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How Google obliterated my 4 year old Chrome extension featuring 24k+ users (graffino.com)
330 points by andygambles on Sept 7, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 244 comments

It seems recently like anything inbound to Google goes into /dev/null!

A number of us have been trying to get a response regarding Google Apps accounts with Play Music, and we're paying customers. There's no response to the forum https://productforums.google.com/forum/m/?utm_medium=email&u... nor when I put it on Twitter and when a load of us tried direct feedback via the app, that still hasn't got any response.

Clearly their model needs to rely on limited user support and that's okay, provided there's a good service with some human presence. But it's getting to be a problem...

anecdotally, you can get good support if you're a customer, but there's a big difference between a customer and a user. I've heard (not confirmed personally, just overheard at conferences), that if you spend enough on adwords to register on their radar as a customer, things are easy to get sorted even if they're nowhere adwords related.

the big difference is that for the most part, google users/developers/... are not really customers.

I can reassure you, as a Google Apps for Business customer, that they treat their paying customers with every bit the same contempt as they treat their free end users.

I have had to call a couple times on different email related issues with Google Apps and have to say my experience has been nothing less than impressed. They were responsive, extremely helpful, and continued to follow-up to make sure the issue was resolved and we were not experiencing any more problems.

I've also had issues with Adsense and have access to their support, and have had the same experience there. Helpful, responsive, and followed up long after the problem was resolved to make sure we didn't have any more problems.

Overall, I went in thinking their support would suck and ended up impressed.

When was that? If they've improved I would be delighted.

Two within the last 12 months and a couple last year. I just had an Adsense issue last month that was fixed same day. For apps, I had to merge multiple business accounts several months ago and they assisted us with the entire process.

Don't try to use groups in any advanced way.

Well I'd say for their core products such as AdWords Google are treating their customers with care. It's just that they simply don't give a shit to the majority of their other products. Why would they anyways? They're an ad company and really just as the founders said themselves, the other projects are much experimental in nature after all. That's just the reality in a business sense.

Google Apps for Business isn't adwords, though. my comment was about adwords customers.

You still implied that being a paid customer vs user made a difference. It kind of doesn't for some services... but that's good, that's an opportunity for the competition to piggy back on that : "We're not Google, here you'll benefit from a real customer service!".

The worst is that google doesn't even have good tools that allow its community of users to help each others, aside from a mediocre Q&A forum.

Is it a sarcasm ?

Sadly not. Getting support for anything that isn't Adwords from Google is hopeless.

If you generate over $25 a week with AdSense, you can chat with AdSense support at anytime.


With Google, you're not the customer. You're the product.

> With Google, you're not the customer. You're the product.

No, though with many free Google services, each user is a low-volume supplier in a crowded field of similar low-volume suppliers.

Did we all just see transforming of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader?

From "Do no evil" to "???"

Feel the power of the dark side..... :-)

Hog farmers treat their products better.

I'd agree. If you have a company that uses Google Apps, for example, getting support for Google Apps -- with an actual human being on a telephone (!!!) -- is easy to do. And the human beings you talk to are pretty damn knowledgeable. They'd be like the second or third level after the call script monkeys at any other support service.

Apparently app / extension developer is not a customer.

If you're not paying them money, you're not a customer.

You pay a few dollars to get your extension listed in the Chrome store or your app published in Play Market AFAIK. So by definition you are. Hell, even the customers who bought some apps in the store have a share of their money going to Google, so they are also Google's customers as well. It's just that they contribute way too little financially and are so many in number that Google choose to not give a damn. Ads has always been their only core, true business anyways.

The parent wrote "And we are paying customers." It looks like that anecdote is starting to lose some of its luster.

You'd think if they could blow billions of dollars on tons of industries they have no intention of actually entering, they could find a few million somewhere to hire some CSRs. Google's gotten big enough now where they aren't incentivized to give a shit.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company." -– Saturday Night Live, September 18, 1976.

Hey, fifty years.

(So, are we getting Baby Googles and Facebooks in another ten years, or are those times behind us?)

More likely the multinationals will breakup the governments this time around.

> It seems recently like anything inbound to Google goes into /dev/null!

Google Express seems to have very good and responsive customer service, so to the extent that this is a real problem at Google, its not everywhere at Google.

Not providing any meaningful support is Google's business model - you can see them talk about it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU0Z_HAzO3I

> Google estimates that they would need to hire over 20,000 customer service people to deal with 1 query every three years from each customer. So it has decided - as far as possible - to employ zero people and rely on algorithms.


There is a difference between supporting every customer (aka, the mass of people behind your average YouTube comment) and supporting developers that promote your ecosystem. By failing to support this one person this one time, they've damaged a lot more people's experience, and the average developer is much more likely to be an influencer. This guy is influencing influencers because he couldn't get a 2 minute support query handled.

And this is why Google's ecosystems suck. They don't put in the work. Podcasts say "going live this week" then never go live. They've completely fucked up their books store by making authors not be able to control discounts, which, combined with Amazon's price match, means that authors have to choose between randomly having their revenue fully cut or skipping the Google book marketplace altogether. Spoiler alert: they skip the Google marketplace.

Heaven help me if my gmail address gets marked as a spammer account. I'll basically be completely fucked, but I don't trust anyone else as much with security.

it's a tradeoff. having engaged support for every app developer would mean they would have to admit many fewer apps to the ecosystem. they have chosen to more freely admit apps but provide no support for them.

They could do both.

no, they couldn't. the budget to pay for a large amount of support on a very open app ecosystem is prohibitive, even for a company like google.

the compromise position that they could do, but apparently haven't done, is to sell paid support packages for app developers that need/want more engaged support from google.

No, I mean they could do a minimal support thing.

Hire one people to respond to devs of these pretty popular extensions (so let's say above 10 000 installs). Make the number of emails the guy/gal has in the queue public, so devs can know how long they have to wait on average.

and then you get everyone arguing over what counts as "popular enough to get support attention". its an implementation detail and this is hypothetical, so it doesn't matter much.

in any case its pretty clear how the Android app ecosystem actually works: no support for developers. The advantage you get from that is a more open app ecosystem with lower barriers to entry and lower fees from Google compared to their competitor Apple.

Why wouldn't that be better? Here we have a completely shadowy system. Canned responses, no accountability, no transparency, no rules, no communication. You probably have to sue them to pique their attention.

Yeah, the Apple 100USD fee is just as laughable, and their review process just as mystical, no questions about that.

And with Android you at least have the AOSP, and with Chrome there's Chromium, and you can always just distribute Chrome extensions yourself.

It's true. They didn't help 1 person. They didn't help 24k people.

Which is a really good argument for never developing for the Google eco-system. Because you can't afford to invest in a platform where if something goes wrong you're just f*cked.

Agreed. At least on other corporate eco systems (Microsoft, Oracle, etc.), if you are a paying customer, you have great support.

Absolutely! You only have to use 10 year old technology for that support.

Great! It's had time for a lot of the bugs to get knocked out, and most of the rest to be well enough known for fixes to be pretty solidly understood.

You are oversimplifying. There were multiple stages of things going wrong and there is no system where things can't get wrong to the point where "you're just fcked". What do you think how many innocent people got put in prison with no avenue of appeal, for example? Even suing for your right won't guarantee you the correct outcome and at some point you'll exhaust your options of appeal.

This person just won the unfortunate lottery that in a large enough sample there has* to be at least one person who gets treated unfairly.

