If you have worked with Windows 8 before you have likely browsed the integrated Windows Store at least once to see what is on offer there. I personally think that Microsoft missed a chance here to include a universal app manager into the system that includes desktop and Windows apps.
While you do get links to some desktop apps right now, it is not the same as downloading verified virus-free programs from the store that auto-update automatically. Plus, I cannot figure out why some desktop apps are listed here while others are not.
Windows Store has its issues (this is a review of Windows 8 store, not Windows 8.1 store), and while some can surely be attributed to the store's (young) age, others are harder to explain as they reduce the user experience significantly.
The situation has not really changed that much it seems since then, as you find those apps still listed in store. What may be even worse is that they still rise to the frontpage of the store every now and then.
A quick look at the new & rising category for instance lists VideoVLC Player there, while an application like LinkedIn HD is listed in the Trending category on the frontpage.
The problem? They are not official apps. Both hop on the bandwagon of popular programs (VLC) or services (LinkedIn) without being affiliated with them in any way.
If you are an experienced computer user, you are probably able to distinguish between first and third party apps published in the store. Inexperienced users on the other hand may install those apps because they believe they are the real deal, when they are not in fact.
Verify app developers
The best way to make sure that an application is legit -- that means a first party app produced by the company that offers a service, website or program-- is to verify the developer that has published it.
Here is what you need to do:
- Open the application page in Windows Store that you are interested in.
- Locate the "Published by" information on the page. This is displayed underneath the large screenshot of the app in Windows 8.1
- Here you find the name of the company or individual.
- It is usually enough to determine whether an application has been created by the right company or not.
- The official Facebook application has been published by Facebook, Inc. for example, while applications such as Facebook+ Lite, Facebook Forever, or Facebook Browser by WinApp8, awesome facebook and youtube devs, or iceDevs.
- You can click on it to display a list of apps that this developer has published. This provides you with additional information. If you see different apps listed here, say a YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn app, you can be fairly certain that this is a third party developer and not a first party one.
Tip: You can alternatively search the Apps for Windows website over at Microsoft as it lists the publisher as well.
Reasons to verify developers
There are two main reasons why you may want to verify developers before you download apps to your system.
- First to make sure that you are downloading an official app. This is especially important if you need to sign in to a service before you can make use of it. If you do not like the idea of submitting your sign in information through a third party app, then you better make sure you download the real one or connect to the service in your browser.
- Second to avoid installing apps that are either technical inferior, or rip-offs.
The third party apps used in this article are just examples of what you find in Windows Store currently. There are legit third party apps in store that you can download and use without any issues, but there are also those apps that I would not touch even if someone paid me money to do so.
The best protection against questionable apps is to not install them at all. Even if you are running Windows RT, you have options, like connecting to the websites of said services instead of using apps.