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Google just deleted my nearly 10-year-old free and open-source Android app (medium.com)
1400 points by lladnar 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 581 comments



The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to look at how badly a company can treat its customers and still get away with it. My company has a half dozen stories like this about Google in the last year alone.

Know what Google is doing to its AdSense partners on a massive scale? They wait until your site has just under the earnings when they have to write you a check, then they terminate your AdSense account for “policy violations”.

I’m taking about AdSense sites that have been running for years with very little traffic, accumulating a few pennies a day.

They suspended a client of ours who was spending $40k a month on Google Ads with a two word explanation of “policy violations”, and steadfastly refused to explain any reason why. Our client was perfectly reputable, ran multi million dollar ad campaigns on television and radio, and was FDA approved.

When what Google has been getting away with finally comes to light... well, let’s hope it does come to light and they pay the consequences.


This also makes me feel even more strongly that the FTC should really clamp down on these very strict app stores.

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/amicus_briefs/app...

Both the App Store and Google Play stores I think are basically illegal monopolies. I should be able to install whatever app I want, without having to jailbreak my phone and deal with warranty nonsense from the manufacturer. Just like my computer, which I can also install whatever software I want on it.

Both the mandatory fees, and the review policy are terrible. Both Apple and Google could just as easily "recommend" an app as "safe and following best practices" rather than banning them from the app store. And still, many apps get through the nonsense, which has been real joy for scammers and possibly illegal money laundering:

https://medium.com/@johnnylin/how-to-make-80-000-per-month-o...

I get that they want to protect their brand, but really, I think that horse is out of the barn.


Personally, as an iOS user, I do not want the App Store opened up at all.

Currently, I can go to the App Store, install any app, and be about 99.9% confident that the app will do me (or my technologically illiterate mother) absolutely no harm.

This is something I value highly, and am happy to pay the “Apple premium” for.


I don't want to live in your locked-down Disney with the death sentence world.

That's fine for you to want it, but don't impose it on me.

I want freedom and liberty to do what I want with the devices I own. I want to develop without fear that these two megacorps can shut me down on a whim for developing something against their ideology.

The web isn't like that. Windows wasn't like that.

Today we live in a Fischer-Price future land where everybody has to wear gloves because we might get burned. I hate what we've become. I want to go back to the world before smartphones and Apple and app stores. The open web. Before Facebook and Google became big brother surveillance operations.


    Windows wasn't like that.
Yeah, and it was an absolute disaster. Until very recently (Win7, roughly, or perhaps Vista) near every Windows install -- unless it had been locked down by an administrator, or maintained by a power user -- was an absolute cesspool of malware and outright spyware. The average Windows machine was literally unsafe to use.

    That's fine for you to want it, but don't impose it on me.
Essentially what you're asking for is a return to the world where some of the most common consumer devices in the world could only be safely operated by power users. Except it would be even worse today, since smartphones are so much more essential and offer so much more information about us (biometrics, location services, mics, cameras, etc) that can be harvested and exploited.

I (a power user!) sort of miss those days too. It's not like I ever had malware.

But in general, that wasn't working.

What do you think about compromises (like macOS, and Android) where non-blessed software is disabled by default, but can fairly easily be sideloaded?


I'd rather have all software sandboxed by default. It's a much better solution than walled gardens or "blessed" packages.


The problem with this is that you'll always have exceptions, and eventually you have enough of them that users become accustomed to blindly hitting "Accept" to any permission dialogs.


If you keep a child out of the kitchen because the stove is hot, you'll protect them burning themselves, but you'll also prevent them from learning how to cook.

If people don't get the opportunity to fuck up, you arrest their development. Stupid software users then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Users will become dumber than they ever were before, and therefore more and more reliant on software developers to do/make everything for them. In my cynical moments, I suspect this is all intentional... Imagine if the fast food industry were throwing their weight around to promote the idea that children should be kept out of kitchens.


I think your reasoning here is flawed. People do not all need to develop skills in all aspects of life. By keeping someone from experiencing physical violence you may prevent them from learning how to defend themselves, but by many this would be considered a fair trade.

I believe the same is the case with limited control over technology. Most users do not care to learn, and would opt to actively avoid the opportunity to learn if the associated danger was removed for them.

In my opinion the best option is to remain in the current state by default and have a more obscure 'power user' option that could be enabled within the OS itself.


Serious question: why should anybody have to learn how a computer works?

I mean, I do it for a living and I'm glad I know.

But I don't really know how bridges, or electric guitars, or cars, or genetic engineering, or oil paintings work.

It's awfully gatekeeper-y to insist that computers should be these totally wide-open, unsafe spaces.

I mean it's almost exactly like saying people should know how to rebuild an engine if they want to drive a car.

It's certainly good to know how to rebuild an engine, but surely many people should be able to use cars without knowing that...


I like your car engine analogy; car's have the same level of widespread use as computers, yet I would wager a large percentage of people would struggle to perform much in term of car maintenance. Anecdotally, I know a multitude of people who have no idea how their car engine works, so much so they would not know how to check the oil level.

As a further point, drivers are (with edge case exceptions) not kept away or locked down from performing any work on their vehicle, yet in most cases they would still prefer to pass the responsibility on to a trusted professional.


It's certainly good to know how a car works, or a computer works.

Recently, I fixed a number of small (non-drivetrain) things on my car and I wish I knew more.


This is a nice thought, but based on my experience helping non-technical people with malware and related issues, it's rare that they learn from those experiences, and instead delegate to the nearest techy person to help them fix it. So if people are going to act that way in either case, I would selfishly rather the software just prevent them from doing stupid things in the first place, before I get that call for help.


I don't know how workable this is in reality. Most software needs some kind of interoperability to be useful.

- Network access

- Direct hardware access (such as games accessing the GPU)

- Sharing data to other software

- Consuming data from other software

- etc.