Plus, of course, they are butthurt over the fact that they don't understand how trademark works (I mean… honestly? How could they think that that rename would make it better?). It's not like they didn't get multiple levels of appeals by humans, they just didn't like the answer they got so felt more comfortable blaming automation.

to be fair, for some parts of the eco-system, and for some values of investment, you can pay for support.

Precisely why I develop for the web.

It makes sense not to have humans responding about how their site is indexed or removed, because that's pretty much everyone.

However, they should really consider hiring support staff for:

* Their paying customers

* The partners bringing value to their products, typically extension developers and Android app developers

Products that make google money that you have to pay for have some amazing support. Cloud and Adwords being 2 examples. As you go through the sign up flow, they give you a phone number to call if you have any questions.

As a software engineer at Google, I have handled a few bugs or issues that originated from customers calling our support lines.

It doesn't matter what kind of support you have for Cloud if Google's first reaction is to turn off all services and there isn't a way to get in touch with support outside of social media. Adwords may have some support, but as we've clearly seen here on HN, Cloud does not and out of all the offerings Google has, that one should have the most support. The only people I can see using Cloud at this point are people who are ignorant that Google's response to problems will be an immediate shutdown and people who are not ignorant of such and therefore extremely risky or stupid. Either way, it's not a professional service nor is it production ready. I'm thankful everyday now that I did not migrate to such an infantile and unsupported system. In light of this, everything else about the service including pricing and features is irrelevant. In fact, the whole service is irrelevant and childish. A toy at best.

I'm sorry you have that impression of Google Cloud. I'm wondering if you are referring to the recent story where the guy had his account deactivated? There was a follow-up to that story where the guy involved was actually extremely happy with the response and spoke about it publicly[0] (if you don't read it, note that their service was turned off because they were DOSing others). I'd at least recommend noticing that there are a number of high profile companies that host in Google Cloud and are happy with the service.


Sure. Read that. But the ends don't justify the means. Doesn't matter how happy he was, shutting down a whole account because one server was hacked is preposterous. The same situation happened to me on AWS, and if AWS had done the same, you can be sure I'd write the same thing about them. In fact, this is the only decent thing about AWS considering how shitty the various services are and what torture it is to use them. But at least AWS had the sense to shut down networking to the instance and leave the rest of the infrastructure alone.

Common sense, apparently, can't even be bought with Google/Alphabet money.

> Products that make google money that you have to pay for have some amazing support.

And yet, the best place to get support, even for Cloud customers – as has happened before – seems to be this very website, because the Google support just doesn’t care.

so then hire 200 customer service people to handle the queries when the algorithms go awry? surely there is an algorithm they can devise that will identify when the other algorithms have made mistakes.

right? :-)

Why do you assume that this is not the case?

Humans have a failure rate for repetitive tasks between 1 and 10% (depending on who you ask). So even (unrealistically) conservatively and including having two steps of appeal, you would need to assume a minimum false positive rate of at least one in 10K cases (you can even make that a million, if you want, by adding another layer) that get appealed.

Now, what do you estimate, how many chrome app store takedown notices, youtube copyright claims, android bugs… whatever, does Google get in any given week?

It is literally unavoidable that there will be a significant number of cases that fall through the cracks. And as long as it only takes one of those to post a blog post and get on HN, I don't see much value in increasing the cost for this any further, tbh (I just love how that article completely ignores any statistics when comparing this with the case of Apple btw. Not only is Safari only a tenth of the size, basic statistics should tell you that you won't be the unlucky bastard in both stores simultaneously).

The issue isn't algorithms or automation. The issue is, that we can't yet completely replace some jobs with them. And humans suck, especially at scale.

The problem is that if a human is available to talk to, people will normally tend to that option even if their answer is on the help page.

Then let those 200 people pick from the email firehose? For example if the sender is a Chrome ext. developer with more than 10 000 downloads?

That's interesting, because I've spoken to two Google support reps on the phone in the last two years (related to chrome os and their music service.) They must be so bad at customer support they can't even employ zero people properly.

The exact same thing happened to me. I have a fairly successful Firefox add-on named 'Yahoo Mail Hide Ad Panel'[0], and it is one of the top-rated extensions on Mozilla's Add-on store. When I wrote it for Chrome, they removed it apparently after a complaint from Yahoo. Understandable, but I asked them how are the other extensions containing the same name not removed? No answer. I asked if "Hide Ad Panel for Yahoo Mail" would work, no response. I just gave up and decided not to write that extension for Chrome, just like OP did.

[0] : https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/yahoomailhide...

I guess it is not using "Facebook" or in your case "Yahoo" in your extension name, but changing the content for a user of a Facebook or Yahoo page is what is triggering the remove of the extension. If it is against the TOS (or Platform Policy) I don't see how else they are supposed to react if the get a complain.

1. The Developer of such an addon may not have ever agreed to the TOS

2. Google is under no legal obligations to enforce a contract between Facebook and the Facebook user

3. The TOS applies to the user of facebook, not the developer of DOM manipulation Plugin

4. To the extent the developer agree to said TOS, it is largely open to interpretation if TOS have any legal authority at all beyond giving the ablity of platform operators to ban users for violating them. I.e Facebook's recourse would be to identify people using the plugin and then ban them from the site. of-course Facebook has no desire to actually ban anyone for using a public so they use legally dubious trademark claims.

IANAL, but this part from chrome webstore TOS

> You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Web Store, including the development or publication of Products ... that knowingly violates a third party’s terms of service,

sounds like publishing extensions which enable users to violate the Facebook TOS are not ok.

It's not the removal of add-on that pissed me off, but the lack of proper response on what would be the acceptable resolution. Not using the name would change the meaning as both of these are not general purpose ad blockers. Had they replied saying "for <their name>" is ok, I wouldn't have removed it. At least they could have replied with a flat 'No' to make things clear.

I quote:

> We cannot prevent from being "Flagged" and unable to reveal the reason of flagging.

What do you expect from them? They openly said they can not divulge more information about this. There is no "response on what would be the acceptable resolution" that is more proper, unless you assume they are straight out lying.

I don't see how an add-on posted on the Chrome store is subject to Facebook's ToS. It might be aiding people in breaking the ToS, but is there really a law against that?

Google makes the laws now. Governments are mostly irrelevant.

Well you've been quite extreme in this thread. I get your concerns, but I'd say that day is still very much far away. Libertarian lunatics like Peter Thiel certainly dream of it, but I really doubt it will become the reality, at least not over the whole world if indeed so in the already very corporate America.

Anyways, if the vision aspired by Thiel happens, those "libertarian" capitalists will be killed by revolts/uprisings in an instant. A world without tax nor regulation nor basic support for social equality never works. Just as explained in Capitalism in the 21st Century, if inequality is not addressed, there will be revolts and chaos. Extreme injustice can't dominate forever.

There is no law necessary, Google explicitly forbids publishing extensions that aide people in violating the TOS of third party services.

What's that? Google? Poor support? Poor service? Say it isn't so.

To be clear, #Sarcasm :)

Google's genius, isn't so much what they do. It's also that they've lowered the bar when it comes to expectations. They understand that designing and building products is relatively easy. The unknowns are in time knowable.

On the other hand , reality-based humans drive Google crazy. They are, evidently, to be avoided at all costs.

In that context, it's "interesting" how it's working out for Google+, eh. Surprised?

