The Android Developers Must Constantly Live With the Sword of Damocles of a Banishment by Google

The future for Android developers on the Play Store is not great.

Sylvain Saurel
Jan 12 · 8 min read

In the 2010s, the world of Android developers has changed dramatically. In the beginning, the Google Play Store was first called the Android Market. At that time, Google respected developers because Android was not yet the hegemonic leader it has become today.

But that was before Google became a hegemonic leader that no longer respects its developers and poses a constant threat of banishment.

Google Took Advantage Of Developers’ Work To Establish The Android’s Domination In The 2010s

By 2020, Android has a global market share of over 90% in the smartphone industry. An incredible figure that Google has been able to achieve in large part thanks to the work of thousands of developers.

Indeed, the nerve of war for an app store is to have a maximum of applications and games to make available to users.

Microsoft’s failure with Windows Phone is largely attributable to the low number of applications available on its application store. Microsoft has failed to attract enough developers.

Google therefore needed to be open and understanding with developers in order to attract them en masse to fill its store of applications, the famous Google Play Store.

As I write this story, the Google Play Store has just over 2.9 million applications available.

Looking at the graph of the number of applications available on the Google Play Store, you can see that Google can now afford to do what is known as purging.

As a result, Google removed just over a million applications in the summer of 2018, disrespecting many Android developers in most cases.

In order to better justify these deletions of applications, Google constantly modifies the publication rules on its Google Play Store, always leaving a significant amount of interpretation so that it can act more easily as it sees fit.

Unfortunate Experiences On The Google Play Store Are Multiplying

The unfortunate experiences of Android developers who see their Android applications removed, and then often their Google Play Publisher account terminated altogether, are multiplying.

I myself have already been a victim of one these purges at the end of 2019, as I have reported in more detail in this story:

In short, Google’s robots went through the night and suspended several of my applications in a few minutes.

After three or four suspensions, my Google Play Publisher account was then automatically terminated overnight.

I let you imagine the surprise in the morning when you wake up and open your mailbox and discover that 10 years of efforts in the development of Android applications have been reduced to nothing.

Of course, I don’t deny making mistakes. But isn’t making mistakes a characteristic of developers, let alone humans?

Until proven otherwise, Android developers are not robots but simple humans with their weaknesses.

Google Bots Decide The Fate Of Android Developers

In the community of Android developers publishing on the Google Play Store, everyone has now embraced the fact that robots have the power to decide their fate.

The bots that Google launches in the Google Play Store may decide to remove or suspend your applications at any time.

As explained above, after several suspensions, these same bots will automatically decide to terminate your Google Play Publisher account.

All this makes me wonder and leads me to ask myself several questions.

First of all, since these are robots that automatically check the Google Play Store to get rid of applications that don’t comply with Google’s long list of rules, why do application suspensions lead to a termination of the Google Play Publisher account?

The suspension of an application is already a rather strong sanction in itself and since it is decided by robots, it is not very resource-consuming for Google.

Adding to three or four application suspensions the termination of the Google Play Publisher account, therefore, sounds like a double penalty to me.

Secondly, once a developer sees his Google Play Publisher account terminated, why is it so difficult or even impossible to have an exchange with a human person actually studying the case of the offending Android developer?

Some answer this question by saying that Google does not have the human resources to manually process all appeals from Android developers.

Their answer makes me rather laugh, I must confess.

A company the size of Google, which weighs close to 1 trillion dollars on the stock market, would not have the means to manually handle appeals from developers whose total number of applications published on its Play Store barely reaches 3 million.

Rather, I think that Google does not have the will to put in place policies that really take into account the Android developers who have contributed so much to its success in the 2010s.

Some People Are Happy With This Situation And Don’t Understand That Tomorrow It Will Be Their Turn

When an Android developer sees his account terminated, he is distraught and doesn’t know how to get out of this mess. I’ve experienced this situation recently.

The banned Android developer therefore decides to ask for help on forums or sites such as Reddit.

The reactions of some people are quite appalling.

Many seem to rejoice in the misfortune of others and do not hesitate to condemn the developer even more harshly. For them, it would be a good thing if Google had finished its Google Play Publisher account.

