Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 14th Mar 2013 10:26 UTC
Google In all honesty, this has taken far longer than I anticipated. Google, the world's largest internet advertising company, has removed several popular ad-blocking tools from the Play Store. While they are technically in the right to do so - they violate the Play Store developer distribution agreement - it's still a bit of a dick move. Luckily, though, unlike some other platforms, you can easily sideload the adblockers onto your Android device.
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I would have done the same
by Auzy on Thu 14th Mar 2013 11:18 UTC
Auzy
Member since:
2008-01-20

Honestly, if I were in a similar position, I probably would have done the same.

Many application developers in the Play market are motivated by the money earned by ads in their applications, especially if they watch it climbing. And, if developers see that it is easy to skim around the ads, they can only charge for their app, which:
1) Could result in less profit. Charging only works for some apps.
2)Android users flooding the app with 1-star ratings, because they think the developer owes them a free application. Unfortunately, going mainstream also means that there are more arrogant users.
3) Could act as encouragement for developers to shift to iPhone, or other platforms.

Honestly, it isn't a major inconvenience to users (you can install adblockers from other sources), it helps ensure the blockers don't become mainstream, and it helps protect the Android ecosystem.

Personally, I don't see it as a major problem. Its a good thing for consumers for Google to do what they can to encourage an open platform like Android to take over the mobile market. This may help a tiny bit long term. And you can't even call it evil by Google to do, because, they have done nothing to limit consumers from installing the adblock software from elsewhere.

Reply Score: 9

RE: I would have done the same
by Laurence on Thu 14th Mar 2013 12:23 UTC in reply to "I would have done the same "
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

I'm inclined to agree, and not because of any personal alliances with Google, but because I've never agreed with Adblockers in the first place. It's always struck me as hypocritical when people demand free content and then demand zero adds to be included (though I can agree with some of the arguments about intrusive ads verses visible non-intrusive ads and the adult adverts on child-friendly content - but that's another topic entirely).

While it's sad that Google have resorted to removing apps from their store (I would have preferred people to have chosen not to install it rather than have that app "censored"), at least Android applications can still be side loaded.

I guess the real question is, do you want a fully open platform (and the potential lack of commercial and developer backing) or one that's only partially open but already a commercial success with hundreds of thousands of apps available.

Reply Score: 6

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

but because I've never agreed with Adblockers in the first place. It's always struck me as hypocritical when people demand free content and then demand zero adds to be included (though I can agree with some of the arguments about intrusive ads verses visible non-intrusive ads and the adult adverts on child-friendly content - but that's another topic entirely).


It's well known that ads are a popular attack vector for malware. So for me, adblockers are a security measure first and foremost. As for Android, I do not demand free content; if there's an ad-based 'free' version and an ad-less paid version, I am happy to pay for it.

If Google wants to pull adblockers from the Play store, that is certainly their right, but I wish at the very LEAST they would clearly mark the apps that are infected with adware, so I'll know which ones to avoid in the future.

Reply Score: 5

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

It's well known that ads are a popular attack vector for malware. So for me, adblockers are a security measure first and foremost.

On PCs sure. But I've yet to hear about Android malware spreading via adverts (if you have any evidence to the contrary then I'd be interested to read it ;) ).

Furthermore, preventing advert-based malware from spreading on the PC can be largely mitigated by disabling a few things like Java plugins from auto-starting. Plus doing so will prevent other drive-by download attacks as well (eg hacked legitimate sites) where as using adblockers will not.

So I really don't agree with adblockers as security precaution. At best, it prevents one niche of attacks which would be prevented anyway if you took the precautions required to prevent the other forms of drive-by download attacks. In laymans terms, what you're proposing is snake oil.


As for Android, I do not demand free content; if there's an ad-based 'free' version and an ad-less paid version, I am happy to pay for it.

Sadly you're in the minority there. Which is exactly why I said I'd rather have seen Google trusting users than removing the opinion, but trusting users to "do the right thing" is rarely every going to work.

If Google wants to pull adblockers from the Play store, that is certainly their right, but I wish at the very LEAST they would clearly mark the apps that are infected with adware, so I'll know which ones to avoid in the future.

It's not too hard to work out:
* If it's free and it looks like some effort has gone into it, then it's ad funded.
* If there's a free version and a "premium" version, then the free version will be ad funded.
* And if the former two points don't help, then just read through the comments before installing.

People rarely pay any attention to the permissions list when installing new applications as it is, adding other things like whether it's ad supported would just create an even bigger wall of text and encourage more people not to bother.

