This week, Google removed the Adblock Plus Android app from Google Play. It still shows up as available in a standard Google search, but clicking on the link just takes you to an error page. Sadly, the removal is not an isolated incident, but a concerted effort on Google’s part to discourage users from installing Adblock, regardless of the platform.
Here’s the old link to Adblock Plus on Google Play, if you’d like to confirm that it is indeed no longer present. If you need further convincing, the people behind Adblock have released a statement via BusinessWire acknowledging the app’s absence.
In the statement, Adblock Plus co-founder Till Faida says the reason behind the removal, according to Google, is because it “violates Section 4.4 of their Developer Distribution Agreement”. Below is the section in question from the Agreement:
4.4 Prohibited Actions. 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.
Faida goes on to say that “by unilaterally removing these apps, Google is stepping all over the checks and balances that make the Internet democratic. People should be really alarmed by this move.”
While this might seem like a sudden decision on Google’s part, according to Faida it’s just the final step of an ongoing process to curtail the usage of Adblock — and not just on Android.
“In late February Google began forcing Android users to manually configure a proxy server in order to run Adblock Plus; in December 2012 Google re-categorised Adblock Plus in the Chrome Web store and stopped showing it in search results when users specifically looked for the extension; and when Adblock Plus re-listed as an app on December 12, Google took it down again 12 hours later.”
Despite being kicked off of Google Play, the app can still be downloaded and installed from the Adblock Plus website. Even so, it’s a massive punch in the guts in terms of exposure and a discouraging move in general by Google.