As we've seen, we wind up needing to turn a bunch of these on for most software, and while it's certainly better than giving them carte blanche over the entire system, a handful of these permissions are enough to work some skullduggery.


> - Network access

Most software does not "need" network access, it just ends up being used for telemetry, serving ads, and checking for updates you probably don't need anyway.

> Direct hardware access (such as games accessing the GPU)

"Direct", meaning they need a context handle and some shared memory to get composited by the OS. Still, I'm honestly not sure why this isn't a solved problem today. Why are GPUs not virtualizable the way CPUs are?

> - Sharing data to other software > - Consuming data from other software

Software can be grouped together and allowed to talk among eachother within a certain context without giving any given piece of it the ability to burn the world down.

You'll have a hard time convincing me that taking control away from users is a better solution.


I would think that manually granting (or revoking) specific permissions on a per-software basis equals more control, not less!

I agree that users need full control. I also think a few decades of personal computing have shown us that the defaults should be pretty safe and therefore restrictive.

Users should have to jump through a hoop or two (perhaps as simple as `sudo enable-expert-mode` in a terminal, or some such) before being able to shoot themselves in the foot.


I think that one of the reason's we're behind on this is that major players aren't putting R&D into usable clusters of user managed permissions and tools for both power users and average users to manage and introspect them is precisely because they've found a way to both shirk the responsibility and exploit their users with an App Store.

As a result, all users are imperiled.


Windows wasn't unsafe to use, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express were unsafe to use. It had nothing to do with a lack of app stores, and more to do with the fact that ActiveX controls were allowed to run rampant on a machine, and that they could install themselves with a single dialog box that nobody ever paid attention to, and sometimes even bypass that.

I mean, even with an App Store, IE would have been pushed hard, just like Edge is now. And it still would have been a buggy mess, and people would have still been infected...

I can't believe I just defended Windows here...

I fixed hundreds, maybe thousands of machines infected with malware back in those days. Switching users to Firefox and a safe e-mail client nearly eliminated all of their issues.


>Windows wasn't unsafe to use, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express were unsafe to use.

Here's [1] over 1000 CVEs in Windows 10 alone, many of quite critical nature and not related to IE or OE.

Here's [2] another 1200+ for Windows 7.

Here's [3] 741 for the "back in the day" Windows XP.

[1] https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-26/p...

[2] https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-26/p...

[3] https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-26/p...


I remember plugging my windows box directly into my internet cable modem around 1999. My printer started printing dick pics (that I had not asked it to print) -- I had not even clicked on Internet Explorer.

I wasn't a computer person back then. But I quickly learned about SMB file and printer sharing being wide open.


But IE was baked into the system (eg Active Desktop) which is why Windows was insecure.


PC Manufacturers literally installed said malware and spyware, which is what Android phone manufacturers do today. How is it a disaster if it is the past and current eco-system. Windows 10 comes with built in spyware and malware now.


> What do you think about compromises (like macOS, and Android) where non-blessed software is disabled by default, but can fairly easily be sideloaded?

I think that's exactly what the vast majority of people advocating for sideloading are proposing. At least it's what I'd propose.


Fine. You don't have to.

Android trivially lets you sideload apps downloaded from anywhere on the internet you wish. Apple not so much, but that's Apple.

The vast majority of customers want an app store with tighter controls, and both Google and Apple provide it. There are a hell of a lot more complaints about these app stores not being locked down enough than those in your camp saying that they don't want it locked down at all.


> The vast majority of customers want an app store with tighter controls, and both Google and Apple provide it.

Tell that to the millions of people who installed Fornite mobile outside of any app store.

Most people don't care where their software comes from at all.

The reason there are complaints about the app store is because both Apple and Google are capricious and inconsistent with their application of their rules, and have no problem pretending their strict rules need to be enforced, but then allow apps that break their rules with adware or spyware on their app stores.


> ...both Apple and Google are capricious and inconsistent with their application of their rules...

this got me thinking. how is that handled by a democratic system of government? with an independent judiciary, of course. we need an independent, third party App Court! we need a powerful organization that can referee and literally force Google and Apple to put an app back in their stores.


The vast majority of users have no strong opinions on the matter of software package distribution. They take what's given to them.

The vast majority of users are perfectly fine with the Windows experience of dodging fake download button ads, unticking bundled McAfee installs, having no automatic update mechanism, etc (which is still more or less the default even on Win10).

They only start caring when they can't do something they want to do. They rarely think about the "how".


> having no automatic update mechanism

Ignoring the windows store, this is really more of a "let developers handle their own updates" situation. The vast majority of modern windows software updates itself directly or through a loader (steam, etc). Windows developers can easily tie into distribution services that offer update mechanisms. The default user experience is not 'no automatic updates.'


>The vast majority of customers want an app store with tighter controls,

Most people I've talked to don't even realize you can allow apps to be sideloaded on android. Most people don't even really look at their settings menu other than to change backgrounds and stuff.

I mean, at least on the latest phone I bought, I had to go to the build number, tap on it a bunch of times to get to the developer options, scroll down through a bunch of options that likely look terrifying to the average user until I found the option allow apps from outside sources.

When I tell people they can do this, or I tell them about f-droid or show them things on there, they tend to be kind of shocked that you can do that and usually want me to teach them how.

I've noticed a lot of people for the most part are kind.of scared to really dig into their devices without being told it's ok, but as soon as they know it's not going to destroy everything, they usually start trying to dig deeper.

The easy walled garden approach I find really stops people from wanting to learn more about what their devices can do and gives kind of a false sense of security, there's plenty of garbage and unsafe stuff in app stores and honestly, I use almost as much diligence downloading from there as I do from random places on the internet. A lot of people don't read reviews or bother even looking at permissions before the get something from the store and end up filling their phones with garbage anyway.