Edited 2013-03-14 23:44 UTC

Reply Score: 4

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

On PCs sure. But I've yet to hear about Android malware spreading via adverts (if you have any evidence to the contrary then I'd be interested to read it ;) ).


I don't know of any specific cases on Android, but I'm guessing it's only a matter of time, either through applications or the web itself.

Furthermore, preventing advert-based malware from spreading on the PC can be largely mitigated by disabling a few things like Java plugins from auto-starting.


Right, you could disable Java, Flash, Javascript, etc, which would probably block most ads by default, and break the web in the process.

People rarely pay any attention to the permissions list when installing new applications as it is, adding other things like whether it's ad supported would just create an even bigger wall of text and encourage more people not to bother.


Actually, I was thinking more of a setting in options that says 'do not list any applications with adware'.

Reply Score: 2

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26


I don't know of any specific cases on Android, but I'm guessing it's only a matter of time, either through applications or the web itself.

Google controls most of the in app ads so I'd be surprised if anything leaked through that way. But I could see the potential with web adds though. In either case, users would have to have side-loading apk files enabled, and even if that is, users would still be prompted with a permissions / install screen should an apk file try to auto-install.

I will admit that I've not done a huge amount of security testing in Android (unlike securing Windows and Linux; which is part of my day job), but I think it's quite hard to sneak malware onto the phone itself without tricking the users into installing an apk. So the biggest threat would be more social engineering (eg porn sites that say they are only viewable via a specific Android codec) than drive-by downloads and other such attacks that silently infect the client.

Right, you could disable Java, Flash, Javascript, etc, which would probably block most ads by default, and break the web in the process.

You don't really need to disable Javascript. It shouldn't be possible for Javascript to break out of it's sandbox. I mean, obviously there will be bugs and vulnerabilities that can be exploited, but the same is true for anything that can be rendered (even the JPEG format has been known to serve malware in the past). Such vulnerabilities usually get patched pretty quickly though, so it's more a case of keeping your browser up-to-date and Java plugins disabled (Java and Flash are by far the biggest two weaknesses on a modern browser).

Actually, I was thinking more of a setting in options that says 'do not list any applications with adware'.

That's not a bad idea. I like that ;)

Edited 2013-03-15 01:00 UTC

Reply Score: 4

lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Isn't the issue this: Android is touted as being more 'open' than iOS giving more choice to end users. This move reduces choice. If Android users want to deploy ad blocker why can't they, it's their choice of how they want to use their 'open' device.


After this decision, Android users still have a choice to install what they want on their device.

http://www.osnews.com/permalink?555428

According to Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus,

"Google has crossed a red line by removing the app" and "is placing business interests ahead of user interests."

"Isn't Android an open system?" he asked. "We are not interfering with any other apps. We are providing choice. The user should be in charge of what services may access their device - not Google."


Android is still an open system. Users are still in charge of what services run on their Android systems.

They only thing being restricted here is the offerings on the Google Play store. Google have every right to dictate what is and is not offered on Google Play.

Unlike iOS and Windows Phone, Android was not, and still is not, a walled garden. Users may still, very easily, install software other than what Google offers on Google play. There is only one setting users need to enable:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EPuK1DQlFz0/Tbt2KgZoRMI/AAAAAAAAAoQ/Bx6oD...

http://droidlessons.com/how-to-install-non-market-third-party-apps-...

Edited 2013-03-15 06:19 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

Trust an Apple fanboy not to read the article and draw their own conclusions instead.

1) Users can still install adblockers - legally, legitimately and without too much fuss. All that's happened is Google have removed it from their specific app store.

2) How can you even compare Android to iOS then follow with a statement about how Google are putting their business interests first. Apple are several orders of magnitude more strict that Google and app developers and users a whole plethora of additional concessions they have to make to use Apple's ecosystems (additional developer charges, tighter vendor lock ins, stricter rules on their app store, etc). And then you have the absurd patent feuds that Apple have started; <sarcasm> but obvious suing their competition into oblivion is for the benefit of the users and not a business decision at all. </sarcasm>

Edited 2013-03-15 09:39 UTC

Reply Score: 5

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Such vulnerabilities usually get patched pretty quickly though, so it's more a case of keeping your browser up-to-date and Java plugins disabled.


Or you could just not install java and save yourself a lot of unnecessary bullshit. I haven't run java on any of my pc's in several years, and don't intend to start anytime soon.

Reply Score: 2

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26


Or you could just not install java and save yourself a lot of unnecessary bullshit. I haven't run java on any of my pc's in several years, and don't intend to start anytime soon.

Nice idea but sadly I'm reliant on Java for a number of things (development tools (not least of all Android and Eclipse), emergency consoles on some of my remote VMs, etc).