In some aspects, maybe... in other aspects, they've raised the bar to heights that others can't/won't reach.

In a company that has hundreds of products, is that really so hard to believe? Mega successes... mega failures. Still massively successful?

Look at Apple. They were at the top with the iPod. Then the iPhone. Then the iPad. Massively successful. Yet they still release turd products like one button mouse, Apple TV and the G4 Cube.

Or Microsoft with their massively successful products and massively unsuccessful turds.

It's not like other companies don't have horrible customer support... Nope... just Google. /rolls eyes

The difference is that Apple's support in general (everyone drops the ball occasionally) is very good. Millions of people out there with iPhones, but they can always get support for them if they need it.

Google's customer support isn't horrible, it's just not there

> one button mouse

Although I have some serious issues with Apple (e.g. iPhone 6 plus), Apple hasn't released a one button mouse in a long time. They all have two buttons, just check the preferences.

Frankly, Apple TV is actually a pretty good product since my technophobe Mom can use it for its intended purpose. I still don't like the whole remote policy, but that's a developer thing and frankly Apple really isn't the most friendly company to developers either.

I'm using an apple "magic mouse" right now, and while yes, it is capable of right clicking, the surface is still a single piece. This causes more than a few misclicks for me. A mouse designed with separate surfaces for each button doesn't have the same problem. They begrudgingly added a right click, and their 'design over all else' philosophy has made it an inferior product.

Don't argue. This poster is of the mind that his opinion is the only right one.

What makes you think that? From five short paragraphs, I'm an immovable mountain - unable to change my opinion because I'm right?

Didn't realize that text carried that much weight...

Didn't realize that a comment about a Google Extension was so earth shattering that it's not worth arguing over...

I'd hate to see you in a conversation about anything of real substance.

> Google's genius, isn't so much what they do. It's also that they've lowered the bar when it comes to expectations.

That's an interesting use of "genius". For me that just sounds like vulgar subversion. People at Google (etc.) also didn't influence my outlook on what what is decent, merely my outlook on them.



You can't comment like this here.


>My requests got closed with a “Thanks for your feedback.” canned response.

This is a prime example of why I don't use my Gmail anymore and why I pay for email. I've read plenty of horror stories of how people lost their Gmail accounts for all kinds of reasons. Most of the losses were completely unrelated to Gmail but related to perceived 'abuse' of Google's other services like Youtube (if your YT account gets shut down for 'copyright abuse', your Gmail will be gone as well). Some people lost Gmail accounts over Google Play store apps they submitted. Basically, if they close your account, your Gmail is linked to it and it's gone too. That scared the heck out of me because I had my whole life in there.

And there's just no way to contact Google's support... unless you know someone at Google.

Author should feel lucky they didn't close his account over this.

I've recently started to move a lot of the services I use away from Google provided services. Who'd you go with instead of Gmail for email?

Not OP, but I moved all of my email from free Gmail to paid Fastmail about 2 years ago, and I've not had a moment of regret.

I send quite a lot of email for work and other things and I have what I think is a higher-than-average number of email addresses to manage.

One adjustment I made - I now archive older emails to avoid extra storage costs, which in turn means that searching for older emails is slightly more hassle.

Fastmail's web interface and mobile app are not quite as slick (as gmail) but this isn't a big deal for me personally.

Can't you just use another e-mail app, like for example K-9 Mail, with it?

I used K-9 for many months and it was just OK. The FastMail app was not a huge improvement (over K-9) but it was still an improvement, at least in my experience. From memory K-9 didn't handle multiple "send-from" accounts as competently as the FastMail app, and there were other quirks that became more irritating over time.

I went with Fastmail. Great service with an excellent customer service. I feel confident that if something were to happen to my account, I wouldn't lose it forever.

I set up my own mail server. It took me a few hours with a few minor hiccups along the way, but after contacting Microsoft and AT&T to get my IP removed from their block lists and asking family and friends to mark my emails as "Not Spam", I am now in control of my email and it feels amazing.

I have also taken the time to run my own calendar and contact services.

For mail, I run Postfix and Dovecot over SSL and access email from my iPhone or web browser using Squirrelmail.

For contacts and calendar I use Baikal.

> after contacting Microsoft and AT&T to get my IP removed from their block lists


Isn't this exactly the problem with running your own email setup? And have you not found that keeping on the white side of mail server lists is a constant and moving target?

May I ask, do you send a lot of mail and have multiple accounts? (I do, so this overhead would be impossible for me to manage personally)

Fastmail here. Migrated a couple of years ago, never looked back.

I'm starting to think that if Google had a service where you could pay $10/$20/whatever, and actually get someone reasonably well informed to read what you're saying and direct your issue to the right person, they'd have another significant revenue stream on their hands ;-)

There is a larger pattern here. Is there any large B2C web service that's not monetized by selling the users' data (for advertisement targeting etc.)?

For example, I would absolutely love to pay a monthly fee to Twitter (say, 3-5€) in exchange for an ad-free, unmodified, chronological timeline. And I would also consider paying something (say, 10€ a month) to Google in exchange for an ad-free search site that does not collect any data about me without my explicit consent.

My guess here is that the subset of users who would be willing to pay a monthly subscription is strongly correlated with the subset that advertisers are interested in targeting most. If a site got say 10% of users to pay a subscription, their value to advertisers - and hence their advertising revenue - might drop a lot more than 10%, leaving them with a net loss.

That's a good point, but it also seems strongly correlated with those that run ad/privacy blockers. (Even with such a blocker, perhaps the data collected is still valuable, though?) My instinct is that by selling an ad and tracking-free site, they would be indicating that the ads and tracking are a bad thing, as opposed to the party line that it's all "to deliver better services to you".

It seems to me the opposite. If someone cares enough to pay for the content directly ,I suspect that person is the one who will be going out of the way to avoid ads and tracking in the first place.

The trouble is that at this stage hoovering up customer data is in Google's DNA. As far as my perceptions go all a paid option means is that now they attach my credit card details to their data on me.

I run uBlock origin and would pay for a monthly subscription.

That's a very interesting point. I never thought of that and I think you're right.

I think there's at least two reasons. With Twitter or Facebook the problem is that they're dependent on network effects so asking for payments from users is out of the question, they would never get to 100s of millions of users that way. With Google search, you may have more of a point, but I guess in the end Procter and Gamble has more money to spend on individual search transactions for ads than the other parties involved (users searching for sites and website publishers who want to appear in results.)

Apple is probably the most successful counter-example but even they are now going to have app store ads.

Don't have to charge everybody. There can be a free tier ("pay with your data") and a paid tier ("pay with your wallet")

It can be complicated. For example, now you're not advertising to your most engaged users, so advertising on the service becomes less valuable.

Over the years I've seen the reaction to a lot of those "Facebook is going to start charging money!" fake posts and it's very negative. I can't imagine the outrage that would ensue if twitter or Facebook offered a "pro" experience. People don't respond well to free things becoming paid, even if the free version remains largely the same.

Thus far, I accomplish that via: Duck, Duck, Go; NoScript; Privacy Badger; and uBlock Origin. Its silly to need to do all that, but it works well for me.

uBlock cannot give me a pristine timeline; Twitter's algorithms still mess with the content ordering. It's not just about ads, it's about how a tool's design is poisoned by the need for maximal ad revenue.

As far as DuckDuckGo goes, I would really love to use them regularly. DDG is even the default search engine on my notebook, but I find myself going to Google in the second step about 90% of the time because DDG's results are too bad.

