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This is the response I gave to a question during an interview with Bloomberg News the day after the story broke. They’re not going to run the story because I couldn’t give them a ‘big name’ developer who has joined the union – I think they wanted Angry Birds – but still, I think this response may be interesting to other developers.

Since graduating from college and noticing the _awful_ state of the job market out there, I’ve become very interested and quite active in improving the rights of independent developers. There aren’t a whole lot of ‘jobs’ out there right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done, if you understand what I’m saying. People just need to do their own things. I’m a proponent of what Lawrence Lessig has called ‘The Creative Middle Class’ – independent creative workers directly interacting with customers. The web has been a great place for that kind of interaction, and we want mobile marketplaces to have the same commercially empowering ability. Unfortunately, the Market has some shortcomings (which we laid out on the website) that Google needs to implement and understand before that can happen. I really hope they do the right thing here – otherwise this casts a very dark shadow over the future of the web because of the new “App Store” in Google Chrome which has some of the same shortcomings as the Android market. (But it’s okay! These are actually pretty easy demands to implement! I just hope they listen.)

Having one of my apps pulled (and in such a rude fashion) was certainly a motivation in this, but it was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Because of the order of entry effect which currently plagues the market, there isn’t much chance for new developers to be successful on the market, and that breaks my heart. There are lots of people with great ideas and great new technologies that are getting buried and ignored because the top ranks are all still taken by the appshops that put out cheesy applications more than two years ago. It’s hard to recommend that kind of working environment to my friends. It’s been okay, but things are deteriorating now that Android is getting popular and time is dragging on. The feeling is basically “it’s been two years, we’ve watched the development of the Market, and now these things need to change. It’s time.” Although Apple’s app store has its own pitfalls, they do support their developers in this regard. There’s a dialog there – here, Google simply sets the terms, and we’re forced to play by them. They don’t even have an email address to contact, just a web form that spits out automated replies (and occasionally threats).

Judging by the feedback we’re getting, a lot of people think that this is trivial, which I suppose it is, but this means the livelihood for me and a lot of other people, so to us it’s a big deal. Also, none of the Americans who visited and commented back on the social media sites seemed to realized that the aesthetic is a tongue in cheek joke (although the demands are very real), but that’s okay because it helped garner attention.

There are others here in Boston who formed this idea with me before we launched. I’m not going to give out any personal information about any of the members without their permission, but we have received responses and support from all over the world, from here in Boston at MIT, to Canada, Germany, India and Japan. We also got some strong words of encouragement from inside a certain multi-billion dollar corporation, which was unexpected but certainly welcome.

So far, we have received no official response from Google, but that’s to be expected this early. Besides, they’re in California, I doubt people there wake up until 11, which is after lunch here.

TheNewFreedom was my blog where I talked about digital rights, but then I felt it was time to put up or shut up and write some code. I started making web apps, then Android apps for my own amusement and technical satisfaction, some of which then became popular and I realized, hey, if I do this well enough, I won’t have to get a real job when I graduate college, and then it snowballed from there. I also do development consulting and web development. I’ve always got a bunch of different projects in production, for Android and all over the web. I write new code every day.

Are you an independent developer? What kind of ideal community and economy would you like to work in, and what would it take to get us there? Tell us in the comments!

R

GuardianUK picked up on the Market woes story. The ADU gets a mention! (Though I’m not sure how I feel about being called ‘Disgruntled’. Perhaps ‘rightfully displeased?’)

Either way, I’m glad to see that this issue is attracting more attention in the media – unfortunately, Google still have not provided ANY COMMENT about this situation, which is why one of our demands is that Google assign a communications liaison to talk to the community about these issues.

The link is here, and here’s the body text:

Google’s smartphone app market is growing fast – but developers are calling foul over piracy and lack of transparency

Developers are concerned about app piracy on Android.

App developers are concerned that Google is being too lax in its regulation of the Android Market, where apps are made available for download to the millions of Android phones now in use – and allowing copyright infringements, as well as the risk of malware-laden apps, to flourish.

There are also concerns that it’s simply too hard to get discovered on the Market – meaning that unless you’re one of Google’s own apps, or a port of an iPhone app, you probably won’t feature in a prominent place where people might see your work.

