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Google Removing Ad-Blockers From Play 337

Posted by samzenpus
from the ads-for-everyone dept.
SirJorgelOfBorgel writes "It appears Google has begun removing ad-blocker apps for Android from the Play store, citing breaches of the Play Store Developer Distribution Agreement. The apps would be welcome back as soon as they no longer violated the agreement, though that doesn't seem possible while keeping the apps' core functionality intact." Update: 03/18 20:06 GMT by U L : You can still easily install ad blockers using F-Droid, the Free Software only replacement for Play.
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Google Removing Ad-Blockers From Play

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  • by Teun (17872) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @05:41AM (#43168953) Homepage
    At least Android is open enough to allow installation from outside the Play Store.
    Though after the initial availability this change of heart does surprise me.
    • by transporter_ii (986545) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @05:51AM (#43169009) Homepage

      A quick look on Amazon and there is at least one ad blocker available. People can say what they like about Amazon, but I'm really glad they started their app store for Android. As far as is possible with app stores, it forced some choices there that I'm sure Google didn't in any way want.

      On the other hand, we as consumers helped enable app stores. It was a pretty big shift from the way hardware/software has historically worked. Microsoft is now tripping all over itself to get a piece of the action. Make the hardware, and then make a cut off of every app sold. Yeah. A wet dream from MS. Hey, not only that, but they get final approval over the apps in the store. Double yeah!

      • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:02AM (#43169077) Homepage

        I have had my share of trouble with Amazon's app store and apps/games acquired through it. Guess what happens to your apps/games when you remove the Amazon app store? Nothing works. Not going to play that game any longer... I quit that game quite some time ago. But it seems Google's store (play) is similar though no one actually removes the play store do they?

        So the only way to be in control of your apps is to pirate them or acquire them directly from the maker which is often not an available option.

        Seriously, I feel icky downloading a $3 app or game from a torrent site. I'd rather pay for it. But there are advantages to getting it the other way... and risks... and I still pay when I can. $3-$5 apps is the way things ought to be!

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          But it seems Google's store (play) is similar though no one actually removes the play store do they?

          As far as I can tell they are not similar. I've loaded apks downloaded with the play store and backed up with titanium backup on systems which still run market, anyway.

          • by crabbz (986605)
            Some apps from the play store require you to be signed into your google account to check their license. If you remove your google account from the device then after a few days the app will complain that it can't verify the license. I've had it happen a few times. Logging back into the play store, which adds the google account back, generally fixes it. I don't think it is true for all apps, looks like it is up to the developer if they want to check the license through google play or not. I don't know if
        • by alen (225700)

          And then its perfectly fair for people who don't want advertising to pay for their software

          Seems people want the free software and no advertising which brings in revenue to the developers

          • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:06AM (#43170069) Homepage

            You know what that sounds like?

            LINUX

            People are just doing to Google what Google is doing to the community.

            If ad infested versions of basic freeware system utilities become less prevalent then that would not be such a tragedy really.

        • by horza (87255)

          You are kidding!!! Now Google is censoring apps I have no reason to stay with the play store, but Amazon's policy of crippling your phone if you dare uninstall their app is completely unacceptable. Can somebody else back up this allegation?

          Maybe Samsung will open their own store?

          For free apps, if somebody was to set up a good repository then all the mod distros including by default would give it a (small) default user base.

          Phillip.

      • A quick look on Amazon and there is at least one ad blocker available

        Indeed. Thankfully we have the Amazon store, as that's really the only other widely trusted Android repository right now. If not for Amazon I don't think there's any other repository most geeks would trust for paid apps, due to the complexities of properly handling/securing payment details.

        But this still bites. Play is the de facto Android store; most users don't have immediate access to other stores, and as for Amazon they have some reall

      • by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:47AM (#43169283)

        As far as is possible with app stores, it forced some choices there that I'm sure Google didn't in any way want

        If Google hadn't wanted, then they would have locked their device to their app store the same way Apple did. This decision sucks, but it only emphasises how much Google had it right when it came to Android; if Google does turn to the dark side, Android users can go somewhere else.