Reply Score: 2

F-Droid
by lemur2 on Thu 14th Mar 2013 11:19 UTC
lemur2
Member since:
2007-02-17

FTA:

Luckily, though, unlike some other platforms, you can easily sideload the adblockers onto your Android device.


According to the Android Police website:
http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/03/13/breaking-google-has-begun-p...

... one can install AdAway from F-Droid http://f-droid.org/ (which is an Android FOSS repository).

Android Police:
Please switch to the open alternative: F-Droid (https://f-droid.org/FDroid.apk) and install AdAway with F-Droid.

Reply Score: 7

Comment by Nelson
by Nelson on Thu 14th Mar 2013 12:12 UTC
Nelson
Member since:
2005-11-29

This is of course a sound decision by Google, if developers do not have ad revenue protected, they will simply charge for all their apps.

However it is cold water for a lot of people, because they're not used to Google putting their foot down every once in a while. It is only annoying if you consider that they allow every piece of garbage into the Android Marketplace, but somehow Ad Blockers are beyond the pale.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by Nelson
by Laurence on Thu 14th Mar 2013 12:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by Nelson"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

This is of course a sound decision by Google, if developers do not have ad revenue protected, they will simply charge for all their apps.

However it is cold water for a lot of people, because they're not used to Google putting their foot down every once in a while. It is only annoying if you consider that they allow every piece of garbage into the Android Marketplace, but somehow Ad Blockers are beyond the pale.


I think the issue is that people assume Android is an open platform because it's open source. When in fact Google remove apps more often than I think people realise. (one of the removals that annoyed me was when the retro games console emulators were taken down).

Thinking a little more, another issue might be that Google tends to remove apps after it's been in the store for a while; where as Apple deny apps before it hits their store. Does anyone else notice / agree with this trend?

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by Nelson
by robmv on Thu 14th Mar 2013 13:04 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Nelson"
robmv Member since:
2006-08-12

Android is open to any application, you can have multiple stores, It doesn't mean Google Play should be. If you want to distribute any kind of application, you can but Google should not be forced to do it

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by Nelson
by Laurence on Thu 14th Mar 2013 15:15 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Nelson"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

I'm aware of that (having been an full time Android user since v1.5) and entirely agree with you. But it still amounts to what I already said, that Android is open source and more open than most other mobile platforms but fully open like many people assume / expect.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by Nelson
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 14th Mar 2013 13:52 UTC in reply to "Comment by Nelson"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

I'd much, much rather pay for small useful apps than have them ad supported.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: Comment by Nelson
by Nelson on Thu 14th Mar 2013 13:54 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Nelson"
Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

I wish more people were like you, but you are in a minority, especially on Android.

I usuaully do ad supported with in app purchase to remove ads. That way everyone is happy.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by Nelson
by moondevil on Thu 14th Mar 2013 14:04 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Nelson"
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Even on iOS.

I know people that have rooted their iPhones just to be able to install pirate stuff.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by Nelson
by leech on Thu 14th Mar 2013 17:43 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Nelson"
leech Member since:
2006-01-10

I'm of the opinion that I'd rather have a partial feature set of a program to try it out, than to have a full featured one that is ad supported. I absolutely hate advertisements, and 90% of the time if I see a program or application that is somehow ad supported, I remove it immediately. I usually don't suffer this that much, since I bought a Nokia N9, after being fed up with the whole Android / Google thing.

But there are still a few apps out there that insist on being ad-supported. It's especially terrible if you don't have unlimited data.

Reply Score: 7

RE[3]: Comment by Nelson
by Soulbender on Fri 15th Mar 2013 02:37 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Nelson"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

I usuaully do ad supported with in app purchase to remove ads.


I think that's the best, and most honest, option really. It means I can download and test the app to see if it actually does what I want/need before purchasing. If I don't like it I can uninstall, if I think it's ok (but not good enough to pay for) I can keep it and the developer still get some revenue and if I like it I can purchase it outright and get rid of the ads.

Reply Score: 4

Doesn't compute
by robmv on Thu 14th Mar 2013 13:01 UTC
robmv
Member since:
2006-08-12

for the simple reason that I refuse to have my mobile browsing experience - already not the most optimal on any mobile device - further bogged down by ads on websites


You replace your Android devices for a platform (RT) that doesn't allow you to mess with your browser, that isn't consistent

Edited 2013-03-14 13:05 UTC

Reply Score: 2

100% effective and legal ad blocker
by franksands on Thu 14th Mar 2013 15:06 UTC
franksands
Member since:
2009-08-18

Don't use ad-supported apps. It's what I do. If there's a no-ad paid version I buy it, if not, I search for another app that does that. Simple.