Listening to them, the Google purges are a great thing.

These developers believe they are untouchable and perfect. The day Google’s Sword of Damocles falls on them, I’m waiting to see what their reaction will be.

You must be aware that nobody is untouchable on Google except, perhaps, the big application publishers who have enough money to pay big lawyers to defend their case.

For powerful publishers, Google makes exceptions and does not apply its rules in the same way.

The Rules Of The Game Are Constantly Changing

The real problem, in my opinion, is the Google rules that Android developers must follow. These rules are constantly changing and are subject to interpretation in most cases.

As an Android developer, you have to follow all the many technical evolutions of Android but also the many evolutions of Google’s rules.

It’s part of your job. Nevertheless, it is not an easy thing to do, and I think Google should, therefore, be more flexible.

More flexibility would be a sign that it takes into account the difficulty of what independent developers are constantly being asked to do to keep their applications up to date.

In addition, Google keeps reducing what Android developers can do as the Android SDK evolves.

A few months ago, for example, Google decided to restrict access to call logs exclusively to applications that really need them.

Do you know what is an application that really needs to access this kind of information?

In view of the applications that have been removed or suspended as a result of this change, I don’t think anyone but Google can answer this question.

Once again, the arbitrariness of Google’s rules comes out. Developers who didn’t respect this change in rules had bad surprises when their intentions were not bad.

They simply did not understand the scope of this rule and its application.

This example can be found in most of the rule changes that Google makes for its Play Store.

Android Developers Live With A Sword Of Damocles Over Their Heads All The Time

Taking advantage of its hegemonic position with Android, Google has decided to distance itself from the developers that made its success by simply no longer considering them at their true value.

Android developers live with a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads permanently.

This Sword of Damocles is the risk of being banned by Google from its Play Store.

All Android developers fear more than anything else to open emails received from Google and whose title begins with: “Notification from Google Play about …”.

Worse still, they fear waking up one morning and to receive the email with the title: “Multiple Strikes”:

Once this email is received, your Android developer career is almost over, unfortunately.

Whatever The Outcome Of Your Appeal, Your Android Career Is Almost Over

Following this Google Play Publisher account termination, some developers, including myself, are trying to mediate their story via social networks, forums, and platforms such as Medium.

You have to create a viral effect around your story to hope that a human will eventually process your appeal.

In some cases, it works.

I finally managed to exchange with a human person from Google by email. For this, I had to be very lucky but also to insist on many, many times.

My good faith was taken into account and my Google Play Publisher account reinstated.

Nevertheless, for a few successful appeals, how many Android developers are left on the sidelines forever deprived of the ability to publish applications to the Google Play Store?

Too, unfortunately.

Even in successful cases like mine, your career as an Android developer publishing on the Google Play Store is almost over.

Google has reinstated your account but you are still marked with the red iron seal of your previous suspensions.

At the slightest subsequent suspension, which may occur at the next change in the Google Play Store rules, your Google Play Publisher account may be terminated again.

In fact, your best option is to leave your developer account untouched and update your existing applications sparingly.

Indeed, publishing new applications seems to be too much of a risk since they could lead to a new suspension that would mean the termination of your Google Play Publisher account.

The Future For Android Developers On The Google Play Store Is Not Great

I’m going to end this story on a negative note, whereas I’m usually a deeply optimistic person. In this case, unfortunately, I cannot do otherwise.

The future for Android developers on the Google Play Store is not great.

Google has taken the side of favoring the big software publishers on the Google Play Store in defiance of independent Android developers.

Yet independent Android developers are the ones who carried the Play Store in its early years, allowing it to have enough applications to offer to users to make Android the hegemonic leader it is today.

By making its rules on the Play Store extremely complex, while not bothering to really listen to the Android developers it sanctions, Google is sawing off the branch it’s sitting on.

For the reasons I’ve given in this article, I’ll advise against an Android developer entering the industry today to develop his business around his own applications published on the Google Play Store.

On the contrary, I will recommend him to privilege development for others by trying to work for big application publishers who still have a bright future on the Google Play Store.

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Sylvain Saurel

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Entrepreneur / Developer / Blogger / Author. In Bitcoin We Trust:

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