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!