Having rocketed to the top of the download charts in the Google Play store, the Android ad blocker AdBlock Fast fell down to earth with a bump yesterday as it was removed for violating developer guidelines.
AdBlock Fast, developed by an outfit called Rocketship Apps, acts as a plugin on Samsung’s pre-installed smartphone browser. And because it blocks ads, it also prevents advertisers from tracking your movements on the internet and - such a bonus - makes surfing faster too.
But now if you try to download AdBlock Fast from the Google Play store it’s nowhere to be seen.
As VentureBeat reports, Google started chucking ad-blocking apps out of the official Google Play store back in March 2013, pointing out that developer agreements state apps cannot interfere with the functionality of other apps.
The difference here, of course, is that Samsung just introduced its own browser API to encourage the development of ad-blocking plugins and - one assumes - was very happy to see AdBlock Fast zoom up the Android download charts.
So, who would possibly have a thing against ad blockers?
Well, I can think of three groups.
Firstly, there are the advertisers and websites. They want as many eyeballs as possible to see their ads because that’s how they make money.
Secondly, there is Google.
Google, although many people doesn’t seem to have twigged it yet, is essentially an advertising company. It makes a vast amount of money from selling advertising space on its own sites and other people’s. If everyone started using browsers that allow for easy ad-blocking that would be bad news for Google.
By comparison, Apple (which is not as dependent on ad sales as Google) is actively encouraging its iPhone customers to install ad blockers.
Finally, the last group of people who would be anti-ad blockers would be the online criminals who exploit online ads to spread malware, and trick users into falling for scams.
In this case it’s Google who took direct action against the ad blocker. Now, you might believe that they are well within their rights to have whatever rules they like governing their app store.
But it would have been refreshing, at the very least, if Google had been honest enough to say “Hey, you know what? We make money out of advertising, so we’re not going to allow ad blockers like this. Sorry.”
Google certainly acted quickly on this occasion to remove an Android app it didn’t approve of from the Google Play store.
What a shame that is sometimes been so tardy in removing much more malicious apps, such as the trojanised games which achieved a million downloads before Google woke up to the threat.
Surely Google isn’t more bothered about losing some money from adverts compared to Android users getting hit by malware?