Kevin Baker, an Android developer based in the UK, says that the combination of lack of discoverability and ease of copying and republishing is turning the Market toxic. Unlike Apple, where the iTunes App Store has rigorous pre-approval processes in which apps are run against a suite of tests to check that they comply with its rules, the Android Market allows anyone to post apps – although Google can then remove them from both the Market and any handsets to which they have been downloaded.

Baker told the Guardian:

“I have a game on the market called Sinister Planet which was released about eight months ago. Sales have been pretty slow, although picking up slowly over the months, despite a lot of great reviews. The main problem is that Android Market discoverablity is very poor, and Google themselves don’t help the situation by only featuring apps their are either (1) created by Google, or (2) iPhone ports. Independent developers like myself hardly ever get a look in.

“One of my customers emailed me three weeks ago, and informed me that another company was selling a version of my app – pirated and uploaded as their own. Of course I contacted Google right away. It took Google two days to take the app down. This publisher was also selling other versions of pirated games. I contacted the original developers of those games but they were still being sold a week later. You’d think [Google] might have a hotline for things like that!

“I would also note that the publisher selling the pirated games is still trading on the Android Market. They didn’t even get their account suspended. If there’s going to be malware hidden inside apps, it’s that the exact place where it would be? Why are these accounts still allowed to be trading? It’s negligent as far as I’m concerned.”

A screenshot from Baker’s Sinister Planet from his company Neolithic Software:

Screenshot on the Android Market from Kevin Baker’s Sinister Planet appAnd from the “pirated” Galaxy Wars:

Screenshot on the Android Market from Joyworld’s ‘Galaxy Wars’The publisher in question is Joyworld, which at present has just one game available on the official market, called World Wars, which has so far got more than a hundred reviews – almost all favourable. But a cached version on the Androlib site shows 14 games, which all look much the same – simple reheated versions of arcade games. They’re all free. The graphs on Androlib imply that Joyworld first appeared on the market on Thursday 17 February, with the first reviews appearing on 21 February.

The reviews of World Wars include one soon after its appearance which says “WTF? This is the exact same as The Wars”.

The Wars is a paid-for game published by Chillingo, based in Macclesfield. Comparing the screenshots from The Wars and from “World War”, they look extremely similar – notably, the backdrop of mountains and trees is identical in the screenshots – but those on The Wars is more detailed, implying that it is the original.

A screenshot on the Market from The Wars:

Screenshot from Android Market of The Wars, published by Chillingo. Note sprites and Menu button in lower left.
And from Joyworld’s World Wars:

Screenshot from Android Market of Joyworld’s World Wars. Note shape of sprites and Menu button.Baker says JoyWorld was selling his app under the name of “Galaxy War”, and adds: “They were also selling a game Monstie Wars, under the name of Demon Defense.” (Galaxy War is still linked on the Androlib site, where it claims that it was “developed for Android by Joyworld” and that “I am the developer of this application”.

The developer site link given for Joyworld is invalid. The Guardian has been unable to contact the developer.

Google said that code signing, which identifies an app, is enforced on the Android Market and makes it harder for would-be pirates to copy and re-upload apps. Developers are also advised to use Android tools such as Proguard, which “shrinks, optimises and obfuscates your code”, leading to smaller executable files that are harder to reverse engineer. Application licensing for paid apps can also strengthen protections, Google suggests.

Baker responds that “I did use Proguard, and that didn’t stop my app being pirated and uploaded … and the License Checking Service is what we use to check an app has been paid for. It simply does a request to the Market to check the status (ie has the app been paid for). This works fine, if the hacker hasn’t removed that bit of code. Which is easy to do.”

Separately, another disgruntled developer, Rich Jones, has set up the “Android Developers’ Union“, demanding a bigger cut of app payments (Google presently takes 32%), better promotion that doesn’t rely on the order of entry, public bug tracking, better payment options, removal appeals and better liaison, and “algorithmic transparency” about how apps appear in searches on the Market.

Jones has claimed to have around 200 members; his own app, called Rapid Download!, was removed, apparently because it allowed easy downloading from sites that host pirated material – which breaks Google’s Market terms.

