Google has been cracking down on Android spam lately, but they’ve been doing a miserable job, and the latest debacle puts yours truly – more specifically Android Forums – directly under Google’s shoe as they stomp recklessly through the Google Play Store like robotic bounty hunters.
The automated email, titled “14-day Notification: Violation of the Android branding guidelines”, explains that if we do not comply in 2 weeks, our app will be removed from the Google Play Store. The violation? Using the word Android. The demand? Rename our app. Copied directly from the E-Mail:
Edit the title of your app by removing “Android” as the prominent brand name. Instead, use “(title of app) for Android” as an alternative. Here’s an example:
- Incorrect: “Android MediaPlayer”
- Correct: “MediaPlayer for Android”
So tell us, Google, who are we?
- Forums for Android?
- Android Forums for Android?
We have been called Android Forums since November 5th, 2007 and although many people have imitated our name, imitated our website, and even call themselves “Android Forums”- it’s hard to argue with a 7 year history as the original Android Forums at AndroidForums.com.
Search the Google Play Store for “Android Forums” and you’ll find a lot of sites calling themselves Android this or Android that- but none of them are actually THE AndroidForums.com with a 7 year track record of being named “Android Forums”, years before the Google Play Store even existed.
Will all of our fellow Android blogs suffer the same fate?
- Android Authority becomes Authority for Android
- Android Central becomes Central for Android
- Android Community becomes Community for Android
- Android Police becomes Police for Android
- Android And Me becomes And Me for Android
- And the list goes on….
The situation becomes even more bleak when you search the Google Play Store for “Android News”: you find a plethora of spam apps named “Android News” yet we’re the ones being singled out. And we’ve been singled out before.
Phandroid gets banned from the Play Store
You may recall that the Phandroid News for Android app was once called Android News by Phandroid. We gave it that name because we were NOWHERE to be found in relevant searches for android news, android blogs, or android anything on the Google Play Store. Some could say we were trying to “game the system” or “over-SEO” our app – and I’d have a hard time disagreeing with much more than the tone of that categorization. Apparently Google felt the same: issuing Phandroid a removal notice of its own.
However, Android News by Phandroid wasn’t given a warning, it was simply pulled from the store:
REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of section 6.3 of the Developer Distribution Agreement.
The details within the email were alarming, frustrating, and stressful:
- Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account
- Possible termination of related Google accounts
- Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales
At this time, we were given no specific reason for our removal and no suggested actions to bring our app in compliance. We were 100% happy to comply and wanted to make sure we played by Google’s rules, we just needed to know how! So I responded to Google asking for exactly that: some help understanding how I can best comply.
Here is the response I got back:
Thank you for your note.
We have reviewed your appeal and will not be reinstating your app. This decision is final and we will not be responding to any additional emails regarding this removal.
If your account is still in good standing and the nature of your app allows for republishing you may consider releasing a new, policy compliant version of your app to Google Play under a new package name. We are unable to comment further on the specific policy basis for this removal or provide guidance on bringing future versions of your app into policy compliance.
You’re kidding me, right Google? All I want to do is comply, but instead I’m banned for asking and you refused to answer any more questions. My only recourse is to update my app with guesses regarding the violation, re-upload the app, and pray it’s approved. But if it’s not, I won’t know why, and if I try too many times, my app, developer account, and entire existence with all Google products may be terminated immediately.
Luckily we were able to leverage some existing relationships, find someone who could help identify the problem, and our app was unlocked and provided another opportunity for revision. Not wanting to risk a lifetime ban, we simply updated our app name to Phandroid News for Android and that ended up being the proper solution. It seems obvious now, but at the time, we considered that among many other possibilities.
But that shouldn’t be the solution in this case. Android Forums is properly named. The website is called Android Forums. The domain is AndroidForums.com. This has been true for 7 years and this is the first we’re hearing about any “violation”. While changing the app name to AndroidForums.com would seem to bypass their complaints, it also seems like an incredibly moronic solution.