Also, DDG is still running on ads, so it's more of the same, albeit implemented more privacy-consciously.

I love DDG in theory. In practice, I append !g to about half of my searches because the results aren't good enough. Say what you will about the privacy concerns, but Google knowing I frequently search for programming stuff makes finding other programming stuff a much easier process.

I have this !g routine too, but lately I'm having a much harder time finding good, technical programming answers than before, even on Google. I would love being able to easily blacklist some websites such as stackoverflow and the likes which often have unanswered questions or incomplete answers, and often fills the first 2 Google's result pages.

I have DDG as my default search engine, but for many things (mainly tech related) I use a !s command to search on StartPage. [1] While Startpage claims not to track users, it has some ads similar to Google (these can be blocked easily). Since it searches through Google, the results are great. That leaves me using Google somewhat rarely, like for example, if I want to search based on a specific time range or do a reverse image search. This approach provides me the freedom to be logged into say, Gmail, without worrying that my searches would be recorded and used for profile building and advertising (I take care not to search on Google while logged in to any of its sites in the same browser or a non-private browser window in the same browser).

[1]: https://startpage.com

> Twitter's algorithms still mess with the content ordering.

Settings -> Account, under "Content" unmark "Show me the best Tweets first"

As if I hadn't disabled that long ago.

You can pay less then 10€ a month to get ad free YouTube and Music. Best money I spend every month.

Great. Now they should offer the same for the search engine.

I think you can? https://contributor.google.com . Not that I’ve tried it - I’m not allowed to in the UK.

Contributor is only for sites that use Google's ad products. I don't think it works in Search.

Essentially, it's a way for a site's users to bid for its ad spots. If you bid more than the advertisers, you don't have to see the ads.

It's quite a clever idea really, but I don't think it has much uptake from publishers.

I use it and it probably covers about 65-75% of ads I see, and almost 100% on news websites. I've also seen it work in apps.

It's too bad there wasn't some way to have it cross over networks too.

I get this error when I try to sign-up : Error fetching data. Please try again later.

They have adds on Google Search? I swear my mind automatically just remove them subconsciously.

Also you could just use an add block

> I swear my mind automatically just remove them subconsciously.

That's a (rather quickly) learned behavior called banner blindness. :) [1] People get used to the locations where ads are placed on web pages and also the kind of look that ads have (flashy, colorful, animation, tiny picture with some text, etc., as some examples) and don't even look at them (these have been confirmed by eye tracking studies a long time ago).

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banner_blindness


The problem is that by paying you are also identifying yourself and what user data would be better than clearly identified user data?

Second problem is that there is potentially more money in you than this proposed relatively low amount because you are probably spending a lot more in a month and it is big attraction to become a middleman in every transaction you make.

The problem is that Google does not want that messaging. If they collected money in exchange for not violating your privacy, they'd be acknowledging that what they do, is actually violating your privacy. At times, Google has even tried to use the rhetoric that providing you more relevant ads is a service to you that improves your experience on the Internet. (LOL)

Basically, the income they'd gain from offering this would pale in comparison of the reputation they'd lose (and following that, users) from admitting what they do is bad for you.

I too would very much like those things. But, how would we know that they were telling the truth about not collecting the data?

You could compare your search results to a fresh browser on a new IP address.

It would be illegal.

A little off-topic, but I was just talking about that Twitter idea the other day with someone. He had asked if I thought Twitter would go private or sell off. I said that Twitter should look at ways to monetize their stream outside of ads. Like you, I would gladly pay a couple bucks a month to customize my feed how I want it.

google does not sell your data. this is such a tired canard.

Selling access to the user that created the data is the same damn thing for the end user. It's just that in the way Google does it, Google gets paid over and over instead of one time selling a static list.

not it isn't. if you sell the data then it goes into 3rd party hands and out of google's control and they can do all kinds of bad things with it.

'Bad things' are tracking (Google does this), targeted ads (Google does this), selling access to information so others can target ads and drop tracking (Google does this), allowing Governments access to your activities (Google does this)

Exactly what 'bad things' are being prevented here?

The end result is exactly the same for the end user, its simply a question of who is getting paid how much and how often for that information.

there are much worse things, like spamming.

Spamming isn’t bad, spamming can be fixed with a spamfilter.

Selling your age, gender, location, preferences, etc to anyone who books an ad? That’s bad.

They're not selling your personal information to anyone.

You can read more about how online ads work here: https://privacy.google.com/how-ads-work.html

Except to a foreign government that is actively hostile towards my rights.

That’s more than enough.

Because this foreign government is booking ads?

I don't follow your line of reasoning here.

No, they do that in addition to giving information to advertisers.

If any company gives any information about me to a third party, that's already wrong.

And while advertisers don't get the data directly, they get it indirectly. They get the user specification (age, gender, rough location) they bid on, and the IP, and several advertisers even used that to track you between different websites their AdWords ads were shown on.

They don't give your information, directly or indirectly, to advertisers. Using aggregated information for ad targeting isn't "selling" information to third parties, no matter how hard you try to loosely redefine the semantics of the word.

I'd ask how you think they are giving data to foreign governments, but I have a feeling you'll try to redefine "mandatory court subpoenas for individuals" as the same.

And what exactly prevents them from doing the bad things themselves? What is the inherent reason that I should trust Google more than any other business?

they have a track record.

A track record of doing bad things behind the scenes, perhaps?

Support costs money. Big money. Just as FB, IG, TW, etc. For the most part, they all suck.

Assuming one person could serve 50 customers in this manner. And they were to earn 50k/year.

The monthly fee for this service would be about $80.

Your assumption that one person can serve 50 customers a month seems to be quite low. That comes to spending about four hours per customer to respond, track and provide a resolution or workaround! Of course, the duration would vary depending on what kind of support channel is used (phone vs. chat vs. email). You also seem to be assuming that all paying customers would have major issues that can only be resolved by working with other teams, getting a new resolution or change implemented, etc.

In reality, most customer cases can be resolved quickly by searching for documentation and pointing them to it and/or explaining things better (and improving the support documentation along side when necessary).

I would assume that at least 30 customers can be served per eight hour working day. That's spending more than 15 minutes per customer and is usually adequate (on average) even for phone support! With my extrapolation here, which is again just an example (real scenarios would be different), the basic cost incurred by the service provider for the salary alone comes to about $7 per user per month. Add for overheads and it would still be fine to charge $10 or $12 per month. If service tiers are used, then there could be multiple slabs, mechanisms for support and turnaround times - all these would bring down the actual cost further.

I would gladly pay for developer support. I do it for Apple. (I'm the original author).

It would cost much more than $10/$20 to provide that service, so you'd be in "whatever" territory.

Then charge $500. Whatever it needs to cost, charge it.

we can also imagine that the people who get the message get a part of the money.

And the more you pay the more your message is higlighted or promote to these people.

> I received an email from Google telling me that my extension violated Facebook’s trademark

What did you expect?

Any service, not just Google, will shut down apps and extensions for similar reasons. This has nothing to do with

> I just don’t think it is worth it to put any amount of effort to build something on a platform that turned out to be so unreliable.

I do agree that any service might honor the takedown request for the registered trademark infringement.

But what the author refers to is completely another issue: the complete lack of support from Google. The extension author complied with the request. Tried to contact several times an only got canned responses. I guess Google doesn't care much about people that develop for their platform. At least that's what I got from the blog post. Therefore, author's conclusion about developing for that platform seens right.