What are 10 crucial things that you need to side load on Android? I keep hearing about "all the customization" that you can do on Android vs iOS and I wonder exactly what is it that is life altering, or even 20% more efficient in the use of the device based on this, versus stock Android or stock iOS.


Well, I've personally got f-droid, newpipe, both Facebook lite and messenger lite as I was not able to install them based on where I live through the play store. Both of those are far better on battery life, and messenger lite lacks ads. I also then use f-droid to install as many apps available both there and the play store as I can because I prefer to avoid Google's services as much as I can. I use apkmirror sometimes to get older versions of apps if i dislike the updated one.


> The vast majority of customers want

Customers choose from the options that have been marketed at them.

What the "vast majority of customers want" is a lazy, pessimistic, terrible way to invent the future. Where's your imagination and ambition for the way things could be? Have you forgotten that we have choices far beyond just "what Apple and Google give us" and "nothing"?

Do you think we would even have Apple and Google if everyone had your "take what the market gives you and like it" attitude?


Recently I learned, that you can sideload apps on iOS too. Using tool cydia impactor.


Your ideal state of Internet / Tech companies is definitely in the minority contrasted to overall expectations the broader population has put on these devices and services.

Yeah, we get it, you're smart. I'm smart. Most people here are smart. But protections still matter.

What you're saying is I don't want to wear a seatbelt when driving my car. Sure that is your choice - but I think it is a very foolish one.


>What you're saying is I don't want to wear a seatbelt when driving my car.

As others have said there may be more apt analogies...sticking with the car theme, it may be closer to a market where you buy a Ford and then you can only fill your Ford up with Ford gas from a Ford gas station.

That market doesn't exist for clear cut reasons, but if it did you can bet Ford and other car manufacturers would claim the same thing, that limiting Ford owners to using Ford gas is for their safety, if Ford owners started putting gas into their Ford from a 3rd party, there could be all kinds of harmful additives or other quality issues with the gas that will damage the Ford. Of course Ford won't mention on their tax to "Ford gas suppliers" (of 33%) for access to the Ford car market.


I worked in the computer printer industry a ways back. The printer companies tried to make this argument with respect to blocking generic ink cartridges from being used on their printers. They argued that they needed to limit to the manufactuerer's cartridges to guarantee a good user experience.


The scary thing is that these companies aren't simply being disingenuous - they earnestly believe this.

A company takes for granted that they are good actors, and that their customers' interests are perfectly aligned with their own. With those assertions, increasing their control can only mean a better ability to make things good/safe/simple for their customers.

But that is an authoritarian delusion. Because real difficulty arises out of cross-party emergent complexity - illegible and unmanageable by any single entity. And the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is blatantly obvious when you, as an individual actor, eventually end up at odds with whatever authoritarian scheme they've implemented - wishing to do something simple that you've personally judged as good/safe, but it's impossible to convince that centralized controller to understand / approve it.

In the real (multi-actor) world, we acknowledge that interests diverge on either side of a transaction. Someone who has bought a printer is then an individual participant in the ink market. Someone who buys a pocket computer wants that computer to act for their own interest - not for it to be beholden to the whims of the company who made it.

Unfortunately, always-on communication, the difficulty of reverse engineering, and overbearing copyright law have allowed these companies to double down on overarching control rather than allowing reasonable demarcation points. Apple could straightforwardly create an app sandbox that would allow running fully untrusted code with fine-grained capabilities, unilaterally design it to not have the vulnerabilities that the Web continues to have (eg fingerprinting), and allow sideloading after appropriate warnings. And lest you think I'm being partisan here, the same exact thing applies to Google's general insistence that sideloaded apps are less safe.

But it's much simpler and more lucrative to double down on authoritarian control until they're forced to create those demarc points, either by direct legislation or by consumer demand - eg if this recent censorship trend eventually pushes them to prohibit secure communication apps in their central stores.


Well put!

Bad intentions are not necessary to build an authoritarian system. All it takes is enough good-intentioned people being unaware of the system they are building and their role in it.


Being aware of the system itself doesn't even capture it. People need to be aware of the system's effects, from the marginalized perspective.


Right. It's not enough to be aware that there is a system if you remain unaware of its shape, who it excludes, etc.


I know I read articles about that (much like the right to repair articles with respect to CAT heavy machinery), was there any legal action against any of the printer companies you know about? If I recall the outcome correctly I believe the printer companies lost the fight, but I don't know/remember if that was voluntary or court ordered.

As it relates to printers/cartridges unlike my car manufacture/gas hypothetical or the app store, I could potentially see certain IP (from patents to trade dress) rights that may actually help the printer companies argument (but again I think they backed down anyway).


I've never had a good experience with printers, no matter the ink type.


Don't use ink, use toner ;)

I've been using a little multifunction brother laser printer and convinced my sister to do the same in college and those are the only printers I've used in a long while that don't give me issues.

The only other printers I used that never gave me issues were the high end laser printers at University.


I think it's more like: where do you want to go to copy your car keys.

You give complete access to a licensed dealer, that can be trialed, if abused.

Or you go to Brasil to pay 1/10th of the price and give them a copy of your password and address.

Something like that


That’s a wrong analogy.

If you want to stay with cars, it’s like Google saying when you buy their car, you are only allowed to go to 6 pre determined destinations in their vehicles.

Some people find comfort in the lack of choice, since they know the drive won’t be “dangerous”, but for the rest of us, we want to make the choice of destination ourselves.

We simply want the choice to open our options without these companies punishing the consumer over making a choice with a very expensive piece of hardware we own.

This scenario still doesn’t prevent Apple and Google from providing their tightly controlled closed garden of choices for those that want it that way, but for the rest of us, we get our freedom back.


> If you want to stay with cars, it’s like Google saying when you buy their car, you are only allowed to go to 6 pre determined destinations in their vehicles.