    • by Andrio (2580551) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:54AM (#43169307)
      Yeah this really isn't a big deal. A while back some popular emulators were pulled from the Android store. What did I do? I just went to the developers website and downloaded from there. Just a direct download of the apks. No root or anything required.

      That's what I love about Android. It actually feels like a PC in my pocket where I can do whatever.
    • by synapse7 (1075571)
      Who wants to be dependent on an app store? Reading all the replies you would think people forgot software use to come in a box. Being able to download software is great but I sure as fuck don't want to be dependent on a single source.
  • Surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cffrost (885375) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @05:42AM (#43168957) Homepage

    World's largest ad-pusher seeks to push more ads.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @05:45AM (#43168983) Homepage

    (From a Linux geek still happy with a "dumbphone", but considering Android)

    Can you use Android without serving yourself up to Google?

    Is it true that you have to have a Google account to start up your phone?

    Can you (easily) install apps by just downloading them to your computer and then transferring to the phone?

    Do you have to give up your credit card info and name/address to sign up for the Google app store? (In light of the recent story that app developers get all your info, I don't know if I want every 2-bit app to get that info. The info itself could be worth more than the 99 cents for the application.)

    Also, do free apps also get your personal information?

    Any hints or links re: using Android without the all-seeing eye?

    Builtin app replacement recommendations?

    • by Spad (470073)

      Sort of

      No

      Yes

      No

      It depends

    • by EdZ (755139) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @05:56AM (#43169035)

      Can you use Android without serving yourself up to Google?

      Yes.

      Is it true that you have to have a Google account to start up your phone?

      No.

      Can you (easily) install apps by just downloading them to your computer and then transferring to the phone?

      Yes, generally referred to as 'sideloading'.

      Do you have to give up your credit card info and name/address to sign up for the Google app store? (In light of the recent story that app developers get all your info, I don't know if I want every 2-bit app to get that info. The info itself could be worth more than the 99 cents for the application.)

      No, you can use a regular google account. However, to pay for an app you will need to do so.

      Also, do free apps also get your personal information?

      Each app has a list of what features it requests access to available on the store page (and you will be notified of them before installation). There are apps that allow you to enforce your own arbitrary restrictions on any app, but it may casue some to stop working.

      Any hints or links re: using Android without the all-seeing eye?

      Try some of the various alternative Android distros like Cyanogenmod. XDA Developers is a good place to start.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In the UK you need to use a card to enable Google Music. (It can be removed again immediately afterwards).

        Now you can get pre paid cards (£10/£25 - Tesco / Morrisons).

        I understand that this is probably one of the better countries. (It was credit card (None prepaid) or nothing until very recently).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Do you have to give up your credit card info and name/address to sign up for the Google app store? (In light of the recent story that app developers get all your info, I don't know if I want every 2-bit app to get that info. The info itself could be worth more than the 99 cents for the application.)

        No, you can use a regular google account. However, to pay for an app you will need to do so.

        You can also use Google Play pre-paid cards to purchase apps without giving out additional info.

    • by qaz123 (2841887)
      Yes you can use Android without having a Google account but many google services will be unavailable for you. Like google play, synchronization etc . You can just transfer apps (apk files) on your phone
    • by erroneus (253617)

      You can!

      You do, however, have to be aware of what not to do.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zwei2stein (782480)

      Wow, you have been fed incredible amounts of FUD. Where did you get this "information"?

      None of the things you are scared of are true. All the "i would like it to work this way" are correct.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BrokenHalo (565198)

      Can you use Android without serving yourself up to Google?

      Yes. Best way is probably the hosts file, which means you need to root the device (not hard, especially if you get a Nexus device)

      Is it true that you have to have a Google account to start up your phone?

      You need at least a gmail account. But that doesn't mean you have to use it for anything else.

      Can you (easily) install apps by just downloading them to your computer and then transferring to the phone?

      Yes.

      Do you have to give up your credit card info and name/address to sign up for the Google app store? (In light of the recent story that app developers get all your info, I don't know if I want every 2-bit app to get that info. The info itself could be worth more than the 99 cents for the application.)

