Android apps are no longer allowed to push updates, even beta updates, without going through the Play Store — this includes Facebook Home. This change abruptly closes a loophole previously utilized most famously by Facebook to push beta updates to a limited amount of users through Home itself.
Now, with the latest change to the Play Store’s terms and conditions, Google specifically spelled out any update to Play Store apps must be served through the Play Store itself.
An app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play’s update mechanism.
This is the same section of the t&c that prohibits the transmission of “viruses, worms, defects, Trojan horses, malware, or any other items that may introduce security vulnerabilities to or harm user devices, applications, or personal data.” Google is closing this loophole with force.
Facebook Home’s previous update scheme allowed the company to push updates, labeled as beta by the way, without going through Google. This was clearly within the rules, but the tactic that clearly didn’t sit well with Google.
The change in terms of service likely wasn’t to target Facebook Home but rather prevent malicious apps from using this loophole. Android already has a slight malware problem and Google needs to take every step possible to ensure its users apps downloaded from the Play Store are safe. Facebook Home just happened to get caught in the roundup.