It's more like, when you buy a car, you are only allowed to go to Google-approved destinations. You are allowed to submit a new destination for consideration, but ultimately google can decide if you are allowed to go there or not.


In this analogy it sounds like google is a bus, which is... fine? Maybe not for you but what’s wrong with busses for those who don’t care about flexibility?


And there are only two bus companies, most consumers have never seen a car, and the two bus companies have a lock on the technology and supply chain and aren't interested in promoting cars because cars would jeopardize their business models.


People buy busses because they're busses.

Almost noone buys a phone because it's super locked down and some company decides when it's too old and can't install apps from the app store anymore.


FWIW Apple devices can still download apps from multiple versions back (my ipad mini can download apps on ios 9), developers might just set a minimum OS requirement if they use certain new APIs.


Then should it not be possible for the smart folks here to fork Android and provide a linux style experience on top of phones that run Stock Android OS? Can you do that with target hardware like a Pixel or Samsung or Motorola phone? The App store then becomes github, gitlab, or an apk you get from anywhere. Right?


AFAIK integrating an android fork with the hardware on modern devices is a LOT of work and usually done by the hardware manufacturers themselves (and this layer is not shared openly). These folk https://itsfoss.com/open-source-alternatives-android/ have tried or are trying to do related things.


There's no reason the App Store can't hang around, we just want the ability to sideload. Comparing it to not wearing a seatbelt is a straw man, as it's more like being able to use your car however you like without the manufacturer's say so.


I agree with your desire to side-load. My only caveat I would apply to that is to put some super really scary warnings to the user (as they will be no longer within the security of the walled ecosystem). I don't want users to accidentally side-load something because someone told them to, and not be aware of the extra risk the are potentially introducing.


You mean like the message people get shown when the UAC comes up in Windows, which almost everbody clicks away?

Average people don't care. If you tell 'em to do so or so, they will do.


That's exactly how Android works.


you can already do that, you just have to build it yourself.

here’s an article from 2016: https://9to5mac.com/2016/03/27/how-to-create-free-apple-deve...


There's a limitation on the number of apps you can sideload (3), and each app auto-expires after a short period (7 days) of time and needs to be re-provisioned.


How are app stores the only means of providing reasonable security? They already fail at that job. A huge number of apps, including popular ones, request as many permissions as they can.

In what world do I want a transit app listening to my microphone?

There isn't anything that precludes security in an app store-less world. If we sat for an hour, we could whiteboard a number of technical solutions that could be engineered.

- apps still require signing

- implementing a stricter permissions / ACL model

- continuously scan devices for malware or bad heuristical behavior

- publish a list of misbehaving apps that can be subscribed to and automatically scrubbed

- semantic sets of app permissions. Gallery apps don't get microphone, contact, or location data.

We could easily engineer for a distributed world. The problem is that Apple and Google want complete control. Playing gatekeeper gives them authority, and they get to take a large rake of any money being made.

Don't make excuses for their model. They're bad actors that have abused their monopoly powers.


> I don't want to wear a seatbelt when driving my car. Sure that is your choice - but I think it is a very foolish one.

Not at all. What he is saying is "I don't want my car to refuse to start if I am not wearing a seatbelt."


>What you're saying is I don't want to wear a seatbelt when driving my car

I don't think that is a good analogy in this case. It's more like he's trying to do a repair on his car, and he wants to be able to use some cheap parts sourced from elsewhere but the manufacturer has made it so only their parts will work. Sure, maybe the parts that don't come directly from the manufacturer will blow up my car, but I'd still have the freedom to choose than be locked down by some massive corporation because they say they're keeping me safe.


The seatbelt seems like a bad analogy when there are motorcycles on the road.


Don't strawman this argument into a conversation about intelligence.

This is about personal freedom. Not wearing a seatbelt can put others at risk for injury liability. Installing an app will not do that. Let's stay on topic. And while we're at it, you and I both know that majority opinion has never been strongly correlated with truth.


> Not wearing a seatbelt can put others at risk for injury liability.

Wow, I'm surprised that has never occurred to me before. I guess that to most people, such as myself, the trade-off is so obvious from a personal safety point of view that we don't think too deeply over it. This is a great point.


Beyond legal liability, there is also the matter of the psychological trauma inflicted on the other driver when you die.


> Installing an app will not do that.

Ever seen a botnet?


There is a difference between installing some sketchy third-party app from an apk provider and installing an app that simply doesn't meet Apple/Google's community guidelines.


People are, in fact, free to forego the use of a seatbelt.


Yes and no. You can get a ticket in at least some US states. (In practice, unless you get pulled over for some other reason, you can probably get away with it essentially all of the time.)


I'm of two minds here:

* It's only imposed on you if you want an iPhone * That said, I'm generally sympathetic to caveat emptor, as well as the idea that the provider of the OS should be spending gobs of resources on proactive protection against apps they don't even know are malicious yet. I also don't see why there can't just be a secondary app store where apps don't get the same level of scrutiny and that fact is made very, very explicit. Call it Caveat Appstore


Software has security bugs, and enough people are evil that you will get burned with that approach. I’m a professional in this space, and I really can’t tell whether some random app is going to be evil or not; how is a non-techie supposed to figure it out?

The real problem is that Google’s been unable to either secure Android or prevent malicious apps from showing up even given their locked-down store.


How is the parent trying to impose anything on you? By what mechanism would they be able to do so?


The whole premise of mobile apps is flawed. It’s sad to me that we shifted away in favor of mobile installation and fragmented platforms.


Well you've basically got two other options

* webapps -- we tried this (iPhone v1) and they were awful. The web keeps improving but apps have consistently been years ahead.

* native software -- still too difficult to secure reliably.

We haven't really been suffering from fragmentation. We've essentially consolidated down to two platforms. You can also develop for the web or use a cross-platform framework.

