A startup story: rejected by the Chrome Extension Store

Sandra Busch
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A woman celebrates the achievement of climbing a mountain

Let me tell you a startup story, from way back when we first set out to launch a Chrome extension.

With a team of top-notch developers, we figured it would be no trouble building one of our own. And it wasn’t. All we had to do was to add the functionality to Chrome through parts of the JavaScript APIs that Chrome exposes.

Now there was nothing left to do but to publish it for the world to enjoy. But as you probably figured out already it wasn’t that easy.

Here’s the story of how we got rejected from the Chrome Extension Store – and how we managed, somehow, to fix it.

What were we launching?

It was quite simple really. The ping of an email is what set off the idea. Our founders are terminally busy people suffering from “too many emails, too little time” syndrome.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty annoying being enslaved by your inbox. Especially, when so many of the emails are unsolicited from strange people or companies you’ve never even heard of.

So the idea was born out of this pain point. When you get an email from someone you don’t know it’s usually one of two things:

  • The email is from someone you don’t want to talk to at all, or
  • It is from someone you do want to talk to, but, you weren’t expecting the email

That’s the thing about case #2: some emails are incredibly valuable, even if they are unexpected and/or coming from someone or some company you haven’t heard of before.

The solution was clear: create an extension that integrates with Gmail to show people information about who’s sending them emails. And that’s exactly what we did.

This is how it worked:

  1. Open an email, and on the right-hand side there’s now a sidebar
  2. The sidebar shows you information about the person that sent the email and the company they work for
  3. When you know who sent the email, you can make the call if it’s worth your time to read and reply

The best part was that it works for people with minimal technical knowledge. Know how to email? Then you’d know how to use our extension.

The first submission

It a nerve-wracking experience making that first submission. I mean, we’d sacrificed blood, sweat, and beers researching the market, validating our idea, and actually creating the extension.

We put hard work into the description, logos, screenshots, and whatnot. Afterward, it was finally time to submit.

Just a few hours later, we got our first rejection email 😧

Chrome Web Store: Removal notification

Your item did not comply with the following section of our policy:

“Do not post repetitive content.

Do not use irrelevant, misleading, or excessive keywords in app descriptions, titles, or metadata.

Do not attempt to change the placement of any Product in the store or manipulate any Product ratings or reviews by unauthorized means, such as fraudulent installs, paid or fake reviews or ratings, or offering incentives to rate Products.

Do not post an app where the primary functionality is to link to a website not owned by the developer.

Do not post an app where the primary functionality is to install or launch another app, theme, or extension. For example, if your app’s primary function is to launch a desktop app that the user has already installed, that is not allowed. Another example is a packaged app that just launches a website.

Your app must comply with Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.”

Thank you for your cooperation,
Google Chrome Web Store team

More work ahead

That’s what we got. To be perfectly honest, we had a hard time seeing how our extension violated any of these rules. But there was nothing else to do but go rigorously through them one by one.

We quickly learned that it wasn’t too obvious or objective in the first place. Because, well, what makes a list of keywords “excessive”? And which part of Google’s ‘Webmaster Quality Guidelines’ could we be breaking exactly?

The only thing we could think of was our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy. So what did we do? We went through every policy with a fine toothcomb to make sure no ‘i’ was left undotted, and no ‘t’ left uncrossed.

I mean, we’ve written a blog about how to not suffer from perfectionism, but we had to throw all of that out of the window. It was race to against time to perfect something we couldn’t see the fault with.

A red stamp featuring the word 'declined'

If at first you don’t succeed…

Confident that our comb had found every straw and there were no tangles left in our policies, we were ready for our second submission.

It had to work, right?

Yeah, it didn’t. Here’s what we got back from the Chrome Store Dev. Support 🤯

Chrome Web Store: Developer Account Suspended

Dear Developer,

Your developer account has been suspended from the Chrome
Web Store.

The Chrome Web Store team seeks to provide the best user experience in our
store, and as such we uphold strict compliance of our Developer Terms of
Service and Program Policies.

If you think that this has been applied in error, please submit a detailed
appeal at following link:

http://support.google.com/chrome_webstore/contact/cws_dev_appeals

Regards,
The Chrome Web Store Abuse Team

They mean business

First of all: Ouch. When they go from ‘Chrome Store Team’ to ‘Chrome Store Abuse team’ in one submission, you know they mean business.

Second of all, we still had no idea why we were receiving these responses.

And this was even more critical because we were now completely locked out of the store. We couldn’t make changes, couldn’t get downloads, couldn’t do anything.

To make matters worse, we’d just sent out our monthly newsletter ti investors informing every one of them about the launch –personally – with a direct link to the extension in Chrome Store – talk about bad timing!

All we could do at this point was to write to Chrome Store and hope for some clarification.

Here’s an excerpt…

…We just uploaded the latest version of our Chrome extension but it was not accepted, can you please provide us with a reason for this?

We had our lawyer check everything in our policy and yours, incl. the terms of service. But we simply can’t find any reason why this would get rejected. We have complete SSL encrypted on all requests.

Right now our users and investors are not able to download our extension.

Kind regards,

Ocean.io

This startup story has a happy ending

Slightly desperate, we know – and to be honest, we were. After what felt to us like years they finally reinstated our developer account. This meant we could make changes, but we were still suspended from actually launching the extension.

However, they still neglected to explain specifically what we had done wrong.

From here things took a strange turn. We tried everything we could think of. Tiny tweaks. Finally, without even realizing, we did something right.

It turns out it was our name and the fact that included the phrase “for Chrome” in the end. You can’t do that. Apparently

Would have been nice to know, so now we’re sharing it with you guys – you’re welcome 😇

So, there you have it. One of our biggest fails – and how we solved it. One for the startup story archive.


You can check out our extension if you’re interested and let us know what you think… You’ll find it on the Chrome Extension Store..!

 

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