Google takes harsh stance against ad-blocking apps, removes them from Play Store

It’s hump day, but there’s no time for middle-of-the-week celebration if you’re the developer of ad-blocking software on Android. According to several sources, Google has started sending notifications to developers with ad-blocking software in the Google Play Store regarding these apps’ removal. Players like AdBlock, AdAway, AdFree and more are being whisked away.

So why, exactly, is Google bringing the ban hammer down on these unfortunate souls? Well, they seem to violate section 4.4 of the Play Store developer agreement. Said section states:

You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Market, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator. You may not use customer information obtained from the Market to sell or distribute Products outside of the Market.

The key language here is regarding the interference of third-party clients’ services, networks and properties. This can be interpreted to mean that ad-blocking software adversely affects applications which implement ad code they’re targeting (including, but not limited to, Google’s own AdSense ads). Google’s not in the wrong with such an interpretation, and with high stakes in the matter — it does make most of its money from advertising, after all — they stand to have a heightened degree of interest in all this.

I know what you’re thinking: how can Google do this if Android is so open? Well, it’s open to a point, and it’s always been that way. There are certain rules in place that Google simply can’t bend on, whether it be to protect user information and privacy, to protect developers, and to protect the Play Store from malintent. That said, these developers are free to distribute their apps elsewhere, but Google won’t allow that bidding to be done in the Google Play Store. Here’s the message reportedly being sent out to developers:

This is a notification that your application, [REDACTED], has been removed from the Google Play Store.

REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement.

After a regular review we have determined that your app interferes with or accesses another service or product in an unauthorized manner. This violates the provision of your agreement with Google referred to above.

All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and/or the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and transaction fees) from you.

If your developer account is still in good standing, you may revise and upload a new instance of the application that is compliant with the developer terms. Before uploading any new applications, please review the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy.

If you feel we have made this determination in error, you can visit this Google Play Help Center article for additional information regarding this removal.

The Google Play Team

[via Twitter, Google Code, PasteBin, thanks Russ!]

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  • Tom Hughes

    Darn, time to sideload .apks from XDA…

  • camelsnot

    sucks but you can’t blame Google when it is their store.

    • enomele

      Agreed. It’s not like they are gone forever, and Google makes their money off ads.

    • Walt French

      as if that ever stopped anybody for making enraged polemics against Apple…

  • Sharif Salih

    I’m all for it. App developers need to make a buck somehow.

    • Kevin

      I’d be fine if developers offered free apps with ads and paid apps with no ads.

      Advertisements really ruin apps for me.

      • np6s4x

        yea, when you buy an app to not have ads, then a few months later they put ads into the paid version anyways, it’s rather irritating

        • ari_free

          That just gets everyone to install ad block

      • Sharif Salih

        Perhaps I’m the odd man out. Ads don’t bother me. Although back when I had an og Droid, yes very bothersome, but now with 3rd and 4th gen chipsets, the ads don’t take away any value for me.

        • Walt French

          Heh, I guess you’d call for “choice” in these matters: either see ads or pay $1 to just get the snippets of info out of the app and go on with your life.

          Alas, Google doesn’t do much to encourage those $1 apps.

    • EP_2012

      Yeah… it’s called “sell your app”. I avoid apps with ads that I can’t remove and I don’t support developers who don’t offer ad-free versions of their app. Ads not only consume data, but decrease battery life and performance of our devices – not to mention they take up space on the screen and very often get clicked on accidently. They also carry privacy concerns…

      • Sharif Salih

        I agree all developers should have a paid non ad supported version, but most people are cheap and will use free ad supported apps and then a portion of those will ad block. And really those are the people that run it for everyone.

        • EP_2012

          Paid versions should always offer more than the free-version… not just pay to remove ads.

          OR, the free-version should have a time-limit before it expires.

          Either way, if the app or game is useful enough to use more than a few times, people will pay for the extras/unlimited version.

