Ad-blocking apps being removed from Google Play store

Google has been in the news a lot this week. On Wednesday, the company revealed that it was sunsetting a number of projects, including Google Reader, along with the announcement that long-time Android chief Andy Rubin was stepping down from that role, while still remaining at Google.

As it turned out, Google was also busy on another front that same day. It quietly removed at least two Android apps from the Google Play store that were designed to block web ads. News of this move first popped up on the AdBlock Plus blog a few hours ago. The blog stated their app was taken down because, in Google's words, the app caused "interference with another service or product in an unauthorized manner.” PCWorld reports that another similar app, AdAway, was taken down from Google Play.

In the case of AdBlock Plus, which launched on Android in November last year, the people who have already downloaded the app can still continue to use it but they will not be able to receive any further updates via Google Play. AdBlock Plus for Android will still be offered on the company's website as well as through some alternate app stores.

Thanks to Igor for the tip!

Source and image: AdBlock Plus

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This just goes to show that AdSense has suffered due to it being available in the Play Store. Such a headache for website owners like me as well

If AdBlockers stopped full page takeover ads, popunders, overs and forced redirects, OK then I can agree.. but this thing hides ALL ads.

How are people like me supposed to pay to keep this site online when people ignorantly block our source of income?

Nice of Google to just yank them off without giving any notice to users or devs and then couple it with a BS statement, adding insult to injury. So much for "open" and "evil", typical of so many companies that start off OK, then take a dump on their customers once they're in a position to get away with it. Paypal, Adobe, Twitter, Google, the list keeps growing

Google 'does no evil' right up until it has an impact on their profits, then they do evil.
This is the unfortunate reality of app stores, be it Google, Apple, or Microsoft.

As long as you live within a restricted app store, you agree to be bound by those limitations and explicitly agree that you will only use your device for apps and behaviour that those companies agree with.

This incidentally is why I use Android, not because I like Google or even like Android. It's just the best of a bunch of terrible choices.
I can legally side load apps here whereas I can't elsewhere.

Garbage wins out because everyone else gives you less then garbage.

Hey, let's all be angry about something before we understand the technical reasons behind it!

Google isn't removing them because they block ads. They're removing them because the applications exploit a security hole in Android to function. A security hole that could potentially be used to monitor all of your network activity.

All of it.

Closing this hole means these apps have no way to function. They're welcome to come up with a new method of blocking ads and resubmit.

No it's not abotu a security hole, it's about how android operates and it allows apps to talk to each other and use the communication layers that other mobile OS' don't, it's not a security whole, just like a computer wide ad blocker or a firewall on your computer is not a security hole.

They're removing the apps because they mess with the communication between the server and apps. ie. it's removing the ads. Removing the ads is the sole reason for them getting removed. And the removal letter says as much. if it was a security hole, which it isn't, they would have fixed it instead.

As I constantly have to point out, I don't just make crap up:

https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=40506#c6
http://www.androidpolice.com/2...lock-plus-in-android-4-2-2/

This all comes down to apps that take advantage of being able to mess with Android's proxy settings. This *is* a potential security risk, and closing it *does* impact ad blockers. What's more:

http://www.androidpolice.com/2...g-apps-from-the-play-store/

The letter Adblocker received from Google is vague and broad enough that it is not a stretch to think they're referring to proxy settings.

There are very few facts to work with here, but what facts there are do not point to this being a war on ad blockers for the purpose of protecting ad revenue. Coming to that conclusion is entirely the decision of the reader and the assumptions he's eager to make.

This is a necessary move anyway. Developers make money off those ads and it would only hurt them, this is why MS and Apple do the same thing. They usually have free ad-supported versions and paid non-ad versions. If they allowed ad-blockers, then people would pretty much get paid versions for free (not including premium features).

GP007 said,
Google removing apps from it's store that directly effect it's major revenue stream, what a shock..... oh wait.