> I guess Google doesn't care much about people that develop for their platform.

This seems to happen to every company reaching a certain size and in need of some belt tightening (either pressured via investors or internally realized). Microsoft, for instance, has consistently flushed new frameworks away over the last decade, driving tons of Microsoft-centric developers away from the idea of building on any novel platforms and frameworks they put out. Google seems to be going down the same route by torpedoing APIs, torpedoing entire services, killing Chrome apps next year, hampering support requests, etc.

If there's good harmony between the broader dev community and a given platform, it stays. There's no point in supporting a framework that doesn't catch on fast enough (why invest the time?) and also no point in supporting outliers who have a hard time implementing a service unless -- as the author hopes -- it becomes a press headache for them.

...since I upvoted the link, I suppose I'm on the author's side here.

The problem is that the author used the wrong example to make that point. This issue was entirely on the developer and at this point in the web/mobile/app game I have to believe he really didn't want to understand what the issue was and was just trying to get some attention with that post.

Let's pretend Google actually had great developer support (remember: we're pretending here) which was staffed to whatever degree it 'should' be. He still would have likely gotten nothing but automated/canned replies because this particular 'issue' has been brought up time and time again by inexperienced and/or bozo developers (i.e. 'whhaaa... you mean I can't make a living off of someone else's brand?'. No company is going to spend much/any time fielding these types of support requests, even if it's paid support) It would have been a stronger argument if he had an issue that a real person on the other end would have been able to help him with.

Your point would be valid if the author hadn't pointed out that the same issue was resolved properly by Apple within three days (by renaming to "Cleaner - for Facebook"). My understanding is that Apple is bound by the same laws as Google when it comes to trademarks and IP.

So you do not have to pretend here: If Google had developer support that would be as good as Apple's (which I believe is a very low bar considering all the anger Apple is getting about how they treat developers), the extension would still be in the Chrome App Store and doing just fine.

Don't get me wrong but, would a "do not use FB or Facebook in your extension name" reply be such difficult to respond? In my understanding, support is there to help users (developers in this case).

I agree that the developer should have guessed that by himself, but the real issue here I believe is the lack of any useful response, the automatic takedown of the extension and no way to get any response after "expending" the apparent "two tries" that you get from Google when something like this happens.

Additionally, how the hell is this trademark infringement? We've been using the "Software Name for X" formula for decades to refer to programs that operate in conjunction with other systems. In this case this extension only works with Facebook, therefore the Facebook name is more or less required to describe the function of the product with any accuracy. It's not like he's written a third party app for Facebook or we made his own social network called Facebook, he's done nothing to damage the value of the trademark.

I'm generally a pro IP guy but this seems extremely draconian.

I was just reproducing the term trademark infringement from the article.

I also do agree that FB here is somehow taking advantage of said laws to send to /dev/null the extension that renders one of their revenue streams ineffective.

I'm no expert in US trademark laws by any means, maybe they're entitled to leverage it for these kind of cases.

The blog-post specifically says that it is not about the author's disagreement with the takedown, but rather about Google not providing any form of support in this matter. They didn't inform him what the actual problem was, nor how he could fix it or anything, even after multiple requests by the author.

These stories are too common. Google is mortified of trademark/IP violation, so if you made the mistake of naming your thing wrong and got reported, good luck getting help with it. On the Android app store it's even worse, once taken down if you want to submit the app again under a different name you have to make a new app package, which means forfeiting all the existing users, reviews, ratings, etc.

What you are doing not only violated Facebook's trademark (good luck calling it fair use), but it's also against Facebook's ToS. They have actively gone after extension authors who alter the Facebook experience and even deactivated their accounts.

Rightly or wrongly, when you sign up to a service you are bound by the conditions they set out. In this case, making an extension to block advertising is probably not going to end well for you.

> (good luck calling it fair use)

Fair use is a defense against copyright infringement, it has nothing to do with trademark infringement. The relevant test here would probably be substantial likelihood of confusion.

I don't personally find it confusing, but I'm probably not an average person. I think "Facebook('s) X" is the much more common formulation for branded apps, and it's very common to call something "Cleaner/Dark/Accessible <Brand>" to indicate that your extension is a skin of that site. I'd say it's a borderline case, to be charitable, and changing it to "Cleaner - for Facebook", while more confusing about what it does, it's almost certainly safe.

But the point of the article seems to be that there is no feedback on how to resolve this from Google's side, so it's not like the author can go to court over this to adjudicate the dispute, you just get a chilling effect where Facebook et al can (ab)use to stymie people doing things they don't like.

IANAL but..


I have personally been working at a company where we had a problem with this. We were providing reviews of companies' websites, and therefore had to use their name and trademark. It was tricky legal ground for us to do this and we were challenged a few times.

Fair enough, I did not realize there was a different concept called that in trademark law.

I still don't understand why you think it's absurd that he would assert such a defense, though. The article you linked clearly states that nominative use is actually encouraged by US trademark law. It seems a no brainer that you'd be able to specify the platform that your product works with.

The main problem here is that the author has created a product, which is harmful to the company in question whilst using their trademark. Generally courts don't like that.

They told me I was infringing 4 years later... when there are numerous apps in the store doing the same. It's also a cleaner that works only of Facebook. Google reviewed it and approved it 4 years ago. The extension is free. There is no advertising. I don't make any profit.

I was never told what to do or how to change it so that my users would still recognize it. Also changing its name in "Cleaner - For Facebook" was suggested (and accepted) for the Safari extension by the Safari Gallery Team.

If I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I can't fix it. This is not about TM infringement, but the total lack of communication by Google.

Thing is that they basically told me I can't do anything if the original complainant gives his go-ahead ... after 3 months of canned responses.

(I'm the author of the post).

"They told me I was infringing 4 years later... "

Laches is only a defense if facebook knows and it took 4 years. Even then, caselaw suggests 4 years is the minimum you'd ever get to complain about.

"Google reviewed it and approved it 4 years ago."

Not sure of the relevance to the first sentence. It's not the same folks.

"I was never told what to do or how to change it so that my users would still recognize it. Also changing its name in "Cleaner - For Facebook" was suggested (and accepted) for the Safari extension by the Safari Gallery Team. If I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I can't fix it. "

I'm honestly not sure what you expect here. Google doesn't know what's going to make the other guy stop complaining, and if the other guys complains, they have liability.

I expect this is why they directed you to contact the complainant. Google really can't say or do anything here without risking legal liability, unless the other guy basically says "yeah, we don't care anymore". So they aren't. You can't expect Google to offer you legal advice on how to fix this, that's just silly.

Note that contrary to whatever you think - you have recourse here, even if facebook ignores you (i assume you called the complaining place on the phone instead of just emailing folks)

You could go get a declaratory judgement that your app is not trademark infringing. If you did this, and google ignored that, i think you'd have a reasonable argument here.

I have a reasonable argument, but you're not listening. So I'm just going to stop writing.

If you're a developer there needs to be an explanation and a mediation if a conflict occurs. This is how business is handled everywhere. I am a developer that helps promote their business.

There is no where to call no where to write and to get a human on the other side. There is no appeal.

What's the process for this? Is this something like the DMCA safe-harbor provision?

Isn't it something like?

Facebook cries to Google. Google notifies Developer. Developer contests trademark infrigement. Google notifies Facebook of contestation.