          I’ve used apps that are problematic because of the ads, then the dev spends the next several updates fixing the ad-created problem. It’s not worth their time and they lose paying customers too.

          • Sharif Salih

            Im not convinced that free ad versions should do less. Also I’ve toyed with ad sense. Not hard at all. The documents more or less give you the working code, the dev only had to get the keys

          • No_Nickname90

            Ads bring in revenue. So if you paid for the app the developer won’t need ads. I don’t get why you’d be asking for more. You either pay them up front or through the ads.

          • EP_2012

            The problem is:

            - paid apps can also contain ads…
            - using the “pay to get rid of ads” model isn’t good for the developer in the long run.
            - some apps don’t offer a paid version, so you’re stuck with ads…

            The user AND developer loses in all cases, because they’ve managed to ruin the user experience for a few pennies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidalanbrand David Brand

    Good we dont need ad-blockers anyways. Ads are not really an issue, people that have issues with them have … well, issues.

  • http://twitter.com/Sonicaholic Sonicaholic

    Not to much of an issue if you’re like me and support the developers you like, I don’t have a single add supported app on my device, the only adds I do see are on youtube those I’ll put up with for the use of the very few google services I do use.

  • Anthony Maciel

    Android is completely open. The **Google** Play Store is not, however. Don’t mistake the fact that almost every Android device you see comes with the Play Store with it being part of Android proper. It is as much a part of Android as any app that AT&T, Verizon, etc might bundle with your device, albeit much more widely distributed.

  • james ortiz

    don’t worry people will a way to make it work

  • Steven Skwarkowski

    Those who know will simply sideload the app. Either way, if it is coming to an end, I enjoyed my AdFree for quite some time.

  • Simon Miller

    This is actually bigger news imho. I don’t use adblockers but Google is obviously putting financial interests first and freedom of choice second. Not surprising, but still very noteworthy, they have never done that so openly before.

    • OptimusL

      If you really want an ad blocking app then simply side load it, you have the choice to do that.

  • kev2684

    if android ads weren’t so ugly and getting in the way of the app, i wouldn’t consider getting an ad blocker.

    • No_Nickname90

      Oh my gosh!! IKR? And they’re ALWAYS the same. “Save battery”. Really? Do I need to see an add to save battery in a battery saving app? Get’s on my nerves. I wish they could somehow implement what Google does and show ads that are relevant to me.

    • ari_free

      Exactly. Many people watch the Superbowl just for the ads. I don’t have a problem with the idea of ads. It’s just that 99% of them suck and I’m not interested in them. Hey, I want to see the latest Samsung or Droid ad. So why do I have to deal with all this other junk?

  • ORITGuy

    I understand the need to allow ads – what I think we need to demand is a way to control the bandwidth usage (i.e. not allowing ads on mobile networks). Until we can control that, and developers stop putting ads in paid apps, I’ll keep using AdFree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jamille-Browne/1184321457 Jamille Browne

    I don’t use adblockers at all but this should be allowed in the market. notification window ads are the worst!

  • prestone1

    Ads are OK, but colorful bouncing flipping ads are not. Unfortunately that is way to common these days. Love Adfree

  • Mike

    I can build ad blocking into a ROM so I will never see a single ad ever. Google needs to get rid of the apps that claim to be free but then force you to do an “in app purchase” like the ones ZT Art does for Go Launcher and Go SMS for example. In App purchases cannot be refunded which is a load of crap.

  • avenuePad

    I don’t have any issue with Google protecting their developers. As are how Android/developers offer so many free apps.

    Good on ‘em.