Not really sure what you see as flawed. The app model has been wildly successful.


> That's fine for you to want it, but don't impose it on me.

Who imposes this onto you? I have a great idea for you if you dislike the App Store: Don't buy an Apple Device. Turns out Apple doesn't owe you shit. Oh, also the same "get off my lawn" libertarian viewpoint of yours can be claimed by Apple. They might want the same liberty (to do as they like with their platform).


>if you dislike the App Store: Don't buy an Apple Device. Turns out Apple doesn't owe you shit

I recall Microsoft using that defense once upon a time.

IF you don't like Explorer or Netscape, don't buy a PC. Turns out Microsoft doesn't owe you shit.

However, it turns out Microsoft does owe consumers something, the Settlement is available for anyone who cares to know what that something is.


I wonder if there were distinguishing factors which make these cases unique.

Like the fact that Microsoft had 90%+ desktop market share and was using it to shoe-horn an unrelated inferior product with powerful network effects into dominance.

Whereas Apple has no monopoly and in fact their overall smartphone market share is falling.

Let Apple compete how they want to compete, as long as there are viable competitors. Of which there are several.

To look at the smartphone market and how far it’s come in the last 10 years and decide this is a space which needs anti-competitive enforcement action from the FTC is abusing monopoly law to obtain a political outcome.


> Let Apple compete how they want to compete, as long as there are viable competitors.

Agreed.

> Of which there are several.

I count one (Google). Who are the others in the smartphone space that are viable competitors to Apple in either company's home market (USA)?


I'm not the person you replied to, but I suppose they mean competitors like Samsung, Motorola, Huawei and so on. It depends on whether you see a competitor as someone owning an app store or someone selling a physical device.

I'm not sure "home markets" are really relevant for global entities like multinational companies.


>as long as there are viable competitors.

Who are the viable competitors? It is Apple and Google/Android right? Everything else is the equivalent of Bing competing with Google Search. Keep in mind another MS defense was there is Mac and MacOS, we even build a IE for MacOS, therefore, we can't be a monopoly.

>To look at the smartphone market and how far it’s come in the last 10 years

Maybe there is a thriving competition in the smartphone OS market I am unaware of, but I thought maybe in the last 10 years the market went from MS, Blackberry, Apple, Google/Android...to more a consolidated market and effectively Apple and Google/Android.

The political outcome is interesting, I haven't heard that before, what exactly are the politics involved with wanting Apple to allow a 3rd party app store?


You goofball, you can still install any app on iOS devices, you just have to trust the developer in your settings.


Why are the only options for installing apps "Strict App Store" and "Open App Store"? That's a false dichotomy. Let apple have its app store but remove the restrictions on installing apps from outside of it. If I want to install an apk directly from a publisher's website I should be able to.


And why is the only option for a strict app store no warning, no due process, no appeals, and no actual support?


Do you suppose those apk’s get to use the full set of iOS APIs and Services and not pay Apple for it?


Yes of course. Programs on windows also can use the full set of windows APIs and Services and not pay microsoft. It's not actually a developer using those APIs the consumer is using those APIs through an application and the consumer has paid for those APIs and Services by buying the phone.


[flagged]


Can we keep the discussion in good faith?


How do you manage battery life when multiple apps need to keep its own persistent connections open to its own home server for push notifications? How do you explain this to end users, when even tech-savvy people assume bad-faith when it's pointed out that many APIs are cloud-backed, forgetting the most obvious example of a cloud-backed API that is provided?

Or, how does the mobile OS vendor perform any kind of spam protection at all on push notifications if they have to open their notification gateways to absolutely anyone? (I'm not suggesting they're doing a great job of it now, but think about what happens when they lose the most effective stick - being kicked off the platform - that they have)


> How do you manage battery life when multiple apps need to keep its own persistent connections open to its own home server for push notifications?

Apple already has extensive experience in this area with macOS.

> Or, how does the mobile OS vendor perform any kind of spam protection at all on push notifications if they have to open their notification gateways to absolutely anyone

Do they? They could just as easily require that apps outside the App Store provide their own push notification infrastructure.

You act like these things are impossible to overcome.

And you pretend like Apple isn't already earning money from this. Apple is already charging people for the iPhone. People keep saying they are a hardware company. Are they really?


> Apple already has extensive experience in this area with macOS.

macOS runs on platforms with persistent power and/or significantly larger batteries. The power drain caused by persistent connections is negligible given the size of the battery.

> Do they? They could just as easily require that apps outside the App Store provide their own push notification infrastructure.

This was one of two options - allow apps to manage their own push notifications (which requires apps to maintain persistent connections to external servers) or open up the gateways to anyone (which doesn't). I can't think of a third option, but I'm open to suggestions.

> You act like these things are impossible to overcome.

Nothing is impossible to overcome, but most things require trade-offs. In this case, I see the trade off being battery life vs spam (and that's only if you open up the platform, which is the other trade off - open vs closed platforms)

> People keep saying they are a hardware company. Are they really?

If you've paid attention to any apple earnings reports in the last 2 years, they themselves state they're trying to pivot towards services over hardware, specifically because the hardware market is no longer a major growth market.


Android somehow solves those I think? Unless those solutions are suboptimal?


Android devices with comparable performance characteristics and battery life feature larger batteries than comparable iPhones.

Arguably, iPhones are too thin and light and should be thicker and heavier and thus could have bigger batteries. This doesn't help anyone who already has a phone (and iPhones remain supported for up to 5 years after release - that's a long tail)


Yes, I should be able to install whatever I want on the device I own.


>Currently, I can go to the App Store, install any app, and be about 99.9% confident that the app will do me (or my technologically illiterate mother) absolutely no harm.

That's the problem though. That last 0.1% is difficult, and Facebook (which, if your technologically illiterate mother doesn't have it installed, many others do) has been repeatedly shown to do harm to their users. Yet they're still on the apple app store.