Reply Score: 2

izomiac Member since:
2006-07-26

Necessity is the mother of invention. The insidious thing about ad-ware is that if there's some crappy ad-infested app that barely works, then it's unlikely someone will be motivated to make a truly free app. There's no profit incentive to out-compete the existing app.

It's not as though these apps wouldn't exist without ads, they'd be better. With as many users as android has, somebody will develop an app as a hobby rather than a get-rich-quick scheme.

Reply Score: 2

Buying is often not an option
by MyNameIsNot4Letter on Thu 14th Mar 2013 15:25 UTC
MyNameIsNot4Letter
Member since:
2011-01-09

There are very often no alternatives to ad-infested games. If you play a lot, Android seriously sucks. For those of us who want to pay for a game, there's simply no option.

Games are now either freemium, or Riddled with ads. Usually both.

Oh, while i'm writing, no harm in some shameless advertisement of my own. Check out my new game, The Silent Age ;) No ads, no IAP.

/Uni

Reply Score: 3

RE: Buying is often not an option
by sbenitezb on Thu 14th Mar 2013 17:58 UTC in reply to "Buying is often not an option"
sbenitezb Member since:
2005-07-22

Can't find it on the market (play).

Reply Score: 2

Open when it suits you
by bowkota on Thu 14th Mar 2013 15:33 UTC
bowkota
Member since:
2011-10-12

Google are open only when it suits them.

And while I find this move 100% logical and don't blame them for that, I do blame every other tool prancing around in here waving the open flag only when it suits them, just like Google.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Open when it suits you
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 14th Mar 2013 15:35 UTC in reply to "Open when it suits you"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

And while I find this move 100% logical and don't blame them for that, I do blame every other tool prancing around in here waving the open flag only when it suits them, just like Google.


I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw anyone here saying Google was open. Heck, I've never seen it at all, that I can recall.

Android's still open, though. Sorry.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Open when it suits you
by leech on Thu 14th Mar 2013 17:44 UTC in reply to "RE: Open when it suits you"
leech Member since:
2006-01-10

"And while I find this move 100% logical and don't blame them for that, I do blame every other tool prancing around in here waving the open flag only when it suits them, just like Google.


I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw anyone here saying Google was open. Heck, I've never seen it at all, that I can recall.

Android's still open, though. Sorry.
"

It's not fully open, but close enough for most people...

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Open when it suits you
by BallmerKnowsBest on Thu 14th Mar 2013 20:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Open when it suits you"
BallmerKnowsBest Member since:
2008-06-02

"And while I find this move 100% logical and don't blame them for that, I do blame every other tool prancing around in here waving the open flag only when it suits them, just like Google.


I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw anyone here saying Google was open. Heck, I've never seen it at all, that I can recall.
"

That's one of the most common arguments from Apple fanboys... or rather it resembles an argument, but without the actual thought process that the word implies. It's more like a collection of self-serving assumptions & talking-points, bolstered by willful ignorance, circular reasoning & confirmation bias - all combined to form a bizarre, Frankenstein-esque parody of a strawman argument.

It goes like this:

Step 1) Start with the self-serving assumption that the ONLY reason to defend Google (EVER) is a naive belief that Google is some kind of altruistic non-profit*.

Step 2) If ANYONE defends Google on ANY topic, then the confirmation bias kicks in & it's immediately assumed that those people are examples of the "only naive FLOSS hippies defend Google" assumption (unfounded assumption on top of unfounded assumption).

Step 3) Now that the strawman has been propped up, it's time to go on the offensive & point out that Google has failed to live up to some standard or other... usually a ridiculously unrealistic standard that Google has never actually held themselves to. Deliberately misinterpreting the "don't be evil" slogan is the most common way of doing that, followed closely by pretending that "open" somehow means "non-profit".

*Amusingly, this is almost identical to a criticism that used to be frequently leveled at Apple advocates in the pre-iOS days: that they blindly swallowed the "Think Different [sic]" kool-aid & naively perceived Apple as some kind of artsy-hippie collective, rather than a multi-national corporation. So not only is it a lazy & desperate tactic, but it's not even original to Apple fanboys.

Reply Score: 6

RE[2]: Open when it suits you
by bowkota on Thu 14th Mar 2013 21:13 UTC in reply to "RE: Open when it suits you"
bowkota Member since:
2011-10-12

Nope as long as you're using Google services on Android it's definitely not open.