Well they did allow them for several years. Don't see Microsoft allowing windows activation cracks in to the Store at any point

this. funny hing is Android fans pointed to adblockers on google sites as one of the ways how google was "open" lol

guru said,
this. funny hing is Android fans pointed to adblockers on google sites as one of the ways how google was "open" lol

It's more funny when you see the same people who said they where open for allowing this, now saying it's no big deal and you can just sideload and all that.

AFAIK Microsoft and Apple don't even allow ad-blockers anyway, how is this any different? At least on Android people can still side-load them if required.

We're talking about ad-blockers that prevent Android apps showing ads, not browser ad-blockers, which AFAICT none of Google, Apple or Microsoft provides anyway.

I have not been a huge Google fan of late, but I agree with this. People should not be allowed to block ads. It directly costs app developers money. App developers are the heart of the mobile ecosystem. Dish Network was extremely short sighted when they released the "Hopper" which automatically skips over TV ads. Wait a few years and see how well that pans out for them as they try to renew their network contracts.

To be fair, the app store was never actually open. Just more lenient than the Windows and Apple app stores. Adblockers reduce income for both Google and the app developers that rely on ad revenue in their apps, therefore blocking adblockers is both beneficial for Google and the developers.

I'm not particularly happy about it, but it's understandable IMO.

And this is news *why*? Google is, above ALL else, a company that pushes ads; expect a similar move to hit the Chrome Web Store.

PGHammer said,
And this is news *why*? Google is, above ALL else, a company that pushes ads; expect a similar move to hit the Chrome Web Store.

Because for years it wasnt an issue but now Google is cracking down. Really no big issue as the apps will be available and most of them require root anyway. So if you know how to root, you know how to install APKs outside the App Store.

i wish android have something like proxomitron,
powerful customization & configuration,
works for any browser that support proxies.

No biggie. You just side load or your one of the decent alternative marketplaces and you're good to go. This won't bother the users who care.

LogicalApex said,
No biggie. You just side load or your one of the decent alternative marketplaces and you're good to go. This won't bother the users who care.

Not sure about alternative market places. Would rather get the program from the developer instead, which I am sure will be available.

You wont be able to get automatic app updates from Google Play though. And this WILL bother many users anyway, it makes it more difficult, it's an extra step to get the app.

Google are doing so much **** lately and it's really putting me off them. I've already moved to Outlook.com and SkyDrive (would have anyway though, they're just better) and next i'll be going from Android to WP8 once the Blue update arrives.

Edited by W32.Backdoor.KillAV.E, Mar 14 2013, 4:03pm :

W32.Backdoor.KillAV.E said,
You wont be able to get automatic app updates from Google Play though. And this WILL bother many users anyway, it makes it more difficult, it's an extra step to get the app.

Google are doing so much **** lately and it's really putting me off them. I've already moved to Outlook.com and SkyDrive (would have anyway though, they're just better) and next i'll be going from Android to WP8 once the Blue update arrives.

I'm not the biggest fan of Google, but your logic here doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Of course Google would be against you blocking ads since both them and the app developers in the marketplace depend on those ads for revenue. Android is open enough that you can (with a few clicks) side load the apps anyway if you care that much.

Windows Phone will not let you do anything similar and MS does similarly block apps of this type. For the same obvious reasons...

Complaining about this is akin to being angry that you can't buy a Lumia 920 from the Apple store. It is pretty obvious that Apple would tell you to walk down the street and buy it from AT&T directly. Obviously, they could sell it, but they chose not to for reasons that a child could understand.

"Windows Phone will not let you do anything similar and MS does similarly block apps of this type. For the same obvious reasons..."

Source please. Maybe they do or not but without a source that statement doesn't hold much credibility. As we all know Google is far more likely to Scroogle their users than Microsoft.

UCNarain said,
As we all know Google is far more likely to Scroogle their users than Microsoft.

Contrary to popular belief no...not everyone knows or agrees with MS Scroogle campaign.