Except for those applications which have a "free period" of some days then charge $10/week and uninstalling the application does not stop the subscription.


I believe iOS 13 will ask if you want to cancel a subscription when you uninstall its app...


How do you define "absolutely no harm"? Cause a lot of them are clearly misleading about what they do, what permissions they require. A lot of games are clearly geared to be addictive and get you to spend money on their "free" game.


That wouldn't get better in an open ecosystem. No harm means not infecting your phone, other app, can be uninstalled easily etc.


I'm not saying it would, but saying "absolutely no harm" seems a bit hyperbolic.


There’s no need to open the App Store. I agree with you that it misses the point of having a store in the first place.

What is needed is a big red button that makes it easy to sideload an app (download a file and run it) and explains the implications to the user.


I have found an app on the App Store which pretended to be linked to a cryptocurrency dealer and tried to force me to buy a 40€ in app purchase by abrutly and repeatedly asking for my fingerprint to remove absent ads.

The app was indeed a scam by a random chinese dev impersonating a company he was not related to by using their brand as app name and their logo as app icon.


I think the arguments more at:

a: Let me install from elsewhere if I want, like Android does (and I love)

b: have more transparency in the back end processes of the store and better appeals. Right now it's very arbitrary and capricious. Yes they have a published set of rules, but they're enforced and interpreted in a very unpredictable way.


You could just not void the warranty (more or less) for installing apps from other sources.

Your mom always uses the App Store, everybody else is happy.


Which sounds fine until your mom hears about this cool App Store from her friend on Facebook, downloads a bunch of crap, and winds up at the Apple Store with Apple having to fix damage caused to her phone. I’m a little less sympathetic with the repairability stuff, but when it comes to the App Store, daddy Apple is doing a job that I want them to do, and changes here are not to my benefit and would make me less likely to buy the product.


Do they have a computer? Might as well take that away from them with that kind of outlook.


That's a very viable approach.

We got my wife's grandmother an iPad because she kept getting fleeced by Geek Squad after opening email attachments. Smooth running for years now.

A lot of people don't have any need for a full-on computer.


I feel like my life would be a lot easier if I just got my parents and in-laws using Chromebooks. I don't like sacrificing family members on Google's altar, but the ecosystem really just fits their use cases.

I've considered something like Solus-based laptops for them, but I haven't gotten around to testing out a configuration yet.


I did.

They're happier as their technology always works the way they expect. I'm happier as I don't get any more tech support calls.

Please don't take that away from me.


> winds up at the Apple Store with Apple having to fix damage

What is this nebulous "damage"? If an app escapes the sandbox and totally hoses the operating system, the fix should be basically plugging the phone into a cable at home and waiting say 24 hours to prevent evil maid attacks. If the malicious app manages go further and screw up the "hardware", then that implies a serious security vulnerability and so should be covered under warranty.

A security model based around every bit of code on a device being vetted is fundamentally unscalable. The cracks are really starting to show, with increasing false positives and false negatives.


I'm not sure if you have parents or relatives that call you for iPhone tech support, but I do. Even something like resetting a locked iPad requires a call sometimes. It's crazy.

Now imagine people downloading all sorts of scam apps, having personal data uploaded, ransomware, you name it. And they are going to take that sucker straight to the Apple store if they don't have friends/family to fix it.

Aside from that, I personally view the Apple App Store as a feature and a benefit to me. I don't want another App Store even if it were available.


Any whole device reflash could also easily be done at an Apple store, even in a self-serve manner.

> people downloading all sorts of scam apps, having personal data uploaded, ransomware, you name it

Obviously if you just get rid of Apple's current solution and don't replace it with anything, then those things will happen like the jungle that was Windows. But that does not make for an argument in support of Apple's current solution.

The answer is to address those problems for arbitrary code (eg isolation and fine grained capabilities), rather than simplistically asserting that any code on the device must be "good" and then enforcing a singular top-down regime to assure that.

> I don't want another App Store even if it were available.

See if you still hold this opinion in ten years when large companies have been pushed to ban secure communication tools in the interest of "public safety". The writing is already on the wall.

(My current support load mainly consists of needing to help my dad because app UI elements are designed to be invisible. This is a problem caused by centralized control - banks create their own decommodified apps and want to look hip in the "design" world or whatever, as opposed to publishing a standardized API that would allow creation of independent apps for old people. And the same vacuous "security" FUD gets dragged out to justify that state of affairs as well)


If large companies are banning security tools in the interest of safety that’s a failure of government, and third party app stores will face the same restrictions.

Aside from that, the iPhone app ecosystem is perfect for me. Maybe it’s not perfect for you but I like it how it is and don’t want it to change and I don’t want more people in my family bothering me with tech stuff. If you want custom stuff why can’t you use Android and a Pixel 3 or something? Plenty of other options out there.


If there's an app that can cause damage to my phone, that is Apple's problem for having an exploit in their sandbox and I would certainly expect them to repair the damage


But there's more to the issue than just safety checking. The "App store tax" really is like a tax: it helps pay for developing the platform necessary for the apps to run on. Without that revenue, Apple would have to start looking for other ways of getting revenue -- for instance, selling my personal data.


Apple charges $100 a year which provides some money. Their 30% charge can’t possibly be mostly a tax in the way you’re saying. Don’t they lower their cut of iAPs to 15% after first year? Likely still making a profit on that. What additional things is Apple doing for the additional 15% to 30% at first for iAP subscriptions, or for normal purchases, or for one time iAPs?

I’m not saying Apple is wrong to make as much profit as they want. But to say any more than a 10% take at most (likely less) is a tax to have the ecosystem running can’t be true. Not with the $100 a year on top as well.


Apple has made over $40 billion from the App Store since it launched, and paid out over $100 billion to developers.

