are going well, throw your date a digital kiss with Flying Kiss.

If you take any pics, use PhotoFunia to add effects and create a collage to commemorate the evening. Finally, if you’re not sure about the chemistry between the two of you, French Love Test will come to the rescue.

No need to thank us; we’re glad to help—and don’t forget to check out Firefox Marketplace for apps to improve all your social engagements!

LINE Lands on Firefox Marketplace

Scott DeVaney

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LINE's ridiculously adorable character lineup.

LINE’s ridiculously adorable character lineup.

Since its debut in the summer of 2011, LINE has found a formula for success in the very crowded field of messaging apps. In less than three years, LINE has attracted over 340 million users in 230 countries.

What’s the trick? LINE has struck upon a brilliant balance of easy-to-use messaging services—free phone and video calls, group chat, buddy lists, “Shake It!” feature to add friends, and more—along with a catalog of great social games and sticker packs featuring original and unbearably cute characters.

It’s ironic then, to say the least, that an app associated with such fun characters and positive social activities started under a most inauspicious beginning—in the aftermath of the Japan’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The disaster knocked out significant portions of Japan’s communications infrastructure. The need for a reliable, internet-based communication system became instantly critical. In response, Japanese engineers from the Naver Corporation (formerly known as NHN Japan Corporation) rapidly developed LINE and debuted it just three months later.

And now LINE is available to Firefox OS users. The initial version of LINE on Firefox OS includes 1:1 messaging, group chat, photo sharing, and a scaled down sticker pack. LINE plans to continue to develop and expand its feature set for Firefox OS users over time. Check it out today and let us know what you think!

LINE02

HTML5 Momentum: Vimeo and More

Jenny

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HTML5 is kicking off 2014 with a few tips of the hat in its direction—from adoption by Vimeo to more industry predictions for HTML5 traction and growth.

Vimeo

On January 7, Vimeo announced the debut of a completely rebuilt player—one that automatically defaults to HTML5.

“Tremendous work went into developing the latest version of our player, and we’re excited to take a leading role in support of open web standards by defaulting to HTML5,” said Vimeo Chief Technology Officer Andrew Pile.

Because the new player uses HTML5, it will be fully compatible with all types of browsers on mobile, tablet, and desktop.

And Vimeo’s not the only company to see the benefits of HTML5. A recent HTML5 Report article says that HTML5 is “gaining steam” in mobile app developments. It cites a recent BI Intelligence report indicating that more mobile developers have begun to rely on HTML5 as their main development platform (as of July 2013).

Industry predictions

Other industry observers have some good things to say about HTML5 in the coming year, too.

Gartner, in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends For 2014, predicts that through 2014, improved JavaScript performance will push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment.

In addition, CNBC predicts that in 2014, HTML5 will gain traction as a leading option to develop custom enterprise apps that are compatible with multiple device types. Using an amalgam of HTML, CSS, and Javascript, web developers can create highly interactive, yet economical, web applications (accessible online and offline) for today’s tech-savvy business user, CNBC notes.

At Mozilla, we’ve never been shy about touting the benefits of HTML5. We extend a tip of our hat, too!

 

3 Keys to Writing Effective App Copy

Scott DeVaney

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copywritingSo, you’ve just developed an amazing app. It’s incredible. A game changer. Maybe even disruptive (ugh, sorry). Anyway, the internet is gonna freak out when they see this thing.

Now comes the tricky part… marketing.

There are many facets to successful app marketing. Today we’ll focus on one of the most basic, yet overlooked, aspects of giving your app a good shot at success: the app description.

We’re talking about the copy that appears on your app’s landing page on Firefox Marketplace (or any app store for that matter). This is your chance to pitch your app to prospective installers. They clicked on your app to get to its details page, so they’re obviously interested. They want to know more about it. Here’s where you tell folks why your app is worth their time, memory space, data usage, and possibly money.

Here are three fundamental rules to follow when crafting app copy:

1. The first sentence means everything. Don’t waste time getting to the hook. Let people know why your app deserves their attention right away. This can be a simple statement of what your app does (if it does something unique), or a detailing of how it does something distinctly different (e.g. there are a lot of calculator apps; how is yours different?).

2. Less is more. Your app is your baby, and like a lot of proud parents you have difficulty resisting the urge to drivel on and on about your precious little bundle of joy. But 100% of the time, nobody cares as much about your kids as you do. Respect your audience’s time. Cut to the chase. Only mention what is critical about your app, and not a word more.

3. Find someone capable to proof your copy. Poor grammar and spelling is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, coding is your language of choice. So find a trusted friend, family member, or colleague who has some level of comfort with the written word to look over your copy for glaring mistakes. A dumb typo can undo otherwise brilliant work.

