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

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?


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.

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

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:

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[3]: A few things
by meme on Wed 25th May 2016 16:28 in reply to "RE[2]: A few things"
meme Member since:

From Google Play Developer Guidelines:

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.

Reply Parent Score: 2