I have to think our app was flagged automatically, suspension approved by a human who made it in error (not understanding the details of our app, our site, or the Android community).
So why am I sharing this with you?
Why not leverage my same contacts to reach out, find a solution, and absolve Android Forums from its Google denounced wrongdoing?
Because people need to know. Google decision makers, especially, need to know. In many ways, Android was built on the backs of developers, and this haphazard system of flagging, suspending, and banning apps, developers, and accounts needs to have more substance. There needs to be better communication. There are developers whose livelihood depends on well crafted Android apps, whose good-willed intentions are only to comply with Android’s guidelines, yet get automated e-mails that effectively terminate their source of income with no way to seek information or answers.
There are far more developers who ARE in violation of Google’s terms, who ARE spamming the Play Store, whose intentions ARE misguided; unfortunately, hoards of these apps still sit on the Play Store, outranking us and confusing consumers while the legitimate apps and developers continue to be punished with little to no recourse.
In Google’s defense
With millions of apps and developers, monitoring the Google Play Store is no easy task, but the current practices are abhorrent and desperately (and immediately) need to be improved.
Google should get some credit for having improved this process between June (when Phandroid was suspended) and September (when Android Forums was suspended) in two key ways:
- 14-day warning rather than immediate ban
- More specific explanation of the violation
Has Google’s communication improved? I’m not sure… I’m afraid to respond to the e-mail, wondering if it will lead to another instant ban for the app and perhaps worse. Hopefully this “open article” of sorts will be seen by Google brass who can address this issue in the following ways:
- Agree the suspension was made in error
- Identify how in the heck we would otherwise, given our site name, make this change
- Explain why thousands of our competitors – both legitimate and spam-ridden – aren’t being targeted
- Find ways to improve this necessary process and then implement them
We’re on the clock: 12 days left. Thanks to all the Phandroid readers and Android Forums members for your continued support. Since 2007!
Just use Phandroid. I think that’s how most folks know you anyway.
This is about Google protecting it’s trademark, and it’s something they probably need to do from a legal standpoint, no matter how stupid it may seem. (“The law, my dear, is an ass” – Charles Dickens)
Our news app, for Phandroid.com, has already been updated to Phandroid News for Android and is validly in the Google Play Store:
This is about the Android Forums app for AndroidForums.com:
Why not just rename to PhandroidForums? Would that not resolve the issue? What happens of you add a “The” at the beginning TheAndroidForums.com? Would that comply?
Changing a domain that has been around for 7 years would be an catastrophic mistake for any site.
Regarding The Android Forums I think would still be against their terms.
They’re not being asked to change the domain, just the name of the app. The app would still link to this site, and web searches would still link to this site. Saved bookmarks would still work.
I get that. Just brainstorming. Quite honestly, what always confused me about the site was that the news site was Phandroid, but the forums were Android Forums, so I didn’t look through the news feed as much as I did at least a year into participating on the forums. Thing is, on the actual website, you still have the domain for android forums, so would it really be that devistating if it was re-routed to phandroidforums? I’ve seen other forums succeed after name changes as well (sports related forums). Either way, just wanted to throw out some ideas.
raname the app “spaceballs: the android forum”
Yes, and Android forums is closely tied to Phandroid. I get to the forums through Phandroid. There’s a forum link at the top of the Phandroid home page. And there’s a Phandroid logo at the top of the forums page. Android forums is part of Phandroid. You’ve pretty much branded it that way already. Just finish the job.
I’m just curious here, how do you know you’re being singled out? It wouldn’t be public knowledge as to who all got that same email warning, would it? If you could indeed prove being singled out, you have a legit case. If they indeed did email everyone who has an app starting with “Android ” in the name, it would help everyone understand why and you could easily change it to Forums for Android, right? You can put “aka Android Forums” in the app description so it comes up in search results. Am I way off base here?
I’m in the same situation with one of my apps in play store (14 day noti email). My app is named after my website(android site, but not a forum). To comply I switched the title to “MyAppName for Android”, but left the actual app package name as “Android MyAppName”.