      Credit card number only if you download non-free apps. No address. If you're worried, use a pre-paid credit card.

      Also, do free apps also get your personal information?

      Sometimes.

      Any hints or links re: using Android without the all-seeing eye?

      See above...

      Builtin app replacement recommendations?

      GoLauncherEx for homescreens
      Playerpro (music)
      ChompSMS
      K9 Mail.

      HTH

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PSVMOrnot (885854)

      (From a Linux geek still happy with a "dumbphone", but considering Android)

      Can you use Android without serving yourself up to Google?

      It is difficult, but possible. Just.

      Is it true that you have to have a Google account to start up your phone?

      No, but without a google account you cannot use their app store, and without an account of some sort somewhere you cannot use the calendar. I personally have setup a Zarafa server with Z-push to mimic an Exchange with active-sync. Using that allows me to use the calendar and sync my email, contacts and calendar without using google at all.

      Can you (easily) install apps by just downloading them to your computer and then transferring to the phone?

      That depends. If they are apps from someone who has realised that Google Play is not required, and just distributes the APKs then sure,

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        It is difficult, but possible. Just.

        I had to load about six different ROM images onto my phone before I found one that would let me use GPS without leaking information to Google. This is on gingerbread, though... Who new privacy was a feature which had to be added? Or hacked in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rapidmax (707233)

      I'm a happy owner of a Android phone running CyanogenMod with the FSF FreeDroid (F-Droid) Store. I didn't installed the Play Store on purpose. Sure I don't have access to 300k Apps, but most important Apps* are available and the Phone is working fine and reliable.

      * That of course depends on your needs. For me its: Browser, Firefox, aCal calendar, OsmAnd Map application, shopping list, Jabber client, SIP client, GPS tracker, calculator, text editor, and a few games

    • by sd4f (1891894)

      As an ex-android user, the things which i will mention, from experience as i learnt the hard way are; look at the google nexus phones first, if they don't offer the sort of hardware you are interested in, then think twice before going to other phones. If you can, avoid getting a carrier branded phone. Google phones are better because they, first and foremost, get updates, but they're also generally free of bloatware. Carriers are notorious for loading up useless apps which they also make sure that you can't

  • by coder111 (912060) <[coder] [at] [rrmail.com]> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:04AM (#43169089)
    Of course they did. This threatens their business model. A corporation will do ANYTHING to defend its cashflow. Any corporation, even Google. You want to play in their walled garden- you have to do it by their rules.

    I'm quite glad Android is not completely closed, and projects like F-Droid exist:
    http://f-droid.org/ [f-droid.org]

    It's not half as good as official Google store at the moment, but it's open source, and it will get improved.

    As for me, I won't be happy until I can apt-get install apps on my mobile :)

    --Coder
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by xiando (770382)
      I trust that the software at http://f-droid.org/ [f-droid.org] does not do bad things, I do not trust the Google appstore the same way. This is why I removed all the Google spyware my phone came with, including GoogleServicesFramework.apk... the downside is obviously that I can't use the Google Play market but who cares
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by czernabog (2799797)

      A corporation will do ANYTHING to defend its cashflow. Any corporation, even Google.

      It's time to drop the "even" when referring to Google.

  • If you like an app, pay the dollar or two for the ad free version, other wise you're stealing from the developer of the app, justify it however you like, but it is theft.
    • by Psiren (6145) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:27AM (#43169209)

      If you like an app, pay the dollar or two for the ad free version, other wise you're stealing from the developer of the app, justify it however you like, but it is theft.

      That's not always possible. There are a few apps that I use where there isn't a version without the ads. I'd happily plonk down a few quid to remove them, but the option isn't there.

      • Some games like Angrt Birds make more money from the Ad version than the paid version. Simply because people are playing them all the time and after 40+ hours the ads are worth more. That's why you see some apps without pay versions at all, particularly in Android where prices are "too low" already then they don't have to compete with cracked pay versions..