As far as I know, there are no ad blocking apps in the WP store. If there was, I am sure MS would block them as well.

LogicalApex said,
...

Again, side loaded apps will not receive automatic updates from the Play Store. And it's an extra step having to side load stuff. Google allowed ad blocking apps for years so why stop now. WP does not have as many ads to start with so it's not such an issue.

Google are slowly getting more and more closed. Chrome OS is probably how Google would like Android to be eventually, and that thing makes OSX look open.

W32.Backdoor.KillAV.E said,

Again, side loaded apps will not receive automatic updates from the Play Store. And it's an extra step having to side load stuff.

Not a big deal. Most people who root does this anyway.

No need to even sideload, although that too is an alternative, you can visit XDA or any of a number of communities or the developers directly from the browser on your phone and download and install the apk or script.

Android for the win, GOT ROOT?

techbeck said,

Contrary to popular belief no...not everyone knows or agrees with MS Scroogle campaign.

As far as I know, there are no ad blocking apps in the WP store. If there was, I am sure MS would block them as well.

Why would MS block them? They don't rely on ads like Google does.

laserfloyd said,

Why would MS block them? They don't rely on ads like Google does.

Because MS is big on promoting and rewarding developers. Removing/blocking ads from apps will hurt the developers.

Bertch said,
According to the article it is blocking ads on websites not in apps.

Programs like AdFree, which was removed from the Play Store, blocks ads within apps.

techbeck said,

Contrary to popular belief no...not everyone knows or agrees with MS Scroogle campaign.

As far as I know, there are no ad blocking apps in the WP store. If there was, I am sure MS would block them as well.

Whether you agree with the Scroogle Campaign or not (I FWIW think it's great that Microsoft is educating users) doesn't change the fact that no one can bring up a source that Microsoft deliberately blocks apps that block ads therefore the point is mute.

Microsoft is for more user focused when it comes to taking their users' information and privacy seriously. Google on the other hand not so much because their loyal customer base is advertisers. Blocking ad blockers makes sense to Google because they don't care about the users rather their real loyal customers the advertisers.

UCNarain said,
that no one can bring up a source that Microsoft deliberately blocks apps that block ads therefore the point is mute.

Because, as far as I can see, there are no ad blockers for WP8. Kinda hard to produce a statement from MS saying they block those apps since there are non. But I am willing to bet they would.


(I FWIW think it's great that Microsoft is educating users)

Miseducation. From their ads, they claim that a phyisical person is sitting down sifting thru Google user's emails. Which is false. And MS is hypocritical since they search subject lines of emails for ads. And a lot of people put sensitive info in the subjects of emails.


Blocking ad blockers makes sense to Google because they don't care about the users rather their real loyal customers the advertisers.

That statement is just wrong and pretty much what the MS crap marketing is trying to get poeple to think.

techbeck said,

Miseducation. From their ads, they claim that a phyisical person is sitting down sifting thru Google user's emails. Which is false. And MS is hypocritical since they search subject lines of emails for ads. And a lot of people put sensitive info in the subjects of emails.
.

While The guy you are arguing with has a very poorly structured argument, this statement is a whole bunch of balls. Does that ad campaign specifically say that specific people are at google looking through your email. I hate hearing people say there is something wrong with the content with the scroogled campaign because they do not misrepresent the usage of data provided to Google. Look at the terms of service. It doesn't matter that it's not actively being scanned by people. They make comprehensive use of all data they are given for ads. It is not some nefarious operation. It is just ads that the user primes the pump on. Pointing out how it works is not miseducation. MS hasn't capitalized off of this because of various things but they are using a disadvantage as an advantage in the only way it can be one and when they can pull all of the info that google does they will all of the sudden stop talking about privacy.

I don't think it would be possible to write an ad-blocker for WP because of the way that apps are sandboxed so there's nothing for Microsoft to block. It's also worth noting that Tracking Protection Lists aren't supported in IE10 mobile so there's really no way to block ads on WP at this stage. That lasts one's a shame because TPLs are perfectly suited to mobile browsing.