The email only mentions to change the play store “title”, but does not say anything about changing the “app package name”.
Wouldn’t changing the “title” only and not the “app package name” make our apps compliant since that’s all that google asked to be changed?
Google doesn’t own the term android as far as I know….and Android is not just the OS or I have been misinformed and all those automatrons weren’t androids
Google most certainly has a trademark on the word Android in the context of smartphones and operating systems:
Trademakrs apply to specifi usages and industries, not necessarily all uses of a word. I can’t trademark the use of my last name, but if I have an IT consulting company named “meyerweb’ I can certainly trademark that usage, and prevent anyone else from using the term in a manner which might be confused with my company.
So you’re partly right. Google can’t keep someone from building a robot and calling it “an Android.” But if that robot has an OS, Google can keep them from calling that OS “Android.” And if the robot makes calls, Google can keep them from calling it an Android phone.
And if someone is writing a blog, or running a forum, about the Android OS or Android phones, Google can very definitely defend their trademark to that term.
Say I create a car that drives itself and call it android. Then I release a forum app for my car and call it Android Forums…..now what?
What needs to happen is a disqus app that will allow for easy commenting on your phone and linking to sites that you follow consistently that have disqus
Not sure if serious or didn’t read article. Or title.
I can see the issue… You should change to Phandroid Forums
Bingo. I like it, the editors should consider this
I could see changing the app title to AndroidForums.com, if that would comply, but a total re-branding to Phandroid Forums? Eh, I’d just assume scrap the app if it went that far – especially since we are about to drastically improve our mobile experience ;)
Well, that is if we’re talking about rebranding the app AND the site. If just the app… I suppose an off-branding is better than nothing, not like we couldn’t have both, it along with the mobile site.
But the point does still stand – the issue here is the difficultly those who want and are trying to comply are faced with, in the process.
And what is the problem? Just merge the both sites and then both apps into one which is called Phandroid News and Forums for Android™.
This is what happens when you use someone else’s trademark in your own product’s or service’s name. Never a good idea.
I believe more of the point is we just want to comply and Google makes is very difficult. …oh and the fact that Phandroid and Android Forums are not just being singled out. It would be easy for us to change the name of the app to Forums for Android.
How about just making your website mobile-friendly?
To be perfectly honest, I am really irritated that every forum and website these days pesters me to install their app when I visit their website on my mobile.
Not everything has to be an app, and a web forum DEFINITELY does not need to be an app. It’s a bit silly and unnecessary.
(Mobile friendly is on its way ;) )
When I want to browse on mobile, Google Newsstand is actually pretty awesome as a reader – you can add websites/feeds and it’s delivered in a great format.
TheVerge just did that.
Ditched their app for one responsive mobile site everywhere.
Maybe call it Phandroid’s Android Forums? I wonder what all of the other Android news sites are going to do.
As of now: nothing. I’m pretty sure we’re the only “main” site that has been issued this demand. That I know of at least.
Maybe somebody @ Phandroid teed somebody from Google off?
I don’t go to them any more, but I seem to remember a number of Android sites with the word Android as part of the site’s name. That is, as a separate word. Not part of a unique word, like Phandroid. I can only wonder how Google will react to those.
Do any of those have apps? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised if they will also get a similar demand.
Be glad you don’t have “Android” as a complete word in your site’s name.
Oh, one more thing. It’s always useful to try to look at everything from the other point of view.
Imagine if someone created something useful related to your site, but branded it “Phandroid somethingorother”, and it became popular. You wouldn’t want to hurt them, but you wouldn’t want there to be any confusion that they are separate and unrelated to Phandroid.
Wow that’s pretty dumb. Google, get over yourself. Maybe just Phandroid Forums? Simple, and would probably make it way easier for people browsing the store to associate the app with this site.
Or how about just Phandroid Forums? Everyone who is a fan of Android knows of Phandroid.
Probably because the website for the forums in android forums .com not phandroid forums .com, a name change like that can/will lead to confusion.