        • by Psiren (6145)

          Perhaps that's true. However, I've never clicked on a single ad in any of my apps. I don't use an adblocker, I just don't click on ads. So they'd make more money from me by providing a paid for app. Plus they'd piss me off less.

    • That is like saying that getting my car serviced by a local mechanic instead of the dealer is "theft."
  • by runeghost (2509522) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:29AM (#43169219)

    I'm not exactly a power droid user, but ad-blocking is absolutely something that will push me to go look outside of the google store. Is that really what they want to do?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @06:32AM (#43169229)

    The subject says it all, but unpacking the two issues:

    - We need a GNU (or Debian) fork of Android so that key user protections like a preconfigured Netfilter firewall are available out of the box, as well as a root account and full set of root admin tools. Google's protection of advertisers by giving apps free reign once you've installed them needs to end.

    - We need a GNU (or Debian) fork of Google Play to carry full-source free software apps including ad blockers and other forms of user-based control, like a NoScript equivalent. Google is utterly not on the user's side in this regard, and their hegemony needs to end. Our devices belong to us, not to Google.

  • I'm gonna get modded down here for bringing Apple into this, but it is relevant and is exactly an example of why having alternative app sources is important for users. I've long held that Apple must be forced to allow apps installed from third-party sources and here is an exact reason as to why that would be beneficial. Want to install something that the vendor agrees with? You can do it with Android thanks to the Amazon store, F-droid, and the like. And in all honesty, it's somewhat fair of Google to do this - if they've put up the Play Store, then they should have the right to determine what gets sold on it.

    But the problem with Apple and the Iphone ecosystem is that you don't have any such choice - once you buy an Iphone, you do what Apple tells you and that's the end of the story, until you go to the lengths of exploiting the operating system to install what you like. And I don't want to hear that it's not a problem because Apple doesn't have a monopoly, which should somehow enable them to impose their decisions on their customers. We've seen such a backlash in the US over the people's right to unlock their phone's bootloader because once you buy it, it's yours. How is that different in the case of Apple forcing you to install only apps that they approve of? Once you buy it, it's yours - you should be able to run whatever you want on it if you should also have the right of unlocking it and doing what you wish. And you shouldn't have to go to the lengths over exploiting the OS in order to do it.

    Regardless, I'm not an Android or Google fanboy (anymore, if I ever was one to begin with), and though they are in general better than Microsoft and Apple, they are distancing themselves from the goodness that comes from non-profit producers such as Mozilla. I'm pretty much set on dumping Android if/when I replace my phone in the next few years, and it's their vigorous policy towards advertising wiht such utter disregard for privacy that is pushing me that way. If there's one thinig I hate as a consumer, it's being treated like a sheep. Seems like FirefoxOS, Ubuntu Mobile, or crazily enough, maybe even Blackberry is the way to go.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well..

      with apple what they do is ask you for a hundred bucks. you can do plenty with developer credentials.

      same with windows phone.

      I just hope nobody at google figures out that they could ask hundred bucks a year for enabling adb and sideloading. because if some dimwit over there does the numbers of 100 000 "devs" * 100 bucks, that's a lot of potential dough.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I just hope nobody at google figures out that they could ask hundred bucks a year for enabling adb and sideloading.

        Me too, because it's just one more thing to pay to have unlocked, which will probably be illegal.

    • by alen (225700)

      It does seem evil but apple is forcing a fair and profitable ecosystem for developers to get paid

      iOS devs make more money which is why the best new apps are on iOS first

      Go look at the top 10 lists on both stores. iOS its real applications. Android you have nonsense like launcher pro in along with other geek apps in the top ten

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @07:03AM (#43169357)
    I just unchecked the box that said "Allow some non-intrusive advertising" in ABP, and dropped all of the exceptions from Ghostery and NoScript. Now I'm back to no advertising at all.
  • I can understand why people ad-block - especially web pages.

    However, developers get a slice of the ad-revenue when the ads are presented via their apps.

    I have an android phone & tablet and free apps with advertising and I've also paid for apps too - usually to disable ads or shock horror actually find an app useful and pay the developer a fair price.

    If you like an app enough then buy it (in most cases just a few pounds) or if you are not willing to pay for an app you'll have to put up with ads instead.