But piracy of apps, and its wider ramifications, could become a problem for the Android Market. Earlier this month, about 50 apps offered on the Android Market were found to be infected with malware that could take over – “root” – the phone once installed; they used a privilege escalation exploit to install a further application which could send user data back to a remote server, and potentially download further apps with root privileges. Thousands of people had downloaded the apps, which were copies of existing – harmless – apps that had been repackaged to include the malware.

Though Google subsequently removed the apps from the handsets using its remote “kill switch” functionality, and issued a program called “Android Market Security Tool” to remove any rootkit software from infected phones, the mobile security company LookOut warned that that too had been re-uploaded with malware added, apparently targeting Chinese users, who form one of the fastest-growing groups of Android owners.

Alicia diVitorrio, director of marketing at Lookout, suggested: “The growing trend to conceal malware in seemingly legitimate applications is just another reminder to always use discretion when downloading applications. Pay close attention to the developer name and publisher of the application – only download applications from developers you trust or know. Always read the reviews and check the ratings. As an additional precaution, check out third-party review sites like PC World, Appolicious or Cnet as well.” (The Guardian also reviews apps for all mobile platforms on its Apps Blog.)

The idea of “only downloading applications from developers you trust and know” however leaves unanswered the question of how you would “trust and know” a developer when the Android Market has more than 200,000 apps.

And even Google seems to have problems deciding which developers are trustworthy, as Baker discovered a fortnight ago:

“I woke up to an email from Google telling me my app has been suspended from the Market: ‘This is a notification that the application, Sinister Planet with package ID com.neosoft.SinisterPlanet has been removed from Android Market due to a violation of the Developer Content Policy. Please review the Content Policies and Business and Program Policies before you create or upload additional applications. Note that repeated violations may result in a suspension of your Android Market Publisher account. For more information, or to contact us, please reply to this email, or visit the Android Market Help Center. Thanks, The Android Market Team

“I’ve been selling my game all this time and not one complaint or problem. It’s just an arcade shooter. In fact I’m selling it in South Korea and the Korean Gaming Rating Board gave it the all-clear for ‘all ages’.

“So of course, I thought it must be some kind of error. I’ve since sent about 20 emails to Google asking for clarification and not one single reply. It’s like all my emails are marked as ‘spam’. I’ve spend all this time building up my sales and ratings, now I’ve got to start over. I also love the part where they threaten to suspend my account for repeated violations – without ever telling me what I did!

Google says that there is a link provided on the email that goes out to banned developers which lets them appeal a decision.

Baker responded that “I looked through Google’s official forums and there are lots of people in the same situation [as me]. Never get a response.”

Overall, Baker is not happy.

“There are currently apps called ‘Throw Shit at Stuff’, other apps to download illegal files, Google obviously value these apps much higher than mine, despite the fact that it had an average rating of >4.5 and was in the top 5% of Arcade games. Now I’ve had to start over again, despite putting maybe 500 hours of work into it over the past year.”

Baker’s conclusion? “I’ve got my app already approved for the Amazon Market, hopefully they can do a better job than Google. Google’s ‘open’ policy is a joke as far as I’m concerned.”

Your thoughts? Post them below!

R

Phandroid.com just put a piece with their own complains about the Market, which I’m going to repost here:

It’s not often that I find myself criticizing Google and Android. That’s not to say they’re perfect, but most of the things they do are quite alright with me and I usually don’t care enough to say anything whenever I find the occasional oddity. There is just one issue I can’t keep quiet on, though: if I buy an app, I should be able to use it forever.

I recently strolled through my list of paid apps to see how they were doing in terms of updates and user reception. In my traversal, I came across three entries that I could no longer access: 360 Live (an Xbox Live application), Hello IM (a once-popular AIM client) and I Tweet – a Twitter client.

Upon tapping their entries, I’m met with a message that says “the requested item could not be found.” I know the exact reasons why these three applications are no longer available – Multiple Facets – the studio who made the Twitter and AIM clients – was added to Facebook’s team when they were working on their Android application. Their website no long exists.