And as Rob explains…changing the domain to phandroid forums .com will be hugely detrimental to their search engine rankings($$$)
simple solution. androidforums.com is a mirror of phandroidforums.com, problem solved.
Paying to host two sites that are mirrors of each other isn’t very financially savvy…
okay, here’s another simple solution, one domain name redirects to the other.
What about Phandroid Forums for Android, which would go well with Phandroid News for Android, which have name similarities and are yet distinguishable and explicit to anyone seeking relevant information. As for the domain http://www.androidforums.com, set it up for a 301 URL redirect to a new domain of your choice, perhaps http://www.phandroidforums.com or the like (hopefully available), this way you don’t lose visitors. Your search ranking would be affected I think however. Sorry to hear you’re in this mess. I hope you can find a reasonable solution.
Yeah… it could greatly affect our search engine rankings, to the point of potential devastation from a business standpoint.
Yeah, you’re right, it can hurt business. I wish Google could make exceptions for long running businesses like yours that actually promote Android. Once again I hope you can find a reasonable solution.
Rob don’t change your main forum domain because of an app issue. If anything create phandroidforums.com and redirect it to the original, best, well known androidforums.com
Sorry I missed the point that it is the app only, not the domain as well, in my original comment. If Google doesn’t mind the domain it’s better to keep http://www.androidforums.com as you said. I was thinking the domain might need to be changed as well given ‘Android’ is in the domain. Good point you brought up, hopefully the domain is fine as it is, otherwise if not, a 301 URL redirect to http://www.androidforums.com wouldn’t be permitted.
While I understand the frustration here I’m equally frustrated the “hey, this site has an Android app” popup I get every time I visit your site from Feedly to read a full article or post a comment using my Android device. I think the solution is simple – remove the app. I’ve never understood the need each forum or need site to have their own app – it’s ridiculous, IMO. I use Feedly for news and Tapatalk for forums – that’s it.
That said, i must be missing something. What are the benefits of such apps to the users or site owners?
This would be a great idea… if there weren’t hundreds of thousands of app users who disagree with your personal opinion. You might not use the app, and that’s fine, but there are many who prefer it.
I’ve found recently that when these major apps fail and crash, the unique website ones still work.
Remember that Feedly was being held hostage by not being able to sync? I used the Phandroid app in that time.
Another aspect is your credentials. Granted I use Feedly through gReader, but Phandroid doesn’t need your info to give you news.
Thanks for the info.
Google, sometimes I just don’t understand you. Android forums, you have my total support.
I’m not big on forums (‘cept for XDA-dev), preferring to stick with the hit-and-run disqus comments, but… aren’t Phandroid’s forums TapaTalk “compatible”? (Because if I was into forums, I for damn sure wouldn’t install an app for each one).
I can understand Google being a little overzealous in banning all the crap-apps out there, but you’d think they’d at least apply a smarter algorithm to it, and would know that Phandroid isn’t just a flybynight nobody.
“Because if I was into forums, I for damn sure wouldn’t install an app for each one”
EXACTLY!! I just go to forums in browser using chrome.
Talk about ungrateful. It’s sites like these that provide free advertising for Android and now they’re trying to ban you?
Well done Google. Cripple all your avenues that provide free tech support for Android. Wait, you’re not coming for me now right? I did say “for Android” just to be clear.
I can understand where Google is coming from. Android Forums sounds like an official forum for Android and it isn’t.
The question is though…why is it just now surfacing as a problem 7
years later? Could it be related to Google’s close sourcing more (former
AOSP) apps every year? The come one, come all ecosystem of love and sharing is turning into Google’s way or the highway. Funny how that happens once the infrastructure has been erected by the whole and adopted by the majority.
It could just be that Google is suddenly realizing that they better start protecting how their trademark is used, or risk losing it forever. See my post elsewhere in this discussion. People might be less upset if Google had been more proactive about this from the beginning. But also, in another post I point out that Phandroid already has a valuable brand right in their hands, and doesn’t seem to recognize this. Really? Yes. Hint: the valuable brand is: (ta da . . .) Phandroid!