Now, let’s illustrate these points with a simple test case… Let’s say we’ve just created an app that turns a Firefox OS device into a jetpack. That’s pretty sweet! I think people would download that!

Jetpackr. This Firefox OS app is going places!

Jetpackr. This Firefox OS app is going places!

Our app is called Jetpackr. Below we have an example of BAD copy for Jetpackr, and then we have GOOD copy.

BAD Jetpackr copy

With surprisingly intuitive UI, responsive touch controls, and efficient use of your phones battery life, Jetpackr is like no app you’ve ever experienced. Download it for free today and find out why everyone is talking about Jetpackr! You’ll be glad you did. Irregardless of whether rush hour traffic is driving you crazy, or maybe you just want to spice up you’re trips to the mall, Jetpackr is the game-changing app that transforms your Firefox OS phone into a fully functional jetpack.

Why this copy doesn’t work:

    Everyone likes nice UI and touch controls, but these are complementary components to an app—not central to its primary experience (flying!). The opening sentence basically says nothing of real value to the discerning user.
    The copy focuses on non-specific statements like, “Jetpackr is like no app you’ve ever experienced,” “You’ll be glad you did,” and “find out why everyone is talking about Jetpackr.” Empty phrases like this don’t lend an air of mystery to our app—they just confuse people.
    “phones battery life” should have a possessive apostrophe “phone’s battery life”… “Irregardless” isn’t a real word… and “you’re trips to the mall” should be “your trips to the mall”… with such poor attention to detail I’m starting to wonder if I should trust this developer with my life.

GOOD Jetpackr copy

Turn your Firefox OS phone into a jetpack. With surprisingly simple touch controls, you’ll be soaring with the birds in no time. Download Jetpackr for free today.

Why this copy works:

    The lead sentence directly conveys the app’s core appeal.
    It correlates peripheral elements— in this case, simple UI and touch controls—to the app’s core appeal (“you’ll be flying in no time”).
    It’s short and to the point. The reader clearly understands exactly what this app will do for them.

If you have a lot of app features you’d like to detail, no problem. It usually works well to break those out into bullet points below your primary intro paragraph. Just make sure your opening paragraph is as enticing as it can be, lest your readers never make it to the bullet points.

I hope these copywriting tips have been helpful. Happy app marketing, friends!

Editor’s Note: Have you created a remarkable app on Firefox Marketplace? Drop us a line at editor@mozilla.com and let us know about it—maybe we’ll feature your work!

Hey, developers—We’re accelerating the evolution of Firefox OS for tablets. You interested?

Jenny

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If you’re enjoying seeing your apps on mobile phones, it won’t be long before they can appear on tablets, too!

If you follow Firefox news, you may have seen the recent announcement about a new Firefox OS contribution program aimed at accelerating the development of Firefox OS for tablets and the supporting ecosystem.

The plan is to provide dedicated contributors with access to resources and reference hardware, initially with tablets from Foxconn. We have to make the hardware available before the software is final, to make it possible for contributors around the world to help us complete the build of Firefox OS for tablets.

This is a logical extension of Mozilla’s strategy and philosophy.

“Our goal is to give users more choice and control in their online lives and to give developers freedom to build and distribute software however they want,” explained Mozilla COO Jay Sullivan in a recent Engadget interview at CES.

The program is aimed at developers who want to work with Firefox OS, Firefox OS localizers, and testers/bug fixers. Here’s how it will work:

  • The program will start in the coming weeks, when we will share more details about how contributors can apply to receive a reference tablet.
  • We will work together to complete the tablet version of Firefox OS.
  • We will provide guidance on where we need contributions to complete the tablet version of Firefox OS.
  • Nightly builds will be offered for developers to keep up to date.
  • All program details will be posted on the Mozilla Hacks blog in the coming weeks.

“Once we have completed work on Firefox OS for tablets with the help of this contribution program, we’ll get ready to share it with the world,” said Asa Dotzler, director of Firefox OS Participation.

So stay tuned for more updates on how to get involved in the program!

Some of this information comes from Asa Dotzler’s recent post on the Mozilla Hacks blog and this recent Mozilla announcement.

 

New Year’s Resolutions? We have an app for that!

Jenny

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It’s January—the time of year many people establish New Year’s resolutions. On the Firefox Marketplace, we have an app for that. (We have several, actually.)

If you’re an aficionado of this tradition, chances are that at least one of your resolutions is health-related. If so, you’re not alone.