Juan Xavier Larrea was the developer of 360 Live and his application was apparently pulled because he violated Microsoft’s terms of service. Odd, that, because the iPhone version of that same app is still available for free on the Apple App Store. I’m not saying he wasn’t telling the truth when pulling his application, but it’s fishy business regardless.

With a free application, a developer pulling it from the Android market isn’t so bad because you haven’t paid any hard-earned money for it. But I have a serious, serious problem with not being able to use or access something I’ve paid for. My sentiments are the exact same when dealing with iTunes and Amazon to download MP3s: if you lose your music in a freak accident, you’ll have to pay for it all over again. The problem with apps is that we don’t even have that option.

Google wants developers to make more money and they’ve implemented a lot of features and made a lot of changes to the Android market to help facilitate that, but it seems they forgot to consider those who help make developers their money in the first place – users!

Having experienced this first-hand, I can see why someone would instead prefer to pirate their applications. I’m not condoning it, of course, but I get where they’re coming from. I get why people are hesitant to buy games from GameLoft with such questionable DRM practices. I get why some people will refuse to download an application unless it’s free.

Google wants to protect developers, but they aren’t doing anything to protect users. I don’t care if an application is $.99 or $99.99 (there are some that have been that costly), I should not be at risk of losing it. The applications I bought were $2.99 (360 Live), $3.99 (I Tweet) and $9.99 (Hello IM). That comes out to nearly $17. I spent that much on a pizza yesterday, sure, but I was able to consume that pizza. I’m not able to use these apps anymore.

This hurts more than it helps. It doesn’t help at all, in fact. There was a point in time where I would so readily pay for an application that you couldn’t get me to put my wallet away. My friends still gawk at my list of paid apps wondering why I would dare spend money in the Android market. As an aspiring developer, I understand the amount of work and time that goes into making applications so I wouldn’t want anything else but to give developers what they deserve.

Now that I’ve seen how an application I’ve paid for can be taken away, I’m hesitant to buy more applications. There’s another Xbox Live application I could use to replace the one I’ve lost, but who’s to say it won’t happen again? The only app I’ve purchased in the past 3 months is PowerAmp, and that isn’t by accident. (It took me a long time to make that decision, too.)

I simply don’t feel comfortable dishing my dollars out in the Android market anymore. Imagine the taste you’re leaving in the mouths of tens (and maybe hundreds) of thousands of people who buy an application. That leaves a long-lasting negative effect.

There are a few changes I’d like to see in the Android market that helps users who purchase apps.

  • Users should be notified of the change via the same Google account that the app was purchased with. Sometimes these changes happen in the dark without anyone realizing it until they can’t find the application anymore. An email can be automatically sent to users whenever a developer expressly elects to remove their application from the Android market. The email should include a reason as to why the application was removed. (This text would be mandatory and you’d only need to write it up at the time of removal.) If Google has to remove an application for reasons other than security, they should also be subject to the same.
  • Users should receive refunds for those applications they’ve lost. I understand that – in other industries – you aren’t always entitled to keep what you pay for. When tangible items are lost or broken, a manufacturer won’t replace them or fix them without the user having met some sort of condition. (Whether it be them needing to be under warranty or them having to pay a premium to get things situated.) (Note: More on my reasoning can be found in the paragraphs following this list.)
  • The developer should be afforded the option to refuse refunds. We understand it may be logistically difficult, complicated, or impossible for a studio to refund all of the money users have paid for their application. In such a case, Google should give them a host of options. Firstly, developers can choose to make the application free for all to download and keep it in the Android market with a disclaimer that the application has been “abandoned” (in not so exact words). If they would rather their applications not be freely available to users, Google should continue to host the application and only allow users who have paid for it to see it in the Android market. (Again, it should hold a disclaimer letting users know that it won’t receive updates.)
  • Users should be afforded an option to remove that application listing from their list of applications. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to have to look at an application that you can’t use or can’t update anymore. It also takes up a lot of space in an already long list of applications.

With software – especially software that is downloaded over the air and that you are forbidden to make a copy of – things should be a bit different. In the music industry, Apple asks you to back up all of your music as there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to redownload all of it should you lose it.