It's hilarious how some people will be the first to call out Apple fanboys on agreeing on everything the company does (obviously that's silly) and at the same time try to convince themselves and others in every way that Android/Google is open.

Oh the irony.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Open when it suits you
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 14th Mar 2013 21:16 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Open when it suits you"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Your comment is a reply to mine, but actually has absolutely nothing to do with said comment.

So I don't really know what you're talking about.

Reply Score: 2

for apps it's okay
by bnolsen on Thu 14th Mar 2013 16:11 UTC
bnolsen
Member since:
2006-01-06

for in app advertising this is okay. However I've run into cases where the app itself laid advertising on mostly on top of one of their buttons, trying to force you to go visit the advertiser. That type of advertising I do consider abusive.

Reply Score: 4

Comment by ssokolow
by ssokolow on Thu 14th Mar 2013 17:21 UTC
ssokolow
Member since:
2010-01-21

This has already been the case for a long time with Chrome and YouTube download extensions.

It's one of the reasons I use Firefox for pretty much everything but testing. I get an addon repository that not only approves of my taste in extensions, but draws attention to how common it is in hopes other people might also be interested.

...and, of course, while my pocket device is an OpenPandora, my brother uses an Android 2.3 phone with F-Droid as its repository since it was the most open thing that could also make calls and send texts on his budget.

Reply Score: 5

Comment by aligatro
by aligatro on Thu 14th Mar 2013 18:04 UTC
aligatro
Member since:
2010-01-28

I wonder, have they forcefully removed those applications from peoples' android devices?

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by aligatro
by Lazarus on Fri 15th Mar 2013 04:34 UTC in reply to "Comment by aligatro"
Lazarus Member since:
2005-08-10

I've been using AdAway on mine for a while, and it is still on my device.

Reply Score: 4

Comment by ichi
by ichi on Thu 14th Mar 2013 18:50 UTC
ichi
Member since:
2007-03-06

It took them longer than I thought.

From the POV of Google's core business allowing adblock apps on their store would be like Microsoft allowing license crackers on theirs.

It's not the same from a legal point, but in both cases you are bypassing the source of revenue the author has choosen for his work, which you could skip entirely if you didn't agree with it by not installing the app at all.

Like some other people above I prefer paying for a full application instead of using a "free" one with ads (and then I also prefer paying more for a full app instead of enduring a cheap or free one that relies on microtransactions, eg. the infamous freemium ones).

Edited 2013-03-14 18:53 UTC

Reply Score: 6

rklrkl
Member since:
2005-07-06

I can understand Google's stance on this, but I just looked at the earliest date in AdAway's github and the license/readme was put in place on 30th June 2011! So the app has been around for ages and probably had been on the Google Play store for well over a year I suspect.

By allowing such ad blockers to exist for a long period when Google is now claiming they violated the T&C's (which they do) really shows up how sloppy Google are at actually detecting and removing such violating apps.

I think the worst thing is that both the end-users and the app authors assume that if a certain type of app remains on the Google Play store for a long time without being pulled, then it's not unreasonable to assume that it doesn't violate the T&C's.

Everyone gets to using that type of app for a year or more, causing the furore to be much greater when Google finally decide that the class of app *does* violate the T&Cs. Shoddy work Google - if these non-malware violators can "survive" on the store for extended periods, you wonder if malware violators are being overlooked too.

Reply Score: 4

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

That's probably down to the change of management. Rubin might have turned a blind eye to it (in the interest of keeping an open platform), where as Pichai who has now stepped in might be stamping his authority on the project (as many managers do in the first few weeks of their new job).

Reply Score: 4

mkools
Member since:
2005-10-11

Is the minute I go back to Firefox and a lot of people will do the same. Google knows that so it would be a stupid move if they did that.

Reply Score: 2

I understand why they did it but....
by JPisini on Fri 15th Mar 2013 11:54 UTC
JPisini
Member since:
2006-01-24

I understand why they did it but now those people that want ad blockers need to go outside the walled garden and to be honest malware is a big enough problem on Android this is only going to make it worse. Google would do well to remember the 90s when Yahoo was so large they ran TV commercials and people ran around saying "Do you yahoo" Yahoo lost the battle to Google and Google will lose to someone else if they don't stop ticking off their customers and partners.

Reply Score: 1

rubberneck
Member since:
2009-06-16

Cause users like Thom blocking ads and any source of revenue. I've done a considerable amount of apps over the last 4 years, and iOS still outpaces android 10 to 1 in revenue. Why? Just look at the author of this article. Android users are woefully cheap...steal software and block ads.

One more thing. iOS still outpaces android in app downloads as well.

Reply Score: 0