    I

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If you like an app enough then buy it (in most cases just a few pounds) or if you are not willing to pay for an app you'll have to put up with ads instead.

      If you can't survive without people seeing your ads, make the app fail if they aren't displayed. In any case, Adaway never seems to have hidden in-app ads for me, but it did block in-browser ads. They took it down anyway. They're evil assholes.

    • by tlambert (566799) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @08:30AM (#43169787)

      I can understand why people ad-block - especially web pages.

      However, developers get a slice of the ad-revenue when the ads are presented via their apps.

      Typically, it's not a hell of a lot of money.

      5000 user sessions per day * 2 minutes per session * 2 ads per session *80% ad network fill rate * $0.50 per works out to about 8 bucks a day, or right around $1/hour for a 52 week 40 hour work week. That's assuming that you get enough distribution numbers and the app is sticky enough that you can get that many sessions for that long per day to get your 4 ad views per session.

      The ad networks would like you to believe you are going to get rich on advertising revenue when you include their ad platform library in your free version of your App, but typically you will instead usually net about $1280 a year per app, and that's if you are lucky.

      So basically, you can keep those numbers up for 4 years in a row, or you could just charge the $0.99 for the app up front to realize that $5000 up front, rather than over a period of 4 years during which you have to remain relevant enough to 5000 free downloaders that they spend 2 minutes a day in your app.

      The only people to pull down any heavy cash for their ad supported version of their apps are people like the Angry Birds developers, which is why they can spend all that money porting to every platform under the sun.

  • I remember a decade ago when people were always debating the next "killer ap". Well, we found it. It was AdBlock.

    I just spent two hours reading about crazy people destroying their livers to increase their mental capacity by 10% (I doubt it's more than that from the spelling errors). Why? One can get as much boost (at least during your Internet time) from any good ad-blocking program with no damage to your liver at all.

    If the mountain of crap won't stay away from Muhammad then Muhammad must stay away fro

  • So it's not much of a loss either way.

  • In Other Words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by turkeyfish (950384)

    You can't shop at the Play Store unless you are willing to be relentlessly bombarded with ads and your entire life's every moved tracked to improve the bottom line of Google Corporation.

    Google doesn't just make glasses. They want to own your eyeballs as well.

  • Don't be evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by czernabog (2799797) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @07:48AM (#43169565)
    Boggles my mind how some educated people still see this all-knowing mega-corporation as nice and friendly.
  • Considering the most efficient ad blockers (AdKill is my favorite) only work on rooted devices, and only a minority of users root their phones/tablets, I don't see this having any serious impact on the user experience.

    And if you can root your phone, you can certainly enable sideloading and say fuck you to Google Play.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday March 14, 2013 @07:58AM (#43169631) Homepage Journal

    Would it be possible to have an app in the Play Store that had two modes?:

    1) if the presence of a certain code bundle was detected, exec that.
    2) if it's missing, bring up a web browser and point to the website for the user to download it, then provide for a guided copy/install.

    I'm assuming the Play Store already prohibits direct code downloads, but if not that would be even easier.

  • There are a lot of developers that provide a "free" app whose revenue comes from allowing advertisements to appear somewhere on the screen. Assuming these adblockers would also block those ads, anyone using them would be cutting the revenue of those kind devs who released their apps for free. And if that's the case, then I think what Google is doing is justifiable.

    This hypothesis was made on the basis of zero research and two cups of coffee :)

    • It would be OK if there were an option to pay for the app and have no advertising.
      Or even if google play let me filter the apps by their funding model.

      I absolutely do not want ads on my phone, under any circumstances. I'd rather pay the developer.

  • I, as an ISP, is running NXDOMAIN [github.com].

    That means that my users can not see your advertisement regardless of what you do, since it's blocked on the DNS level.
  • Ok (Score:4, Informative)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @09:28AM (#43170247)

    This is why I use Android anyways. Google can control the apps on their store and I don't care. What I care about is that if I don't want to use them as a source I can just go get the same apps from another place and install them on my device.

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