LeafSnap and Simple Keyboard Took Down from Google Playstore
February 05, 2022 (4 months ago)
The Google Play Store is where almost all Android client downloads their apps, and while it's a straightforward and simple process for users but developers aren't as well. Google is known for not paying attention, and taking apps off the market for unjustified and sometimes automated reasons. Today two additional apps were hit with the Play Store banhammer for the incorrect motives.
Open-source application Simple Keyboard is the latest popular app to be subject to Google's infuriating behavior. The app as well as the developer's whole account was removed from the Play Store on January 28th, 2022 without any explanation. The developer claims that there were no emails prior to his termination, and is unable to determine what the alleged error was. But, three years ago the application was hit with a few updates being rejected because of an icon for the app that looked too similar to the Google Keyboard (it has since been modified).
Simple Keyboard is an open-source Android keyboard application based on the free AOSP Latin keyboard for Android that Gboard employs however, it does not have any bells or whistles some people might not require including emojis GIFs spell-checking as well as swipe typing. There are a myriad of other applications on the market that are based from the identical source code. The developer believes that this could be the reason his application was removed (for instance, it was classified as a duplicate of an other application , however, that's just an idea. The only communication that the creator received from Google is an email informing him that his account had been shut down with no explanation or reason given:
In our view It's not acceptable to Google to shut down accounts without a notice of violations, or even a way for appealing the ruling. We've sought out more information when, for example an email went missing in spam or an account that was not in the same folder. However, if Google is at fault in the absence of communication this could make the situation even more difficult, leaving the developer no opportunity to determine what went wrong (if the developer did somethingwrong) as well as what could take to reduce or appeal the ban.
When the app's demise it was already available in the Play Store for eight years and had more than 1.2 million installations with 104K daily active users which makes it one of the most well-known Google Play Store developer snafus ever. Fortunately, the open-source app has been made available on the F-Droid however its reach is considerably less than that of the Google Play Store's.
Plant identification and watering schedule application LeafSnap has been removed out of LeafSnap's Play Store as well as the Application Store on September 3rd 2021. Another party incorrectly stated that LeafSnap was infringing its copyright through an DMCA notice of removal, but it was soon clear that the other party was targeting the wrong application, with it working in conjunction with LeafSnap to clarify the confusion and correct the error.
The LeafSnap developers have told us that Apple responded quickly and reinstate the application quickly, but even although they received the same information from their Play Store team received the same information as Apple within a similar time frame, the app is not been reinstated five months further. Even the DMCA counter-notice issued by LeafSnap towards the opposite side did not help in speeding up the process with Google saying that the application will need to be vetted with its legal team which is reportedly taking more time.
We have to admit the credit to Google for being the most ineffective and slow to get in touch with LeafSnap as well as having Play Store support team continually communicating with the app's developer. Within the last couple of weeks, LeafSnap has confirmed to us that their application has been restored, however -- and this is the real kicker: Google requires seven days for a review of the new application, and this is one of them. So, after a long wait of months for LeafSnap, it hasn'thasn't been able publish its app on the Play Store again, and there was no wrongdoing from its side That's what we call Google Play Store developer support experience.
The app's creators claim that the app had more than 3 million downloads, with a 4.9 stars rating, as well as being a top 50 educational application across the US. (A recent internet archive backup has slightly lower figures, but the numbers are over a million , and 4.8 ratings.) In addition to the loss of revenue during that time We also hear that their Admob account to monetize their app has been hampered with clear losses due to Google's inability to restore the application in a timely fashion.
These aren't the only recent and most well-known removals that have occurred in the past couple of months. There are probably numerous other developers affected by Google's actions who don't have the same level of vocal support for their concerns and many may not have the resources to wage a long-running dispute with Google because of a smaller number of supporters or the absence of a firm that has a department for legal to defend them.
Just to give you a just a few highlights of the past two years:
- Google decides that "Libre" means free-as-in-beer and is a part of an app-purge that is open source impacting the F-Droid Play Store account and other apps.
- Google took a player for video off the Play Store because it mentioned the .ass sub-title format
- Google restores chat app federated Element on the Play Store after wrongful removal
- Hiroshi Lockheimer personally apologizes to the Podcast Addict Play Store takedown The app is now restored
- AutoVoice was taken off the Play Store due to a user who was able to use swear words
- India's most popular app for financial services has been removed off Play Store for hours. Play Store for hours for breaking gambling-related rules
In light of the fact that Google is making billions of dollars through its 15-30% cut on the total amount of app and in-app purchases made on the Play Store and its in-app purchases, the condition of its support for developers is a disaster and the inhumane conditions independent developers must endure as a result of Google's automated systems are unjust. Small teams are completely on their own in the event that their apps are taken off out of Play Store and assistance by real people at Google sometimes not being available even though Google recently established a helpline to resolve issues. Because of how specific the act of moderation is very difficult to achieve, it's unfortunate Google does not care about the needs of its developers. It's a good thing that if it becomes law, the Open App Markets Act is passed into legislation, Google will be forced to grant alternative stores to enjoy the same integration that as the Play Store enjoys on Android and allow other stores to compete and possibly provide developers with better treatment.