There have been some cases where they allow users to redownload some or all of their songs, but they decide on a case-by-case basis. I think this is wrong and in the case of music, it’s just another reason why I’ll always prefer physical media over digital. It’s always a good idea to back things up, but Android doesn’t (natively) allow you to do this.

If you lose an application you’ve bought due to a software defect that requires a factory reset or a hardware defect that requires a new device and it isn’t available for download in the Market, users should be able to get their money back.Imagine a corporate employee losing the only $30 exchange application that’ll work with their employer’s servers – they’d probably need to get a whole new phone if they can’t find another application to replace it. (And $30 is pretty hard to swallow.)

This entire piece makes me sound like I think I’m entitled to something, but that’s not the message I’m trying to get across. I’m warning Google that failing to protect the people who make them AND the developers money in the first place could come back to bite them in the ass. Let’s just hope that they seriously consider this plea and do whatever they can to put paying customers at ease.

 

Interesting take on an issue dear to my heart!

R

Support from Spain!

Got this awesome email yesterday:

Hello, my name is David García on behalf of Coordinadora Informática de
CGT, an union with important presence in IT companies.

News is Spain about Android Developers Union:
http://www.nodo50.org/coord-informatica/?q=node/264
http://www.siliconnews.es/2011/03/03/los-desarrolladores-de-android-ya-tienen-sindicato/
http://www.iphoneworld.com.es/2011/03/android-developers-union-sindicato.html

If the Android Developers Union needs help in your fight, please tell us.
Best regards.

It’s great to see all this international support!

Spanish Android Developers – please share your stories below!

R

Some people have wondered about this, and fortunately I kept my correspondence with Google, so this is what it looks like. Also, before you go ahead and point it out, I will acknowledge that I may have violated the rules here, and that the app in question isn’t exactly something Mother Teresa would download (in fact, it’s pretty much a shovelware app I wrote in a day because I wanted an easier way to download music from RapidShare. Whatever, I don’t feel bad about it.) What is in question here is the process. I did not and still have not received any indication of WHICH rules were violated, and there is no way to correct mistakes.

Also note that I did NOT receive any notification that the application had been taken down – I only noticed by checking the logs two weeks later. I sent them a message through this contact form (I don’t have the original message I sent, sorry), and received this automated reply:

Thank you for your note. This is an automated reply to let you know that
we received your email.

We’re putting most of our energy into improving Android Market, so we
can’t promise a personal reply to every question. If your issue is unique
or requires further investigation, we will contact you. Please be assured
that your feedback will be used to improve Android Market.

If you’re inquiring about the location availability of Android Market,
please see the appropriate lists here for the latest information:
http://market.android.com/support/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=15866
We’re working hard to expand to more countries; however, we’re unable to
provide any dates for future releases.

Please note that, at this time, we’re only able to respond to English
inquiries from registered Android Market Publishers. If you’re an Android
Market user, please check our Help Center
http://market.android.com/support/ and Help Forum:
http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Market for more information.

Regards,
The Android Market Team

I then heard nothing for two days. I then sent another note, which I did save. I said this:

Hello!
One of my applications, Rapid Download!, has been suspended without warning or any reason given. What steps can I take to remedy this? Where can I go to appeal this decision? This is costing me hundreds of dollars a day and has stripped me of my primary source of income. :(
Please reply to me as soon as possible!
Thank you very much!

Rich Jones

To which I then received the same automated message as above. Later in the day, I received this email (emphasis my own):

Hello Richard,

We appreciate the opportunity to review your suspended application, “Rapid
Download!.” At this time, we affirm our initial decision and are not
inclined to reinstate your application. We encourage you to re-review the
following Android Market Content guidelines before uploading additional
applications:

Android Market Developer Program Policy (“Content Policies”):
http://www.android.com/us/developer-content-policy.html

Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement (DDA):
http://www.android.com/us/developer-distribution-agreement.html

Application Rating Guidance:
http://market.android.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=188189

Please note that repeated violations may result in a suspension of your
Android Market Publisher account.

Regards,
The Android Market Team

 

 

At this point I was getting quite frustrated, and replied with this. I will admit that my language may seem bitter and threatening here, which probably wasn’t the best move but gives you insight to my mindset at the time, and I am including it in the interest of transparency.

Hello, again!

