Yesterday Google began removing ad-blocking apps from its Play Store on the grounds that they violate part of its Developer Distribution Agreement. Now one of the removed apps, AdBlock Plus, has hit back publicly at what it dubs a “unilateral move by Google”, putting out a statement slamming Mountain View for threatening consumer choice.
“By unilaterally removing these apps, Google is stepping all over the checks and balances that make the Internet democratic. People should be really alarmed by this move,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus in the statement.
“I realize that advertising revenue is important to Google, but understand that AdBlock Plus does not automatically block all ads; we simply allow users the choice whether to block ads or whitelist them. We even encourage advertising that is done appropriately and conforms to an Acceptable Ads policy, which is debated and decided in an open public forum.”
We’ve reached out to Google for a response, and will update this story with any comment. Update: A Google spokesperson provided the following statement: “We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies.”
Faida also claims the Play Store ban is the third in a “string of actions” Google has taken against AdBlock — indicating that Google has been hunting for ways to squeeze ad blocking apps out of its marketplace since late last year.
“In late February Google began forcing Android users to manually configure a proxy server in order to run AdBlock Plus; in December 2012 Google re-categorized AdBlock Plus in the Chrome Web store and stopped showing it in search results when users specifically looked for the extension; and when AdBlock Plus re-listed as an app on December 12th, Google took it down again 12 hours later,” Faida said.
In recent years, Mountain View has put in a lot of effort to polish up the look and feel of what used to be known as the Android Marketplace — and is now the polished multimedia apps and entertainment one-stop-shop Google Play. Kicking out ad blockers is just the latest move by Google to more tightly control the Android experience — an uncomfortable balancing act to conduct on what it is ostensibly an ‘open’ platform.
Despite being barred from Google Play, AdBlock Plus can still be directly downloaded by Android users, via its website. But the point here is that by removing easy access to ad blockers Google is greatly decreasing their visibility to the mainstream Android user — which is clearly its intention. T&C violations are an excuse for Google to push out apps that get in the way of monetizing the Android platform.
Other ad blocker apps removed by Google include AdBlocker, AdAway and AdFree.