UCNarain said,

Whether you agree with the Scroogle Campaign or not (I FWIW think it's great that Microsoft is educating users) doesn't change the fact that no one can bring up a source that Microsoft deliberately blocks apps that block ads therefore the point is mute.

Microsoft is for more user focused when it comes to taking their users' information and privacy seriously. Google on the other hand not so much because their loyal customer base is advertisers. Blocking ad blockers makes sense to Google because they don't care about the users rather their real loyal customers the advertisers.

There are not adblockers for Windows Phone because MS prohibits them. They don't have to come out and say it directly either. They don't allow any apps that don't use their official APIs into the store. There is no third party browsers allowed and there is no official API for manipulating the IE browser on the phone. There is also no official API to set a global proxy to enable an ad blocker to filter them in apps. So, MS would remove an ad blocker if it managed to make it into the store because they'll cite its use of unofficial APIs.

The difference between MS and Google is that everything on Android can be officially used by the app so they tell you what they don't allow without obfuscating the truth.

Additionally, Microsoft used to care more about user's privacy and users directly. That isn't the case anymore. Microsoft is just as much of an ad company as Google. This is why they now have ads in apps they ship with their OS (which was unprecedented before the launch of W8*); among other things.

Microsoft used to be a lot different, but they want to be more of the same (like Google and Apple) than they used to be. If anything, I feel Google is being more open and honest about this than Microsoft has been.

*Even the ad monster MSN/Windows Live Messenger had an ad free version when it shipped with Windows XP.

Even though the ad loaded apps are installed when you first sign into the marketplace they are close enough to shipping built in. As you have to manually remove them they are not opt in they are opt out.

LogicalApex said,

There are not adblockers for Windows Phone because MS prohibits them. They don't have to come out and say it directly either. They don't allow any apps that don't use their official APIs into the store. There is no third party browsers allowed and there is no official API for manipulating the IE browser on the phone. There is also no official API to set a global proxy to enable an ad blocker to filter them in apps. So, MS would remove an ad blocker if it managed to make it into the store because they'll cite its use of unofficial APIs.

The difference between MS and Google is that everything on Android can be officially used by the app so they tell you what they don't allow without obfuscating the truth.

Additionally, Microsoft used to care more about user's privacy and users directly. That isn't the case anymore. Microsoft is just as much of an ad company as Google. This is why they now have ads in apps they ship with their OS (which was unprecedented before the launch of W8*); among other things.

Microsoft used to be a lot different, but they want to be more of the same (like Google and Apple) than they used to be. If anything, I feel Google is being more open and honest about this than Microsoft has been.

*Even the ad monster MSN/Windows Live Messenger had an ad free version when it shipped with Windows XP.

Even though the ad loaded apps are installed when you first sign into the marketplace they are close enough to shipping built in. As you have to manually remove them they are not opt in they are opt out.

True enough but it isn't clear that Microsoft explicitly intends to limit ad blockers the way Google does. If it's not technically possible based on another policy that doesn't constitute as intent.

I don't quite agree that Microsoft is very different from what they used to be. It's a traditional honest model of selling products, devices and services to end users. Of course they use ads however the ads are also delivered traditionally without using practices that Google does which are pure evil. Google delivers ads ranked by bid price which is unethically influences the user. Microsoft may scan subject headers but that is acceptable based on the fact confidential information shouldn't be there anyway. It's like glancing at someone's screen without mal intent. Now opening emails and scanning the content to deliver ads that is what I have a problem with. It's an invasion of privacy and no one should tolerate that.

UCNarain said,

True enough but it isn't clear that Microsoft explicitly intends to limit ad blockers the way Google does. If it's not technically possible based on another policy that doesn't constitute as intent.