Google at this point provided the venue for dispute (so complied with the safe-harbor "doctrine"), now Facebook can escalate to proper courts.

I got pulled over for speeding once, all I did was lean out the window and say, hey officer, what gives? Everyone else was going the same speed as me? He said yeah you're right, have a good one!

Actually that didn't happen because that's not the way the world works.

How did the officer have the legal right to pull you over? Why, because you broke the law as it is codified. Google haven't codified anything, and actively allow apps to do what they selectively disallow on only certain apps.

I'm surprised you can't see the difference!

I can't see the difference either because it makes no sense.

First, they only need probable cause to pull you over, you don't actually have to have broken the law. So the analogy is pretty broken, because the police already can do the thing you don't want google doing :). It's also civil vs criminal, so ...

Second, the law is codified, why do you think it was taken down?

Google received a trademark complaint. A complaint someone broke the law. This is like going down to the police station and filing a complaint.

As for "actively allow", that's silly. They aren't ignoring trademark complaints about the others, they just didn't get any. I'm sure if someone filed complaints, they'd take those down too.

So Apple are wilfully breaking trademark law? Give me a break...

I can see the obvious trademark issue since he used the facebook name.

But I don't get why you bring up the ToS. Those are irrelevant outside of FB's website. ToS =/= Law.

Facebook could close the accounts of people who use AdBlockers.

Yeah, but they can't close the Google Web Store account of someone who develops an ad-blocker.

But then, aren't Adblock Plus/uBlock Origin violating the ToS by altering the 'Facebook experience' as well? They're still there on the Web store.

They don't have 'Facebook' in the name. Probably much easier for them to go after trademark infringement.

Yes, that's what I meant by my comment that hiding ads is probably ok for them, it's only the name that they're concerned about.

Bound to / enforced by whom?

FB ToS do not exist in a vacuum, which is why they always include "if a section is invalid others remain" or some such. Not sure about which jurisdiction the user / you are in, but in most areas signing up for a service does not obligate one to watch the ads (e.g., on TV one can turn away, turn off sound, blank screen, etc.).

I very much doubt that FB wants to fight, in courts, the person's ability to block ads on his personally owned display (both for bad PR and for uncertain outcome), thus their preferred response seems to be technological (make it harder or disable account they dislike) rather than legal.

They don't need to get legality involved. Their terms of service also give them the right to kick you off the service - as they please. If you don't follow them - you don't get to use the nice things. It's pretty simple - whether we agree or not :)

As a private company they can kick one off the service anyway, ToS (which they can easily modify on the fly) or not. I (probably mis-)read your post to mean there was a clear legal problem with trying to modify the view to suit user tastes ("user content stays, ads go").

Folks doing this are fighting an uphill battle against stronger opponents who have powerful weapons (e.g., disable access), but it is not a hopeless battle -- there are examples of successful and profitable products built for filtering out force-fed content.

> Their terms of service also give them the right to kick you off the service - as they please.

Actually, they don’t, as rulings in Germany have shown, Facebook does NOT have the right to close accounts "at will" or for ToS violations. Especially not if the relevant ToS paragraph does not conform to law.

(Just like you can’t refuse to serve customers for their religion in the US, for example)

ToS don't associate directly with laws. They are terms of service, not legal requirements.

If you go into a restaurant and put your finger in a fellow customer's food, that is not against the law, but the manager will throw you out. It's the same with Facebook's ToS, they can decide who and who cannot use their service. I have read a lot about how Germany has dealt with privacy within the Facebook platform, but have not seen anything about reinstating users who have breached ToS?

> but have not seen anything about reinstating users who have breached ToS?

There were a few cases regarding the realname policy regarding that, and it’s still in the courts, but it looks like Facebook can’t exclude users for that.

Silicon Valley companies are an oligopoly - They behave more like collaborators than competitors. This type of behaviour just confirms it.

Why does Google care if someone wrote software to block Facebook ads? Maybe they have a secret deal with Facebook to help cleanse the world from ad blockers?

Obviously Apple has no skin in the game (they don't rely on ad money) - Maybe that's why they allowed the ad blocker to remain on their store.

This is a case of competing companies collaborating with each other at the expense of the consumer because the outcome is mutually-beneficial for the companies. This is anti-capitalist behaviour.

If Facebook has a problem with ad blockers, they should take it up with the government instead of collaborating with competitors.

That brings back memories of the Google/Apple employee anti-poaching agreement http://www.cnet.com/news/apple-google-others-settle-anti-poa...

They should take it up with the government - rather than having terms of service which allow them to remove content they deem inappropriate? How exactly would going to the government make things better for anyone?

I don't see how 'Cleaner Facebook' is a brand infringement. Anybody who downloads this app would surely know that the app is not made by Facebook (it doesn't attempt to mislead users into thinking that).

There is a clear distinction between claiming that something is made 'For Facebook' vs 'By Facebook".

That's what you get when you centralize things.

A better thing could be a community-owned store for the chrome extensions (and a community-owner browser). Something like the Mozilla Add-ons site but for Chromium-only extensions.

Or being able to add you own stores in Chromium, would be even nice for companies who want to distribute private extensions.

The problem is actually that Chrome is a thing at all. Even greater problem is a lot of developers, who should know better, recommending it en masse to laypersons.

I'm really surprised this got so much traction..., I didn't submit this to HN. Baffled that so many users went trough roughly the same experience.

(I'm the original author)

Great project - is this in a repo we can fork?

It's not opensource. I would have to rewrite it to open source it. And write some docs. I don't know if I have the time for it.

I can't release it in the form it is now. I'm really ashamed of the code I wrote a few years back :).

Don't worry about it! The code probably isn't nearly as bad as you think, and anyway it can be improved through PRs... Did you consider open-sourcing it from the beginning? If so, why did you decide not to do that?

> After 3 months of trying everything I could think of, I give up.

Frankly, it would have taken just one thing - remove references to Facebook. I know that's basically amounting to doing some linguistic gymnastics in order to express what your extension does, but you _did_ in fact use a trademark without their consent, and ostensibly in a way that reduces their revenue stream. This really isn't a Graffino v Google issue.

Expecting "due process" is also an unrealistic complaint in this scenario.

> I just want you to think twice before creating a revenue stream based on the Chrome Web Store.

Forget the Chrome Web Store. Think twice before creating a revenue stream based on any service that can pull out the rug at any moment. If you don't control your own destiny things like this can and will happen.

You don't need consent for nominal uses of a trademark. If I say that my service does X for Facebook, then I'm allowed to say that even if Facebook objects.

I may need to explicitly prevent the impression that my service is Facebook or part of it, and add a footnote about who is the owner of the Facebook trademark, but saying that an extension is "a cleaner for Facebook™" is explicitly allowed under trademark laws. Even without consent from Facebook, and even if Facebook explicitly forbids it.

I'm not saying the complaint was legally valid, obviously Google can't return the necessary due diligence on every DMCA takedown request. But the reasoning was explicitly stated in that request.

So they told me I was infringing 4 years later... when there are numerous apps in the store doing the same. It's also a cleaner that works only of Facebook. Google reviewed it and approved it 4 years ago. The extension is free. There is no advertising. I don't make any profit.

I was never told what to do or how to change it so that my users would still recognize it. Also changing its name in "Cleaner - For Facebook" was suggested (and accepted) for the Safari extension by the Safari Gallery Team.