Sadly, the optimism (or determination) with which we set these goals often fades. In fact, research from Scranton University (described in this Forbes article) suggests that just 8 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually achieve their goals.

That research focuses on Americans, only. (Perhaps the rest of the world is better at keeping resolutions?)

What if you had an app or two to help you with your health-related resolutions? No matter where you are, or how successful—or not—you’ve been in the past, you might find that an app is just the thing to help you keep up with all those good January intentions.

Check out some of these free apps on the Firefox Marketplace:

BloodPressureDB helps you chart your blood pressure quickly and easily. Keep it for your own reference, or share it with your doctor.

wger Workout Manager helps you manage your exercises and workouts as well as weight and diet plans.

Run Recorder, a GPS-based app, displays information to help you keep track of your activity, such as elapsed time, distance traveled, your average pace and current speed.

Cuerpo sano (in Spanish) provides information on various teas and other infusions, food, sports, meditation and more.

Personal Trainer offers cross-fit, weight training and yoga workouts at different levels (beginners, intermediates, etc.).

Check out these and many other apps in the Health & Fitness section on the Firefox Marketplace.

If you like these, be sure to share your thoughts by rating them!

MessageMe Delivers Rich Multimedia Messaging

Scott DeVaney

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MessageMe_blogpostClassic text messaging is already a tech relic. We expect more from basic messaging. We expect a full multimedia experience. MessageMe from Littleinc Labs provides a fun (and data economical) way to share not only text messages, but pics, videos, GIFs, stickers, group chats, and more—even your own digital doodles!

MessageMe also represents the first OTT (“over the top”) messaging app to land on Firefox Marketplace. OTT basically means messages are sent via wifi or cellular service, as opposed to SMS (“short message service”), which typically costs more as it charges per message. There is no incremental cost associated with OTT messages; and if you’re already paying for monthly cellular data, messaging with an OTT messenger costs nothing extra.

“We are excited about working with Mozilla and the mission of Firefox OS,” says Littleinc’s Head of Business Development Julie Vaughn. “Democratizing smartphones and making available phones and services at attractive price points in not only developing markets, but around the world, is something we’re thrilled to support and be a part of.”

Word Wars: Prepare to Battle Your Own Brain

Scott DeVaney

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wordwars_vertAs the clock ticks down from two minutes, your job is to see how many words you can find amidst the chaos of scrambled letters. Words come in many forms—straight lines or circuitous concoctions. The only rule is you have to spell out a word with a single swipe of your finger across the phone’s screen. That’s Word Wars. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s fun.

We spoke with Austin Hallock, CEO of Clay.io—an HTML5 and WebGL gaming platform—to learn more about our latest word game addiction.

What are your predictions about the future of HTML5 gaming—for both mobile and desktop? 
This is already starting to happen, but I expect to see a lot more folks really taking advantage of what HTML5 brings to the table—and that’s not its cross-platform capabilities. Cross-platform is nice, but it can be achieved with other tools and you typically get better performance. Where HTML5 really thrives is in the fact that you’re one click away from being in an app… no app store, no installing, very little waiting.

App stores are nice for discovery, but it makes more sense to try a game before you add it to your home screen… and that’s already possible not only with a browser, but with webview inside other apps. It’s so much more fluid to click a link to a game on Facebook, play it immediately, then have the option to add the game to your home screen.

The technology is already there for this to happen with simple games, but we’re starting to get to the point where you can get more advanced. WebGL makes this possible, and we’re finally starting to see more widespread support. 2014 should be an interesting year for the progression of WebGL games on mobile.
wordwars_horiz

What was the inspiration for Word Wars?
A really basic version of Word Wars was actually first developed two years ago in a 24-hour time span for a hackathon by a couple of friends (Hassaan Markhiani and Farhad Abasov) at the University of Texas. Of course, while you can get a reasonably fun game built in 24 hours, it’s more or less a shell of a game that requires quite a bit more work. We took over development of the game and made it more secure and improved the look.

Over the past two years we’ve learned so much about how to properly build, distribute and commercialize these types of games, so we decided we needed to put this all into action to have a reference point for other developers (and also to learn even more from it). This time around we really focused on the game’s look, performance on mobile and sharing mechanics to hopefully show developers skeptical of HTML5 that it’s something worth considering.

Can you tell us about any new games you have in development that will be hitting Firefox Marketplace soon?
We wouldn’t classify ourselves as game developers, so we don’t have any other games of our own planned. However, we do work with a lot of developers—helping with high level tools and distribution—and one of our goals is to help bring as many of those games as we can to Firefox OS. I’m a huge fan of the OS, so I’m going do what I can to help grow the ecosystem.