In your last email, you said:”We appreciate the opportunity to review your suspended application, “RapidDownload!.” At this time, we affirm our initial decision and are notinclined to reinstate your application. We encourage you to re-review thefollowing Android Market Content guidelines before uploading additionalapplications.”

However, you did not say _WHY_ it has been suspended. At this point I have a pretty good idea why and have taken the necessary steps to correct it, however, there is no way for me to remove my current screenshots (which I beleive are the offending content because they contain sexual references) and replace them with cleaner content. Is “suspended” a misnomer – is it really just permanantly blocked, or is there a way for me to correct these mistakes?

I’d also like to point out that at this point, Google has collected more than $14,000 of “Service Fees” from me, for which I have received essentially no service.

I don’t want to make this sound too threatening, but I am a leading Android developer and Android advocate in Boston, I attend Android developer meet ups, I do professional Android consulting to corporate clients and I have submitted bug reports and patches to the Android system, and if I don’t receive some useful information about to how to have my application reinstated, I am going to make my greivences public and as widely known as possible. I will encourage all of my corporate clients to avoid the Android platform and instead focus on the iOS platform. I will tell all the members of the local Android developer community about the massive problems with the market and why Apple’s platform is superior, and I will be writing letters to all major technology news outlets.

I’d really just like to fix the problems with my application, have it reviewed and re-approved, then move on my with my business. If this is impossible, there’s probably going to be quite a bit of bad press headed your way.

If you need to contact me, you have my email address, and my telephone number is [[redacted]] if you need to talk to me personally.

Please advise me how to continue with having my application reinstated. If you don’t have this capacity, please send this message to your manager.

Thanks very much,

Rich Jones

I then received the original automated reply, followed by this [emphasis my own]:

Hello Richard,Thank you for your note. For auditing purposes, we are unable to reinstateapplications that have been suspended due to policy violations. Werecommend that you upload a new instance of the application which complieswith Android Market Policies and Guidelines. We have no new information topass on to you at this time. We strongly recommend that you re-review thePolicy Terms and Guidelines forwarded in our prior note.

Please note that repeated violations may result in a suspension of your
Android Market Publisher account.

Regards,
The Android Market Team
After talking to other developers who had takedowns, I realized this message was automated as well.
Then I talked to my other developer friends here who had similar complaints, and we came up with the idea of forming a Union and a public forum for developers to share their grievances, which is why you’re here now.
And that’s what it looks like! There was never a way to talk to a real person, and it took three emails just to get to the final automated message.
This is why we need a codified rules, a real appeal process, and a communication liaison!
Questions? Comments? Love, hate? Leave them in the comments below!
R

 

Demands Explained

I think because of the JavaScript on the main page, some people haven’t been able to read the explanations on the main page (please get an HTML5 compatible browser, guys!), but I’m going to repost the whole things here just to clarify.

