Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th May 2016 22:52 UTC
Microsoft

Update: it happened again today. Here's the ad, and here's the "proof" it's coming from Word (when you long-press the notification and tap 'i').


It's been a bit of a running theme lately: advertising in (mobile) operating systems. Today, I was surprised by what I consider a new low, involving incompetence on both Microsoft's and Google's end. This new low has been eating away at me all day.

Let's give a bit of background first. On my smartphone, a Nexus 6P, I have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed. I have these installed for my work - I run my translation company, and when new work comes in through e-mail when I'm out and about, I like being able to quickly look at a document before accepting it. Microsoft Office for Android fulfills this role for me. This means I don't actually use them very often - maybe a few times a week.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this happened. Yes, I'm linking to the full screenshot in its full, glorious, Nexus 6P 1440x2560 brilliance.

I have a few questions. First, why is Microsoft sending me an advertisement in my notification tray? Second, why is Word sending me an advertisement for Excel? Third, why is this allowed by Google, even though the Play Store rules prohibit it? Fourth A, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already have installed? Fourth B, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already use? Fourth C, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already pay for because I have an Office 365 subscription? Fifth, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought this was not a 100%, utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do?

I know both Android and iOS suffer from scummy applications abusing the notification tray for advertising, and I know both Google and Apple have rules that prohibit this that they do not enforce, but I didn't think I'd run into it because... Well, I use only proper, honest applications, right? I don't use the scummy ones? I pay for my applications?

Right?

I think it's time to start enforcing these rules.

Oh, and Microsoft? I haven't forgotten about BeOS. It's not like you have a lot of goodwill to mess around with here.

Thread beginning with comment 629294
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 04:39 UTC
galvanash
Member since:
2006-01-25

Not that I disagree at all with your overall outrage, but you may be jumping the gun a bit...

How do you know that Word sent that notification? I don't have any evidence either way, and Microsoft could certainly be doing something devious here, but if they are actually following the style guide that notification did not come from Word, it came from Excel itself. It is using Excel's launcher icon, not Words. Using another apps icon like this is a big no-no and I would be surprised if Microsoft was doing that - so I am inclined to think Excel is the app that sent it.

Assuming I am right, and it is Excel that sent it - this is not a violation of Google's Play Store policy. Is it stupid? Sure, no argument. But it is absolutely within their guidelines. Apps can bug the shit out of you to do things that involve the purpose of the app. Sending you a notification to remind you that the app exists, maybe because you have not run it for a while (or ever), is completely within the Play Stores guidelines.

Again - stupid yes, but not necessarily nefarious. You can of course just turn off notifications for Excel (and all the other Office Apps too) - otherwise any app can do stuff like this, as long as it is doing it for purposes of its own promotion (i.e. not promoting other apps).

The rule is:

We don’t allow apps or ads that mimic or interfere with system functionality, such as notifications or warnings. System level notifications may only be used for an app’s integral features, such as an airline app that notifies users of special deals, or a game that notifies users of in-game promotions.


"Analysing data on the go" is an integral feature of Excel. It sending you a notification like this to encourage it's own use is completely compliant with this rule...

Edited 2016-05-25 04:43 UTC

Reply Score: 0

RE: A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 05:38 in reply to "A few things"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Just to clarify, if I didn't make it completely clear. This IS an utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do...

But it is not a rule violation ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: A few things
by Sidux on Wed 25th May 2016 05:51 in reply to "A few things"
Sidux Member since:
2015-03-10

By definition it's still an add (as much as promoting a service goes).
I see it as a trend now. Most apps (booking apps, ebay, amazon) do this stuff just to annoy you with offers that mask very well as "notifications".
If this doesn't get under control soon, developers will probably just give up on email spamming and just use this.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 07:53 in reply to "RE: A few things"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

By definition it's still an add (as much as promoting a service goes).


Sure. I agree. But I think it is telling that the two specific examples of proper use of the notification system given in Google's guidelines fit your definition of an advertising pretty much spot on.

In other words, at least on Android, one of the things notifications are supposed to be are advertising, not surprising given Google is an advertising company. There is in fact no rule against using notifications for advertising purposes, the rules just limit the scope of what you can advertise. They expect you to use them for advertising.

Its just as bad on iOS though. They specifically, in very plain terms, have a rule that says "Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind" (no weasel words like Google's rule has).

Apparently no one pays attention to this rule, including Apple. There are hundreds if not thousands of apps that break it routinely. In practice, their review process pretty much follows the same principle as Google's - just don't use notifications to advertise things outside of the scope of your app's function and your in the clear. So promotions for a service sent through an app tied to that service is perfectly fine.

I'm just saying, neither platform actually has (enforced) rules discouraging the use of notifications for this kind of thing. Google explicitly allows it even, but at least their rules (for the most part) seem to be relevant in their review process.

Edited 2016-05-25 08:05 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: A few things
by nicubunu on Wed 25th May 2016 06:42 in reply to "A few things"
nicubunu Member since:
2014-01-08

Easy to answer: tapping the ad will open the application store or Excel?

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 07:20 in reply to "RE: A few things"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Easy to answer: tapping the ad will open the application store or Excel?


You can just long press the notification - this will bring up an "App Info" item that will link to the management settings for the app that originally set the notification.

I would imagine Thom already cleared it though.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: A few things
by Thom_Holwerda on Wed 25th May 2016 08:44 in reply to "A few things"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

It came from Word. You can check by tapping/holding the notification and tapping the I icon.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 08:50 in reply to "RE: A few things"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Well scratch all my posts then. That is plain fucked up.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 19:17 in reply to "RE: A few things"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

I don't know what Im pissed off about more... That they are using Word to advertise their other apps (which is a rule violation), or that they are masquerading the notification as if it came from a different app (also a rule violation).

Do you actually have powerpoint installed? What happens when you click the notification? Im curious if this is an ad to install the app, or an ad to encourage use of the app...

ps. I use an iPhone now, and neither Word or Excel on iOS even support sending notifications... Outlook and Skype do, but that are communication apps and seemingly use them appropriately. Ive never seen any kind of notification like this from Microsoft apps on iOS.

Edited 2016-05-25 19:19 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: A few things
by SteveNordquist on Thu 26th May 2016 02:17 in reply to "A few things"
SteveNordquist Member since:
2007-05-04

Encouraging its own use? With less rationale than an Antivirus scoping itself out to LoJack card games? Really? No. Thanks for reminding me to boot AVG for Panda already.

Moreover it's a daft ad; a clip logo of a clock and a table? Ooh, gonna get me some o' that. This is an all new art of Office I hadn't seen before. <<--yes, it could very well be a partner ad template cranked forth with no attribution or changes; be still my app banhammer.

Edited 2016-05-26 02:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: A few things
by Alfman on Thu 26th May 2016 15:16 in reply to "RE: A few things"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

SteveNordquist,

Encouraging its own use? With less rationale than an Antivirus scoping itself out to LoJack card games? Really? No. Thanks for reminding me to boot AVG for Panda already.


I ditched AVG for Avira free several weeks ago and now Avira is spamming me every other day.

When I try to disable them, there's a dialog that says "How frequent do you want to receive notifications?
- Every 24 hours
- Every 48 hours
- Never (PRO)"

I don't know if Avira uses delayed spamming or if they just recently implemented it, but now I'm going to try Panda antivirus. Being subjected to ads seems to be the future of software.

Reply Parent Score: 3