The $100/yr developer account fee is an anti-spam measure, not an actually significant revenue source.

Apple and Google App Stores combined currently generate almost $100 billion in revenue per year. This is the biggest and best revenue source available on the planet for smaller developers.

Easy end-user side loading, and third party app stores is a direct attack on this ecosystem and will damage the livelihoods of developers who will have no way to fight against massive increases in piracy that will result.


> Easy end-user side loading, and third party app stores is a direct attack on this ecosystem and will damage the livelihoods of developers who will have no way to fight against massive increases in piracy that will result.

Windows developers seemed to be doing pretty well, even without an app store...


I don’t know what the historical software sales revenues were for boxed software in the Windows desktop era.

But I am pretty sure the vast majority of applications on the App Store in the $1-$10 range would simply not have been possible to monetize in the Windows XP era.

Remember shareware? What percent of people actually paid for that? You think the market was even 1% the size it is now? CompUSA’s best annual revenue was $2 billion and only a fraction of that was software, and only a fraction of a faction of that was anything but enterprise software and big studio games.

And the market for apps on phones was a fraction of 1% of what we have now from the App Stores.


They already get that with the $99/yr fee for the Apple Developer program: https://developer.apple.com/support/compare-memberships/


That's basically how "your mom" got 800 different browser toolbars installed. The people who tend to "void the warranty" tend to be the least equipped to evaluate the pros/cons of doing so.


I didn't mean "your mom" as an insult, he literally said his mother did X and Y...


I'm not saying they meant it as an insult.

I'm saying the end result winds up being the opposite of the ideal scenario OP's setting up - the people least prepared to evaluate the dangers of side-loading stuff are the most likely to go and do it.


And yet the App Store is crammed with free apps that are basically just vehicles to deliver add and harvest your information.

Free kids apps are the worst, because young children try to play the game and constantly end up steered towards ads that they don’t know how to navigate away from.


I think what these people are asking for is that the App Store be forced to host everything (within reason) and for other sites to provide you the actual curation of what's good. Letting Apple do both is ethically gray right now.


The argument isnt to open the store but to open the phone. You would still be able to only install apps from the store if you so choose. Others would be able to install any app theyd like. Also, app makers that could not afford to go through Apples vetting or developers who have written apps that Apple later decides is good enough to clone - so removes the non Apple version from the store for reasons, would no longer be shutdown completely.


That form of protection is an illusion. You can simply have the phone scan all your apps before download and install. No need for a store.


What if Apple/Google weren't allowed to operate their personal app stores, and instead each was managed by for-profit 3rd parties?

They'd be small enough and focused enough that their only option for survival would be trust.


That's hardly a stable solution. It would start out nicely, but some of them would start eating up the market due to network effects. Then turn evil...

If you make network effects harder (e.g. it extremely easy to submit apps to all of them), I don't see this not becoming a competition over price. And security is expensive. You'd have to prevent people search some nice apps on your store, then downloading the same on a different store with lots of shit tier apps as well, if it saves them your 30% tax.


What about an alternate universe where the OS takes on the role of strongly isolating and protecting you from stray apps? I don't know, something like Qubes... Then you don't need the protection that the stores charges you a 30% premium for... (...)


What happens when some app your technologically illiterate mother uses daily gets shut down?


One word for you: Ubuntu


> I should be able to install whatever app I want, without having to jailbreak my phone and deal with warranty nonsense from the manufacturer. Just like my computer, which I can also install whatever software I want on it.

I'm not familiar with Apple, but where do you see this problem in Android? "Allow installation of apps from unknown sources" is a one-button toggle in Settings, after which you can download an apk from anywhere you want and install it without issues.


This is correct you do not need to jailbreak an android to install 3rd party APKs.


On Android, you do have the freedom to install whatever app you want without having to root. You can also install alternative app stores.


You do have to fight through some dark patterns that discourage side-loading. But at least you can do it on Android.

Also, it is getting harder to avoid using Google Play Services in your apps since they are putting more Android features behind that iron curtain as well.


What you call dark patterns are ways to ensure users don't accidentally load malware onto their device. They can definitely do better though - I think a good first step would a dialog to choose trusted alternative app stores such that installing apps does not require a separate confirmation step (as is currently the case.)

The Google Play Services moves are unfortunate, but required. Most device manufacturers do not provide updates for Android on time, so any code that is part of Android itself becomes harder to update.


> What you call dark patterns are ways to ensure users don't accidentally load malware onto their device.

They are still dark patterns, that they also have found excuses for those dark patterns does not make them any better. In fact most of the stuff (not just Google's) we see nowadays that take control away from the users - very often in ways that entrench monopolies and the status quo - use "but security" as their primary defense.


And they aren't secure, like at all. How much chinese scam is published there. And https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20818177


And it's a pretty good defense. Say those dark patterns are removed - and loading a .apk from the web on a completely new pixel 3 shows the "do you want to install this app?" dialog. What's stopping any of those apps from masquerading as official Google/banking apps and stealing user credentials? Or what if the app is named "get any app free app store" and, along with providing cracked apps from Google Play, it enrolled your android in a botnet?


Totally agree. Open source software is possible on Android, but it's nowhere near the level of say Linux.


> What you call dark patterns are ways to ensure users don't accidentally load malware onto their device. They can definitely do better though - I think a good first step would a dialog to choose trusted alternative app stores such that installing apps does not require a separate confirmation step (as is currently the case.)

Note that since Android P or so, only explicitly whitelisted apps are even allowed to ask for app install. There's a user setting for each. So this is effectively already in place.


"Most device manufacturers do not provide updates for Android on time"

Only because Google lets the device manufacturers off the hook. It's a problem of Googles own invention. Trading away customer security for market share.

Adding: very successfully too, this isn't the first time I hear how you should almost feel sorry for Google that they have to put so much into google services instead of Android, all because of the evil device manufacturers! Nothing can be done no... wrings hands

Maybe it will change a little but now that Huawei happened.