  • http://www.facebook.com/capurrense.feliz Gerardo Alfredo Gonzalez Bonin

    Well, i can always get them through Amazon and others…..
    An inconvenience, but not a big deal

  • http://twitter.com/seanmosborne Sean Michael Osborne

    Not surprised these apps are being pulled. I was surprised to find them 2 1/2 years ago when I got my first Android(which I rooted to get rid of ads). I will always use adblock because I own the device. I feel they highly detract from the Android experience. Not to mention they are distracting, ugly, and useless. I see/hear enough ads everywhere else. I think you should always have the option. You’ll just have to find a good forum to find your adblock apps now. I donate or purchase apps in the store, mostly from independent developers. Quite frankly ads are everywhere. I like to keep them off of my personal phone/tablet/pc. I wonder if AdBlock in Chrome Browser(PC) is getting the same attention?

  • NIGHTSCOUT

    F. U. Google for hindering choice!

  • Blah Blah Blah

    I’m sure these apps will find a nice home on XDA

    I don’t see them in the play store anymore, I assume they’ve been removed already.

    • KOLIO

      Most. A few were still in the store a couple hours ago,:AD VANISH

  • No_Nickname90

    These apps usually come with ROMs, or ROMs usually add the ability anyways. But what about Chrome extensions that do this?

    • UPGRAYEDD

      I wonder about that too. I use ABP for Chrome. Hopefully Google won’t force me to remove it. I may have to find another browser if this happens.

  • AndroidProfit

    HAHAHA!! All the Android CRYBABIES would be GOING BERZERK if Apple did this! Looks like the Goog is becoming what the android crybabies fear the most….CRAPPLE!!!!

  • Craig

    I just hate how enormous mobile ads are. In all honesty, I could probably live without adblock in my browser because the ads are so minimal. Ads in apps at least take up a tenth of my device’s screen which is outrageous.

  • hemipw54

    Need a app that would block the ads but make it appear as though you clicked the ads so the developer still gets paid.

    Might be wrong, but so is Google shoving ads down your throat.

    I don’t need to know where to go buy something, I pretty much have figured out where all the stores are around me. And targeting me with ads based on my shopping habits is stupid, I won’t listen to them, so they are useless.

    Life has no mystery anymore, if something is new we know about it over and over again instead of being able to stumble across the new item in wonderment.

  • Brian S.

    I wonder if this had something to do with so many failed Google IO registration attempts…. I bet it diiiiiiiiiid.

  • tizzyzz

    Nothing a little knowledge or searching can’t fix all you have to do is edit your hosts file send the ads to 127.0.0.1 a little work but still doable I do this in Linux to stop ads. I do believe I supporting developers and buy ad free versions when available but if no pay version is available then I refuse to have the ads

  • Chris Pick

    This is probably not so much about developers making a buck.. But it is more about the fact that these apps (or at least one of them using a proxy) was breaking 3rd party apps trying to do ssl communication. (our app was affected). If you wan’t to block ads, fine go for it.. Our app does not serve / show ads, and it is free.

    But to have a 3rd party app break my app, because it was routing data through a broken proxy which could not handle ssl traffic… Not good..

    Glad Google did this.

  • Maximillion82

    I am for it, if an app is good I gladly see money in the developers pocket, if the app sucks delete it. At least Google gives a 15 min preview. Try to return an app on Apples App Store within 2 minutes.

  • http://Google Raul

    I’ve been on adfree for a long time it works well I hate adds I c them on TV on busses trains there all over the fucking place I rather them give us the option like they always have. Wtf is going on Google ur starting to scre me with these new rules.

  • feztheforeigner

    “It’s hump day”

    What? O_o

  • Doug

    Just a reason to root with a ROM that involves ad block ;)

  • Alexander Borsi

    *adds a few more lines to my firewall script in my router to block the domains of the ad hosting companies*

    Doot tee doo…

  • Knowles2

    Android is open. Google Play market isn’t.

  • WadeDogg

    developers needing to make money is not a problem that should be solved by spamming ads on my phone. make an app thats good enough that people want to buy it. all my apps are paid for. ii bought mx player pro even though it ran just fine with the free version, just to support the dev..

    i totally understand these devs wanting to profit from their work but ads arent the way.