Jun 14th, 2011

Yesterday, it was discovered that a new type of malware, being dubbed Plankton, was embedded in several applications in the Android market. Google has since removed those applications, but one developer seems to have wrongly gotten mixed up in the fold. He’s the developer behind Tiny Flashlight + LED, perhaps the most popular flashlight application in the Android market and one I consider to be the best.

The developer says he’s tried contracting Google via their support form for developers, but has yet to receive a response. He tried to get his plea for help through the Android developers’ mailing list, but has only encountered other developers with the same issue. And he’s even gone to the big cheese of developers himself, Tim Bray. (Tim Bray is an Android developer advocate who works to ensure developers have an easy time on the platform.)

We can’t say whether or not the developer’s account was banned along with the recent excavation of applications, but the timing would suggest as much. Google themselves have not yet confirmed whether or not the developer’s application was malicious, nor have they confirmed if the application violated any of Google’s terms of service.

The developer’s reputation in the market has been strong since early 2010 when he released Bebbled. Google considered him one of the developers who helped build the Android market and sent him a Nexus One. (Along with thousands of other developers. Read here if you don’t remember this gracious act.) In his words:

The Android Market is so successful, because of the small developers, not the big companies, which come in later. Unfortunately, for Google it doesn’t matter what small developer have made for them. I got kicked out in a matter of minutes without any explanation.

Unfortunately, it’s a complaint we hear far too often. It first came to everyone’s attention with the debut of the Nexus One. Because the device was distributed through Google, they held the burden of supporting those who bought one or received one for free. Unfortunately, this proved to be quite difficult and a pain for many and forced the carriers, T-Mobile and AT&T, to set up their own support channels.

Google received criticism from both users and the media about being ignorant when it came to customer service and support. Some considered this criticism unfair considering Google hasn’t had to deal with that much end-user support in the past, but it was certainly fair criticism. Swinging back to the developer side of things, this show of inexperience continued.

Google has removed applications long before this incident, and while we know they make a decent effort to communicate with developers over issues regarding account bans and application removals, they ultimately leave bad tastes in the mouths of coders. They have also failed in adequately communicating with developers when hundreds of them have missed out on payments because Google Checkout fails to properly handle the transaction. There are more examples, but they are simply too numerous to write here.

It’s been less than 24 hours since Google has supposedly suspended the developer’s account so we can’t really say they aren’t trying, but the developer is certainly having a hard time. It might be too little, too late for the future of his application sitting amongst the top 50 applications of all time in the Android market once it’s all said and done. Needless to say, we’ve contacted Google for comment.