  • Renegotiation of the 32% Google-tax on applications sales
  • 32% of all application sales revenue is currently taken by Google, some of which goes to them, some of which goes to the telco carrier of the customer. Either way, it is large expense for which neither the developer nor the customer receive any value for. Even iPhone developers, who pay a similar tax to Apple, receive value for their tax in the form of Market curation. We get nothing.
  • We demand that Google renegotiate this rate, either to a much lower percentage (preferably, no percentage) or give us some value for our money in terms of Market curation and support.
  • Remedy to the Order of Entry Effect
  • The Android Market only has two ways to browse: Most Recent and Top Selling. The Most Recent list is constantly being updated and a new application is only in the top few spots of the list for a minute at most. The Top Selling list goes back all the way to the beginning of the Android Market, so only the applications which have been around for years already can be at the top of the list. This leaves no room for organic growth of a new application. This Order of Entry Effect was also one of the main reasons that “Facebook Applications” were considered a failure.
  • We demand that Google implement a way to browse for popular applications of different lengths of time and for different regions.
  • Public Bug Tracking
  • The Android Market has been, and still is, consistently plagued with technical problems. Also, despite the Open philosophy which Google champions in Android, the Market application is closed source, non-Free software. This combination means that although we as developers and customers have to deal with the crippling bugs of the Market on a daily basis, and yet we have no way to remedy them.
  • We would like to see the Android Market open sourced, but if this is not possible, then we demand that at least the bug tracking for the client and the server software of the Android Market be done on a public bug tracker, so that we may report errors and highlight the errors which we feel are the most pressing.
  • Increased Payment Options
  • For the first two years the Android Market operated, Google’s own Checkout service was the only form of payment available to customers. This has changed in some places, and some are now able to pay with other methods. However, this isn’t enough.
  • We demand increased payment methods, particularly a Web or Desktop based interface to the Market, as well as a way for developers to implement “Pay What You Want” pricing schemes.
  • Codified Rules and a Removal Appeal Process
  • The current Market provides only very vague guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable content on the market. Many developers have had their applications removed without warning, without notice and without explanation. These rejections have come with no method of appeal.
  • We demand that Google strictly codify the rules of the Market, and that any removals must be accompanied with a complete explanation and reference to the specific rules violated, and with a formal method for appeal.
  • Communication and Engineering Liaison
  • The feedback loop of the Android Market is broken. Google changes the conditions of the Market without any public planning and without soliciting any feedback from the developer community.
  • We demand that Google fix the communication problems between developers and their own Market team by assigning a communication and engineering liaison who will respond to public and private issues with the Market, solicit feedback from the developer community, and make periodic public statements regarding the state and the future of the Market.
  • Algorithmic Transparency
  • Because the Market source code is closed, there are many mysteries about the way the Market behaves. The search function behaves mysteriously, some updates mean that an app is reposted to the “Most Recent” list and some do not, comment flagging appears to do nothing at all, and there is a list of Featured Apps, the content of which is usually stagnant and unexplained.
  • We demand that Google explain the algorithms behind these features so that we may more thoroughly understand our own working conditions and the needs of our customers. If the Featured list is decided with human intervention and not algorithmically, we demand that there be a community representative on the committee deciding which apps should be Featured.

 

By no means does this have to be finite, but these are the issues the formative group found most important?

Have something to say about these? Have your own demands? Put them in the comments!

R

Got a really encouraging today from Allen over at Black Market Apps, and he’s been kind enough to share his frustrations with the Market with us here [emphasis my own]:

Just wanted to email you and let you know we’re impressed by what you’re doing and hope you keep it up.  We don’t support 100% of the demands, but thats alright.  The concept of a developers union is a great idea.

Alone we’re small potatoes, but together we’re worth millions to them.  It’s time to start getting treated that way.
I don’t have a problem with the percentage of money they receive, given that they maintain all of the infrastructure.
 

My irritation is more regarding support and the market in general.  They don’t have things like reporting tools to show you downloads per month, or what search terms people use to find your apps, things like that, that would actually help you analyze and improve things.
And, there support is terrible.
I do have a grievance.  We had a Christmas live wallpaper which was fairly popular (2500+) sales and 100+ ratings (4.5 stars overall, etc).  I was using tags in my description to improve search visibility, which at some point without them notifying me became against the rules.  They suspended my app, and once i finally got a hold of them i said hey no worries i’ll change the description thats not a problem.  Instead of doing that though, they said they cant “unsuspend” apps for “auditing purposes”.
So, that basically wiped out all the sales/ratings data the app had earned, which are basically the only things you can use to build a reputation.  So it set that app back to square one.  No appeal process, that was it.  Pretty irritating to say the least.
You definitely get the sense that all of the so called “support” was a big afterthought.  All they seem to care about is making their market look good on the next device, and getting ad sales. 

Allen

 

 

Thanks for sharing with us here! If you are a developer or a customer and you have a grievance to share, write in to us at newfreedomapps@gmail.com
Also, thank you everybody who commented! Whether you support us or not, any contribution to the discussion is welcome! Some people have asked for copies of the emails/underhanded threats that Google sent, and I did actually keep them, so I can post them up here hopefully tomorrow. There’s been a wholeeee bunch of interest in this issue in the past two days (15,000 visitors in two days! Wow!) so sorry if I’m a bit slow to reply to all the emails and comments (everybody else who helped form this group has been busy/out of town for the weekend >=| ) but I do read all of them and will reply to as many as I can.
Thanks again!
R

 

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