If I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I can't fix it. This is not about TM infringement, but the total lack of communication by Google.

Thing is that they basically told me I can't do anything if the original complainant gives his go-ahead ... after 3 months of canned responses.

I agree with your second point.

(I'm the author of the post).

> So they told me I was infringing 4 years later... when there are numerous apps in the store doing the same.

This is not a great defense. We know from the trail you presented that someone from FB's legal/compliance team found your extension, not the others, likely due to its visibility and popularity. That doesn't mean the other extensions are in the clear. It just means they weren't on FB's radar.

> The extension is free. There is no advertising. I don't make any profit.

I'm sorry, but that's irrelevant. The complaint wasn't that you were profiting from the ™, just that you were using it.

> If I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I can't fix it. This is not about TM infringement, but the total lack of communication by Google

I cannot disagree more. They told you what the problem was and the originating email explained that quite explicitly. You did not have permission to use the trademark Facebook (or FB). That's it. If you removed those protected trademarks, it would have been a different story.

It doesn't really matter if you agree with me or not. To say that Google inaction or non-communication is fair or good or OK is simply out of this world.

I specifically said in the article that it's not the takedown I had a problem with. But the total lack of support in solving the issues. If I'm not made aware of the rules, I can't fix anything. They specifically said I had to get back to the original complainant to get my app reinstated. That email address is a black hole. So there's nothing I can do.

> To say that Google inaction or non-communication is fair or good or OK is simply out of this world.

I didn't say any of that.

> If I'm not made aware of the rules, I can't fix anything.

I don't think Google or Apple could ever (or should ever) - in any meaningful way - advise you on copyright law. That would ultimately boil down to a civil issue between you and Facebook. Facebook, however, made it quite explicit what their issue was. By your article it seems you did not try to rectify the issues that Facebook brought. The notion that you exhausted all avenues to getting your extension re-activated is simply not true.

The standard for trademark infringement is "likelihood of confusion", which is why "Cleaner for Facebook" passed muster at Apple.

> Frankly, it would have taken just one thing - remove references to Facebook.

Unless you're part of the team at google with the power to reinstate extensions, I don't know how you can possibly claim to know that.

This strikes me as pedantic - we can probably safely assume that not doing the thing that caused the extension to be removed might in fact not cause the extension to be removed.

Can I say that with authority? Of course not. I can't say the window wouldn't be broken had you not thrown a baseball at it, either. But I can tell you the window is broken because you threw a baseball at it.

In your metaphor, the article isn't about why the window broke. It's premise is that once broken, Google makes it impossible to find out how or whether it can be fixed.

Chastising the author for breaking it in the first place is neither here nor there.

I'd start by saying characterizing my responses as "chastising" is a bit disingenuous. I find the notion that the extension was removed without any clear reason equally disingenuous.

The reasoning was provided in the included email screenshot. It's not a grand leap to suggest that not repeating the precise reasoning for the extension's removal would likely mitigate future action. The OP fundamentally resubmitted the app without addressing the complaint. How to fix a trademark transgression seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it?

Actually no. The same extension is OK in the Safari store by using "Cleaner - For Facebook". This is OK according to the law.

I didn't get the clear reasons my extension was taken down. It is a grand leap to what needs to be changed in order for the app to be compliant and in the same time not confusing existing users.

> Actually no. The same extension is OK in the Safari store by using "Cleaner - For Facebook". This is OK according to the law.

The fact that Safari allows it is not some broad-sweeping legal pronouncement. Nor is it proof that they even truly evaluated it more than superficially. It's not even validation that the extension is compliant via Apple's terms. It just means your extension got back in.

Apple could get a takedown notice tomorrow and do the exact same thing. This is clearly a risk of using the Facebook trademark, even if you're doing it in a "fair use" way.

I'm not trying to be rude here, so please don't read it this way. But bluntly, invoking Facebook's name in your extension is kicking the hornet's nest. If Facebook doesn't like it, they will send takedown notices and Apple and Google will assuredly respond to those by suspending extensions. Your beef is still ultimately with Facebook, not Google.

You clearly are ignoring fair use, because you are so invested in supporting incumbents for some reason. Would you like to tell why you think that just because someone makes something that a powerful incumbent doesn't like, that is must be shouted down. It wasn't even violating trademark because of fair use http://www.inta.org/TrademarkBasics/FactSheets/Pages/FairUse... . Why are you on their side, because clearly you are. Why? Is it because you are paid to do this? Something else? What is the position you are in? Because you trying to discredit the author so intently, you must have some interest, and it seems dishonest that you don't reveal it, because it is not a position a rational person observing would come up with, not in any way that I can think of anyway.

This is an absurd way of expressing your disagreement ("only an irrational person would disagree with me!"). I am in no way affiliated with anyone involved.

The "why" is quite simple: Google is an ad company, and the entire reason they developed Chrome was to ensure they had control over the plugin ecosystem to ensure Google-provided ads could never be blocked. But ad blockers are becoming an existential threat to online advertising in general, so Google is likely trying to prevent them from existing.

It's a terrible idea because advertisers don't give a fuck about performance. I've ditched Chrome because it's just too slow with all the ads -- at least with Safari and Firefox I can run an ad blocker to cut down on some of the mountains of JavaScript trackers, overlays and animated banner ads that make the browser so effing slow. I know I'm not the only one in this boat.

It's not true that you cannot run an adblocker on Chrome. You can easily install uBlock Origin, uBlock, Adblock Plus, etc., from the extension store. You can also run EFF's Privacy Badger extension to block trackers as an additional measure.

It's more that if these extensions ever became a real threat to Google, they could easily block them since they control the extension store. That tends to keep them in line over the long run.

Google suspended adwords for my shareware software site and removed it from the index because I didn't post a EULA. I posted it, but now they're claiming I need 'more original content' -- the whole site is original. Not sure how or why innocent developers are being caught up in the dragnet obviously intended for spammers / scammers, but it seems those folks continue to operate freely while the innocent are being locked down.

"I got quite a few offers to sell it, so others could push advertising trough it."

Makes you wonder how many of my installed extensions have changed owners during my use.

Email the Bing team and ask them to feature a "Unresolved Google Complaint of the Day" with a timer ticking to show how long the problem has been left unresolved with a link to your blog post - on the Bing home page. That might get you somewhere :-)

I ran in to the exact same problem.

I had a chrome extension with >15k users. One day I got an email saying I violated the facebook trademark (my extension blocked the read receipts in facebook messenger and had 'facebook' in the title).

I reached out to google and they said reach out to the person who filed the complaint (which was not facebook, it was some agency they pay). I reached out to them, called their phone number, sent them emails, and they were unreachable. I emailed google to say they are unreachable and they won't respond.

It is kind of annoying...

If you write a extension to remove ads from FaceBook and your user base has grown from 4,000 to 24,000 users and it just got taken down I feel your lucky. I am not saying it is good, bad or indifferent but someone is going to notice you and make some noise when you remove ads from FaceBook and you have FaceBook in your name.

The communication side fo things is clearly bad on Google's side. Similar to the YouTube demonetized videos fiasco. Google needs more PR and Communication people.

The economic model for writing apps for closed distribution platforms, or -stores is kind of serfdom without manorial courts. You sign of your rights for being heard or listened. You are in the mercy of the platform owner.

From the point of platform owner this kind of indifference and arbitrariness is justified with low cost and it's not going to go away. They only need to keep the frequency of occurrences within acceptable limits.

