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WHY I NO LONGER PUBLISH TO GOOGLE PLAY


Google has been problematic from the beginning. They push Android and the Google Play infrastructure as the best environment for developers large and small alike to make an application and easily publish it to the masses. They make it seem like you if you follow their policies and APIs and make a great application you can strike it rich. But this is an illusion that I learned the hard way. Google doesn't care or cater to the small developer at all. They only care about the large developers with huge teams of programmers that can pull in the most money that they can scrape 30% off the top. They push policies that are harmful to small developers, tell you it is a feature, tell you it is for security, and tell you it is to protect privacy. This is simply not true. It is only to protect Google's bottom line. It is only to protect Google's security. It is only to protect your data from leaving Google in a way they don't make money. Google tells developers you can't have certain features or permissions that are literally required to make the application work, but in the same breath, they give their applications all of the features and permissions everyone else is not allowed to have. Why? So they can harvest your data, intrude on your privacy, break your security, and tell you it is a feature. They will then take that data and sell it in any way they seem fit.

That is not acceptable! I will never collect your data, I will never intrude on your privacy, and I protect your security. I am one man that is developing applications for myself and giving them away for free for others to use. I don't ask for permissions that I do not require for functionality of the application. But Google and it's blanket policies are not flexible enough to take into account these issues and they refuse to change or police them better as it would hurt their bottom line. Google is basically saying to hell with the developer and the customer. Only the big developer and money machine matters. And that is Capitalism. So much for "Don't be evil".

How did I come to these conclusions? It has been a long journey through Google hell. But I will do my best to explain every step.

The first app I wrote was fairly simple (ISCWarn). It didn't use a lot of advanced features and used pretty common permissions like internet access. It just monitored the Internet Storm Center and alarmed if an internet warning was issued like a virus or a worm. A good tool for administrators. The issue I ran into with this application had to do how Google handles taxes for developers. I tried to sell the application thinking that google handled all of the taxes. It turns out that is not the case. Google doesn't handle the taxes like Apple does for its developers. Google expected me, a lone developer, to handle taxes in all 50 states. If I wanted to sell my application outside the United States, then I needed to handle VAT taxes in each country I sold it in. I am not an accountant trained in handling taxes in all 50 states and every country in the world. I also can not afford to pay for an accountant to do that. The income from the application was not enough. And between Google's 30% cut, the governments 30% cut, and paying an accoutant. I was left with nothing. So, I just put up a donation page asking for people to buy me a coffee if they liked the apps. That only nets me about $20 a year in coffee but at least it is something.

The next app was a little more exotic (WifiBadger). I was tired of how early version of Android at the time had horrible wireless access point roaming. So, I wrote an application that monitored the WIFI access points in the local area and automatically connected you to the strongest best wireless AP. It took me 6 months of programming and testing but I finally finished it. It could connect to only specific APs or all open APs. What ever you wanted. At the time, this only required internet, view wifi connections, backgrounding, connect and disconnect wifi permissions. The application worked great. Then, my first headache would begin. Google decided to change their policies to include WiFi as location data. So, now I had to add location as a required permission. Apparently, google had to do this because they themselves used WiFi data to track users. Then they changed their policies again and decided that you can no longer just request for permissions, you had to prompt the user for each permission before you used it. I had to modify my code again to satisfy a google policy change. Google later then changed another policy that completely screwed my application over. They made it so that you can no longer have background services if you were above a certain SDK level. So, I limited my SDK level below the requirement. This worked for a while but then they changed their policy to require that all software be above that SDK level. My application relied heavily on background applications to scan and monitor wireless. Now it wouldn't work at all. I had to completely re-write my application again to have a persistent notification and run as a foreground service. Then they put the last death blow to my app. They again changed their policy so that a foreground app can only make so many queries with a minimum of 15 minutes. That means that it could only run a check for new wifi every 15 minutes making it useless. They state it is for battery optimization. They have no idea and don't care about how much work I put into tuning and saving power. They just assumed they know best and blanket policy. My application was effectively mitigated out of existence by the platform I was supposed to trust. So much for the year of work that went into it at this point. Despite this, it still has a following of 1000 devices as of this writing.

In my desperation to feel good again about programming on android, I wrote my wife a pet training application (Animal Clicker). It is pretty basic but does the job. This has been a pretty successful app.
I also wrote a similar application for my local hockey team. The team uses it and loves it. It also was fairly simple.

The final application I built (SnapWeatherUS). This time I was determined to meet every policy that caused my previous application to fail. It took me another 6 months of programming but at the end it was a masterpiece. It used Foreground notifications for the service that runs in the foreground to monitor for severe weather alerts. It uses precise location so that you get the most local and precise forecast. It used asynchronous tasks so that there is no user interface lag. It uses broadcast and intents properly. It saves battery and only checks for alerts in the background every 15 minutes. I has a privacy policy explaining that none of my apps collect anything and I don't want them to. My apps are free, no ads, and don't track or collect data. I wrote a custom JSON interpreter to work with the NOAA weather APIs. It works great and people loved it. Then... the nightmare started again. I found an error in my "feels like" temperature for wind chill below a certain air temperature and wind speed. It was an easy fix. I compiled it and submitted it to google. The next day, I was greeted by a notice saying that my update is rejected because of new policies they put in place. They told me that I needed to now have a privacy policy for each application and display it prominently in the app. They then told me that I needed to add a popup displaying why I need location before I ask for location permissions. It is pretty obvious. It's a weather app. It needs location. I needed to also justify why I needed background location. Again, it is a weather app that monitors for severe weather. It need to monitor location in the background to alert you of severe weather at your current location. This made me fly off the handle. I am not gumming up my application with google policy trash popups. I am not going down this rabbit hole again. I'm done.

I am just one man programming for fun in my spare time. I am not an army of programmers. I can't be rewriting my software every time google makes a policy. Which is all the time. Also, all of the things they tell me I cannot do, they do by default. They invade and sell your private data. Steer clear of Google! They are evil.

So, I am pulling all of my applications from google play and I am not going to use google products, services, or applications as much as possible from here on out.

From now on, my applications will be offered directly from my website to side-load if you wish. I will also post them to third party app stores and the XDA forums but NOT google play.

They are guaranteed safe, ad free, privacy protecting, and free. In any case, be safe and scan them for viruses before installing. Do this for everything. It's just good advice.


Thanks, and enjoy!

Website owned and maintained by William Ruckman (William AT Ruckman DOT net)