I don't quite agree that Microsoft is very different from what they used to be. It's a traditional honest model of selling products, devices and services to end users. Of course they use ads however the ads are also delivered traditionally without using practices that Google does which are pure evil. Google delivers ads ranked by bid price which is unethically influences the user. Microsoft may scan subject headers but that is acceptable based on the fact confidential information shouldn't be there anyway. It's like glancing at someone's screen without mal intent. Now opening emails and scanning the content to deliver ads that is what I have a problem with. It's an invasion of privacy and no one should tolerate that.

Microsoft intended to limit adblockers by blocking the ability to make one in the first place. This is a complete reversal of the old Microsoft where they encouraged third party developers to build as much new functionality as they could find a market for.

I'm not sure what you're talking about in your second paragraph. Microsoft's ads are just like Google's ads. The advertiser picks keywords then sets a bid price and a budget and Microsoft will rank the ads that are shown based on this same model that Google pioneered*. They aren't any different anymore. Classically, yes Microsoft was a lot different, but those days are long gone.

I'm not happy with any of them. Honestly, we're entering a very dark period for computing. We're witnessing the conversion of computing into an appliance. None of these companies are any better than the next, except maybe Apple (and it pains me to say that).

Microsoft is racing really hard to be Google and have access to the vast amounts of money Google is making. There is a reason Microsoft has been bumping vast sums of money into search. A product that consumers aren't willing to pay for directly. Google Ads are a result of that reality and Microsoft wants that revenue (meaning MS wants to own ads more than Google). Apple has to potential to be better because they actually make a ton of money off the actual hardware. So far, they stab users in the eye too. So none of them are any good; only one has potential but will probably never use that potential.

* http://advertise.bingads.micro...ng-ads-how-it-works?tab=how

LogicalApex said,

Microsoft intended to limit adblockers by blocking the ability to make one in the first place. This is a complete reversal of the old Microsoft where they encouraged third party developers to build as much new functionality as they could find a market for.

I'm not sure what you're talking about in your second paragraph. Microsoft's ads are just like Google's ads. The advertiser picks keywords then sets a bid price and a budget and Microsoft will rank the ads that are shown based on this same model that Google pioneered*. They aren't any different anymore. Classically, yes Microsoft was a lot different, but those days are long gone.

I'm not happy with any of them. Honestly, we're entering a very dark period for computing. We're witnessing the conversion of computing into an appliance. None of these companies are any better than the next, except maybe Apple (and it pains me to say that).

Microsoft is racing really hard to be Google and have access to the vast amounts of money Google is making. There is a reason Microsoft has been bumping vast sums of money into search. A product that consumers aren't willing to pay for directly. Google Ads are a result of that reality and Microsoft wants that revenue (meaning MS wants to own ads more than Google). Apple has to potential to be better because they actually make a ton of money off the actual hardware. So far, they stab users in the eye too. So none of them are any good; only one has potential but will probably never use that potential.

* http://advertise.bingads.micro...ng-ads-how-it-works?tab=how

I apologize we were talking about ads so I got confused. I actually meant search by rank. Ads by rank is fine as it's like paying more to put your advert on the front of the paper. Search by rank is what I meant that I have an issue with.

From Bing's Campaign for Honest Search:
Bing's Different Approach to Honest Search
Today, Bing renews its commitment to the old rules - to honoring our side of the bargain with shoppers by delivering better, more objectively ranked search results.
We won't let who pays us for ads or other services affect what you see in your search results. Search results are one thing; ads are another.
We won't switch to pay-to-rank to allow some shopping search results to appear higher than others. We don't believe shoppers should risk paying more, simply because they started their search at Google.
We understand that search is evolving, and that's why we are working hard to make sure all those new kinds of information and services get delivered, clearly and reliably, as either search results or ads.

Sonne said,
No need to even sideload, although that too is an alternative, you can visit XDA or any of a number of communities or the developers directly from the browser on your phone and download and install the apk or script.

Android for the win, GOT ROOT?

Ummm... that IS sideloading...

From my point of view blocking ads is no different than installing software you have not paid for. In both cases you are using software without paying the developer.