CTIA-The Wireless Association today introduced an initiative designed to apply a content rating system to mobile apps.
The program calls for a voluntary self-certification of apps by app developers, but little else is defined at this time. The plan is to have developers fill out an online questionnaire to enter information about their app's content as part of the process of uploading. The system would then evaluate the answers and apply an age-appropriate rating.
CTIA has issued a request for proposal for a company to build and administer the online questionnaire and database for this system. No timeline was given for when the system is expected to be up and running.
A content rating system has long been an interest of CTIA, which has a long-term vision of rating mobile content much the same way that the videogame industry rates games or the MPAA rates movies. Implementing it, however, has been a problem because mobile content takes on all forms -- music, games, video and more. While ratings already exist for most types of content in their individual fields (i.e.: R for movies or M for games), compiling them all into a separate, new mobile rating system is a difficult task.
Additionally, mobile content formats have also changed. Before the smartphone revolution, mobile operators had to approve which apps would appear on their mobile phones. With the advent of the app store ecosystem on select smartphones, carriers are not involved.
It's not clear how much the public is clamoring for a mobile content rating system. To date, app store overseers like Apple and others have simply refused to approve apps they felt were inappropriate. But inappropriateness is a fine hair that can be split many different ways.