Some app developers are expressing discontent with the way Google operates the Android Market, and at least one has decided to call out Google in public.
Rich Jones formed the Android Developers Union, a loose group he claims has 200 members. The group started as a blog that Jones says he started to call attention to Google's lack of clarity in its app suspension and deletion policies.
Jones has a list of demands of Google. The most important is for a better-explicated procedure for app removal, an appeals process and a liaison who can deal with developers directly.
Another is changes in the fee structure for app developers. Like Apple, Google also asks for 30 percent of the revenue from app sales. In his blog Jones says he has no problem with the fees per se, but the lack of service, and claims to have paid Google $14,000 in fees and the only service they have ever provided me is a threatening letter, he said in his blog. Apple App Store developers get a marketplace that while closed, offers more technical support, he says.
Jones would also like to see public bug tracking, more payment options and an alteration in how Google orders the apps when they are searched for, as currently it ranks them by how recently they were uploaded or how well they sell. Jones is also asking that Google open up the algorithms that manage the Marketplace.
The problems, Jones says, started when he found one of his apps had disappeared from the App Marketplace. The app was called Rapid Download!. The app would search download sites such as RapidShare.
Google later removed the app. Jones says he only found out about the removal after two weeks, when he noticed that no new payments from the app's buyers were arriving. When he contacted Google he received only automated or anonymous replies, and he posted the correspondence on his blog. Jones says he accepts that Google has rules about the apps that go in the Marketplace, and he wants to know which specific rules were violated.
One of the rules Google posts for the apps is that they can't infringe on intellectual property. Jones' app allowed easier downloading from sites that are often hosts to pirated material. There is also a policy against illegal activity. But according to Jones, Google never said exactly which rule was violated. I never received any DMCA takedown notice. I also have a BitTorrent client which serves a similar purpose, but has not been taken down. Either way, I still not have been informed of anything, Jones said in an email.
The app also received some negative comments and Jones admits that the app wasn't his best. It's not a great app. However, it worked well enough for what I needed it to do, and plenty of people bought it and used it every day, he wrote. Even so, he says, there should be an appeals process of some kind.
Jones says his income is primarily from writing apps and that he became worried when Google said, repeated violations may result in the suspension of your Android Market Publisher account. The problem, he says, is that there is no process for appealing the decision to take apps down and no way to talk to a real person.
Since then he has started the blog, and he says at least 200 other developers have written to express their support.
One of those supporters is Allen Oleksak, who runs a small app development outfit called Black Market Apps. He wrote in an email that while he isn't in 100 percent agreement with Jones, he feels that there are problems with the way Google handles app suspensions.
He says that on one occasion, he had a wallpaper app that got good ratings and 2,500 downloads. But he described the app using repeated tags to get better visibility on search engines. That technique wasn't against Google policy when he originally sent the app to the Marketplace. When the policy was changed, Oleksak says he wasn't notified and the result was a suspension of the app. It took him several back-and-forth exchanges before someone told him the tags were a problem.
After he offered to fix that, Google told him they could not reverse the suspension. He could rename his app and put it on the Marketplace again, but that would be the equivalent of starting over again, Oleksak says. Since the number of downloads and comments are the only metrics your app has to build a reputation, that constitutes starting back at square one, he wrote in an email.
Oleksak says he wants to see more guidance as to how the search algorithm works so he and other developers can maximize their visibility, and a tool to track how well apps are doing besides only the number of downloads and comment ratings. A reporting tool for the payments made to a developer's account would also be helpful, he says.
Not every app developer feels the same way Oleksak and Jones do. Nelson To, who has 15 apps in the Android Market, said Google has been upfront about the one of his apps was suspended. In that case, To said, his app infringed a copyright, and Google sent him the letter that explained what that was. I've actually heard more positive feedback from the community towards the Android Market compared to [Apple's] App Store, he said. However, as the Android community grows bigger and bigger, maybe something wasn't handled efficiently.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
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