The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said Thursday it will strengthen regulation of China's mobile applications market, given the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers across the country.
Operators of mobile app stores in China should go through a registration or licensing process, the ministry said in a statement sent to the Global Times Thursday.
The MIIT is also considering stronger regulations for mobile apps themselves as a means to protect users' personal information and facilitate the healthy development of the mobile Internet industry, the statement said.
Details of the regulations have not been released, but some experts hinted that mobile app developers will be required to implement real-name registration in the near future.
The MIIT's regulations will bring app developers under supervision and establish a real-name registration system for independent developers, the Shanghai-based weekly newspaper IT Times quoted Chen Jinqiao, secretary general of MIIT's Telecommunications Economics Expert Committee, as saying Tuesday.
Fueled by the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, China's mobile app market has developed rapidly over the past few years. Besides Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market, China's telecom operators, handset makers and Internet portals have also launched mobile app stores. Amazon is reportedly planning to launch an app store in the Chinese market in 2013.
But the country's mobile app industry lacks regulation. In 2011, Apple's App Store was discovered to have a large quantity of pornographic publications. There are also many copycat, fraudulent, and malicious apps with bugs and viruses in the Android-based app market.
"Every time we publish a new app, we can do it without any approval or registration from Chinese government authorities," Zhu Lianxing, the CEO of 139.me, a Beijing-based mobile app developer, told the Global Times on Thursday.
But Zhu said different stores have different requirements for app developers. "For instance, Apple has a strict inspection system for apps in its official App Store, and the inspection process usually takes one to two weeks," he said. "In comparison, some domestic Android-based app stores are less self-regulated."
"About 17,000 malicious software products were found in China in the first half of 2012, and 78 percent of them came from the Android-based app platform," Liu Dongming, an expert from the MIIT's China Academy of Telecommunications Research, said at an industry forum held last week.
Though Zhu has concerns that strict regulation might slow down the development of the industry, he also doubted whether the MIIT is capable of regulating such a large and fast-growing app market.
"In real practice, it is almost impossible for the MIIT to inspect and approve every mobile app to be released in China," Zhu said.
But stronger government regulations on the emerging mobile app industry are a growing trend worldwide. The US Federal Trade Commission, for instance, said Monday that it has launched investigations into mobile app companies that may have violated online child privacy laws.