I understand that this feels like a kick in the gut from GOOGLE.
Hopefully a permanent & mutually beneficial solution can be found, assuming that GOOGLE actually has a real live human being addressing these issues.
You don’t suppose this has anything to do w/all the AMAZON-laden articles posted in PHANDROID?
I’m not SURE but are you making FUN of my healthy use of ALL CAPS? Don’t be rude, it’s an ADDICTION.
NO WAY! I catch S*** all the time for using CAPS.I use ’em primarily for names/titles/etc…..
I see nothing wrong w/the practice,yet, a good number of people seemingly equate it w/going postal.
NVM most of those individuals kan’t spel wurth a krap…….
I’VE been making fun of HIS use of superfluous CAPS for YEARS now. It’s FUUUNNNN!
They have meetings for that.
It could be the first step in going after everything including domains with “Android” in the names. Did they recently hire a bunch of lawyers from Apple or something?
Can I get a “material design” witness? Lol
One of the sad things about trademark law is that you have to protect your trademark, or risk losing the ability to protect it from infringement.
The Android brand already seems dangerously close to already becoming a generic term.
* kleenex [“do you have a band-aid or a kleenex? Oh, I happen to have a Puffs brand kleenex handy”]
* xerox [“could you please xerox this on your ibm copier?”]
* iphone [“oh, I see you have a new samsung iphone”]
Google may have realized that they better start policing the use of their brand or lose it forever. Unfortunately, trademark law requires that you actively protect your brand. Suppose Microsoft were to launch a phone branded “android” that ran, god forbid, Microsoft Blue Screen Tiles for Phone! If Google sued for infringement, Microsoft could challenge that the trademark has already become a generic term, loosely used.
So don’t be too harsh on Google. I can understand why they might be tightening up on how the word Android is used. Actually, I am genuinely surprised that it took them this long.
I understand that a trademark must be protected but seeing as Android itself is open source (Unlike Windows and iPhone) it seems kind of silly. what’s the use of being open source software if you can’t even use it’s name? Just playing devils advocate here…….
It doesn’t matter how long you have been in violation. The branding guidelines are clear and have been publicly visible for a long time. Forums for Android seems like the acceptable alternative.
Phandroid Forums is a much better alternative.
What about Google’s own apps like Android wear and Android device manager?
That’s the point though, Google don’t want to confuse their own official apps with third party apps
So Google… The search company couldn’t come up with a simple algorithm to sort relevant criteria?
That’s like asking about Kleenex using the Kleenex brand on it’s own products but not wanting anyone else to use it on non-Kleenex products.
well what else do you expect from a bunch of money grubbing idiots.
do no evil was always a load of horse dung,rather like most of their “products” here today,gone tomorrow.
the only product that is still named the same as it was at launch is google search,every other “product”has been either discontinued or renamed or crippled so it does not work outside lah lah land america,like google voice,you could only use in america or india,almost anywhere else in the world,you could only get it to half work if you pumped everything through a vpn tunnel so they thought you where in lah lah land.
behaviour like this from google and other yankee tax evaders will help turn them and others back into what they realy are,america centric firms,selling only to americans in america,where there is already talk by future presidential candidates for firms like google,flopple,ms etc to be done for treason for a)tax evasion inside america and for off shoring huge chunks of cash outside of any “normal” regulated system.
“Earn Google play credits working from home reporting brand dissenters”
“Police for Android” .com
Sorry, times a changing you have to adapt!
I hope you realize that Phandroid is actually a very good brand. It’s unique. It’s original. It is not a dictionary word. It is not confusing with the Android brand. Especially if you called it Phandroid Forums. It seems like you’ve already got a valuable brand right in your hands. You should be using this brand on everything, like your app.
Look at other good unique brands: Kleenex. Xerox. Nylon. Google.
Phandroid Android Forum. OR. Phandroid Forums… And Done.
How about Android Forums for Android on Android Powered by AndroidForums.com