Google is highly unreliable for developers. The number of products that are discontinued are staggering. Not trying to be pessimistic but unfortunately many feels like that.

Google went from 'do no evil' to 'do no support'. It feels like talking to a refrigerator when you desperately need support for a service you are paying for. Been there, done that I will never rely on google for anything remotely useful again (apart from www searches).

A great example of the charade of open source. Sorry you spent so much time on something that seems like it might have been useful, only to run into the black hole of corporate/legal red tape that kills good products. "Do no evil"? "Define do".

Isn't this a very old story, repeated a thousand times before? How many people made excellent programs for Windows only to see Microsoft stealing or destroying it by changing APIs or exploring undocumented features of Windows? Ask Borland, Computer Associates, Lotus, PKWare and so many others.

How many times has Apple already done the same, both on the Mac and iPhone?

And before them both there was IBM.

When you develop for controlled platforms and walled gardens you're not creating a business for the long run. What you're doing is free market research for the owners of the garden.

Yes, there are exceptions (Intuit, Adobe, Autodesk). But they're exceptions, not the rule.

My app "LoL Helper" was also copyright infringing League of Legends. Not sure if I can laugh out loud anymore.

Slightly off topic. But here's another story of how unresponsive software giants are and how how helpless the users are in most cases http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://...

I've had good support with real Google support "people" when using Google's Cloud Service. It may just be that the extension falls under the category of ad blocking and they choose to ignore for beneficial reasons over actually replying. It would be curious to see the same thing happening towards a popular extension that doesn't deal with ads.

Over 1 month and counting to update a Google Web Font (Mada)


Sorry to say, but don't get your hopes up... It seems like Google doesn't care about ever updating the fonts they distribute.

The author of Crimson Text, a very popular free web font, complains about it on his Github readme [1]:

"While you are looking at the new, improved version, Google Fonts continues to offer the clumsy-looking original and has not heeded the repeated pleas for an upgrade."

[1] https://github.com/skosch/Crimson

Well... I've downloaded a newer version and now it's local... actually I have no hopes and don't care anymore... ;)

I am not surprised that Google took this down when reported for copyright/IP violation (whether true or made up) and that emails from a relatively small project are only getting canned responses (I wish it were different, but realistically Google is not going to change). I think the only way to change this is to get advocacy online to get noticed. And as someone else said, if you build plugins for a company-managed software, you are at their mercy WRT to disabling it at any time (the same is true for a community-based software as well, but the process is usually transparent and more aligned with users and developers needs -- no blanket "because copyright" rejections).

And there is my co-worker … constantly on the phone with Google.

He is selling ads. And he gets lots of support.

This story has some parody feeling to it :)

Just to recap:

1) Receives a take down notice for trademark violation

2) Changes name from "Cleaner Facebook" TO "Cleaner — for Facebook" :)

3) Gets surprised as taken down again

Let me suggest a few names _without_ Facebook in the title:

- Social facelift

- Clean UI

- Fresh look for social media

You got it wrong. I was never told what to do or how to change it so that my users would still recognize it. Also changing its name in this way was suggested (and accepted) for the Safari extension by the Safari Gallery Team.

If I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I can't fix it. This is not about TM infringement, but the total lack of communication by Google.

> If I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I can't fix it

Most of programming btw is like that. Google throw an exception with a better error than "undefined is not an object". Maybe it's easy for me from the outside to pinpoint the problem, but it's usually about reading between the lines.

Their support is indeed poor, but you are not entitled anything and probably the lesson here is not to build anything serious on 3rd party platforms where you are unsure about licensing, legal questions. I've been burned once by SoundCloud legal team for using their public API.

I'm not entitled for support when I'm developing for their platform ... and I'm supposed to be a sightseer 4 years in the future.. I'm gonna stop right there...

Devil's advocate: it isn't in Google's interest to give you legal advice.

Except "for X" way is suggested by Google in their "copyright infrigement" email.

I think you confused the mails ... it's not.

> I just want you to think twice before creating a revenue stream based on the Chrome Web Store.

This is probably not a good idea in general today anyway, with Google phasing it out for Windows/Linux/macOS.

Chrome Apps are being phased out for Win/Lin/Mac, but I don't think there's a change to extensions or the store itself?

Sure the point of this article is about customer support offered by Google. I'd say for their core products such as AdWords, Google are treating their customers with care. It's just that they simply don't give a shit to the majority of their other products. Why would they anyways? They're an ad company, earn their profits through ads almost exclusively, and really just as the founders said themselves, the other projects are much experimental in nature after all. That's just the reality in a business sense.

Google listened to somebody's complaint and then decided to take down this extension. When they have somebody or some mechanism to listen to such complaints, why they don't have anybody to listen to this developer.

I'm not sure that they do actually have someone handling trademark complaints. At least on YouTube, they handle copyright claims by simply taking the video down as soon as a copyright claim comes in and then you can try to appeal afterwards as a YouTuber.

But even if they do have a person handling incoming trademark complaints, that doesn't mean that they have someone handling appeals. They can face legal damages, if they don't handle trademark complaints. They can't face legal damages, if they pull through on one too many trademark complaint.

This is the first I've heard of this extension. I'd be interested in sideloading it using Chrome's Developer mode if the developer made it available for download separate of the Chrome Web Store.

I think the only problem was calling it "Cleaner Facebook", he should have called it "Cleaner Social Media" and he would have no issues.

You could have saved yourself some trouble and did the right thing.

Changing it from "Cleaner Facebook" to "Cleaner - For Facebook" won't solve any copyright claims against it. I suspect it's mostly the "facebook" part.

Why won't it solve any copyright claims against it? It did in the Safari Extensions Gallery ... It's quite easy to make required changes when the rules are clear and communication exists.

Before I even read the article I knew the extension was an ad-blocker.

All these people make ad-destroying apps and extensions and then act flabbergasted when big companies relying on ad-revenue don't like that and file complaints to get them taken down.

But it's not why it was taken down ... :)

Try an experiment, then. Create a new account and submit the extension under a new name unrelated to facebook. Grow your userbase to a size significant enough that FB notices.

I am betting that FB will get it taken down again. Trademark Infringement was just the scapegoat for your original extension. The real reason it was taken down was because it was harming FB's business model for a growing portion of its userbase.


I know. I'm so evil...:)

You use "Facebook" in the name of your extension to lure users into installing it. Google tells you you can't use the trademark. You again use the trademark. Google gives up on your spammy ways.

They seem to have done everything right here.

Apple approved "Cleaner - for Facebook" when the author had gotten a complaint there. No reason to believe that Google wouldn't approve of it. The two companies are after all still under the same laws.

Also, are you seriously telling me that making a different suggestion once, which still contains the trademark is spammy? Any reasonable customer service would have just responded that this still isn't alright either, maybe even suggested a few names, which would not infringe the trademark.

4 years later... it's a cleaner that works only of Facebook. It's not a lure or anything. Google reviewed it and approved it 4 years ago. The extension is free. There is no advertising. I don't make any profit.

(I'm the author of the post).

Register it as "for FB" -- users will know what it stands for.

If you read the original email, the complaint also lists "FB."

Meh, this will be he death of Google. Check out their "Collaborative Inbox". It's a disaster and totally unusable. I work for a company that tried to use it, but the feedback was so bad despite management buy-in it is totally unused, and will never be used by any user.

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