True. And about as helpful as offering a coat to a dead man.

It is not a problem that is retroactively fixable by other means than by what they are doing now.

They could take Android closed source and put a restrictive license on it demanding that timely updates as a condition of use. All that would achieve is that the large vendors will either stick with the old, still free to use, Android or start working on their own systems they would control again - Samsung's Tizen, Huawei is developing their own, etc. It doesn't take much to piss a large vendor like Samsung off sufficiently to jump ship. They aren't married to Android and have plenty of resources to pour into proprietary alternatives. Google doesn't have much leverage there.

The result would be only a market fragmentation, collapse of the app market and loss of market share for Google. That would benefit exactly nobody.

Phone vendors are not interested in system updates - that's a pure cost they don't want to pay, they would rather have you buy a new phone or at least not have to spend money and engineering time on preparing patches.


Everything you said rings true, except the part about proprietary license. That's orthogonal to enforcing updates. That is a contractual issue, not a licensing issue.

Google could for instance not allow the manufacturer to connect to their Google Play store unless the manufacturer played ball.

But where does this all put us? We are OK with crap, insecure devices being shoved all over the markets? What can be done.


> Google could for instance not allow the manufacturer to connect to their Google Play store unless the manufacturer played ball.

Very true but I think the point GP was trying to make was that Samsung is bigger bthan Apple and would have enough influence to get a lot developers to work on its platform instead.


I guess Apple->Google?


They already have contracts with licensing for the Play Store and other apps. Those are not included with the base images and require a contract to be in place.


Great. Do you know what those contracts do not say?

"Must keep firmware updated with security fixes."


I think the point being made is that they could add that to future contracts.


They could, but they won't, because security is not what is lining Googles coffers.


I hope manufacturers start adopting Android One widely. It will both take the burden of maintenance off them and make the problem of timely system updates go away for their users.


There are multiple problems here:

1. As you stated, Google forces devs to rely on presence of the Google Play Services

2. Devs don't care: I don't see why e.g. Discord should not run properly on MicroG (I get push messages after logging in, but the app itself shows all friends as offline, no servers and a "can not connect to discord" message; from what I found online, it doesn't seem to be intermittent).

3. I wouldn't even know which 3rd party app store to use (okay, besides F-Droid for FOSS and some Google Play Store Proxy)


> 1. As you stated, Google forces devs to rely on presence of the Google Play Services

Not forcing per se. Google just provides a convenient services that devs are happy to use.


That time has passed. There's functionality on Android that can only be reliably provided through play services these days (push notifications being the big one).


Not really. Apps in China are mostly don't need Google Play Service, so it is totally up to developer to decide whether use it or not.


It's just an optimization/convenience to use Google services for push notifications, no?


Basically: Back in the day a ton of apps used their own notification servers, with each one clashing, waking the device up, etc..

Google Cloud Messaging was then set to be the only service that could wake the device up when it was sleeping. Supposedly it batches messages and sends them at optimal times to save battery.


I'm not convinced that other network io is blocked. There seem to even be commercial competition for GCM: https://pushy.me/


It's not when the device is awake or has a wakelock. But since Android's Doze (basically deep sleep battery saving state) GCM is the only service that can wake it up.


I thought the device wakes up from Doze regularly, and then you can poll for the notifications. The SDK docs sound this way too: "While the device is in Doze, apps' access to certain battery-intensive resources is deferred until maintenance windows"

But it seems these maintenance windows aren't frequent enough (every 15 minutes?) for some apps.


The minimum interval for periodic jobs is 15 minutes. When the device is in Doze mode, the jobs are defered to the next maintenance window. The longer the device remains in Doze mode, the greater the distance between two maintenance windows.

Do you want to use a messenger or any other social media app where the worst case scenario is that it takes 15 minutes for the message to reach the recipient?

Certainly not, so the app vendor is forced to use FCM to display notifications immediately even if the recipient's device is in Doze mode.


You are correct, but how many applications need push notifications?


If you've an android phone, just count your apps? I did, and expected 8 of my 20 apps to use GCM. MicroG revealed it to be 11 (actually 12 due to "MicroG services core" registering with GCM as well).

I might be an outlier though.


That's not true anymore, for notifications it's now mandatory.


3. uptodown


DuckDuckGo/Googling for that yields only the site, no review or some 3rd party information if it is safe to use. I mean, as a side-project, I could setup a website that pulls APKs from Google, infests [some] of them with a virus and puts them on a fancy looking website or "alternative app store"-app.


The Play store is not available in China and there is a thriving app ecosystem there.


Long time iOS user and I don’t want to open the App Store. If you look at something like the Nintendo Switch’s eShop, you can get download codes from retailers. I believe retailers get some cut from the sale. Maybe apple could open it up in an indirect way.

In the video game console world you’ve never been able to install your own games. I can’t do it with my car infotainment system either and they have a crude App Store.


Just because other systems are locked down crap doesn't mean they all need to be like that.

The car is probably an exception because close to unbreakable security is.. desirable there.


The FTC Is pretty clear[0] on what constitutes anti-competitive behvior, and a monopoly alone is not anti-competitive. Quote from the linked page:

"Section 2 of the Sherman Act makes it unlawful for a company to "monopolize, or attempt to monopolize," trade or commerce. As that law has been interpreted, it is not illegal for a company to have a monopoly, to charge "high prices," or to try to achieve a monopoly position by what might be viewed by some as particularly aggressive methods."

So under their definition of anticompetitive monopoly behavior[1] (which is actually illegal). They call out that behavior with valid business justification (my own example: protecting their brand) is fine, even if it restricts competition.

Side note: today I learned a new word! "Duopoly" (a market controlled by two players). Monopoly law _does_ apply to duopolies[1].

* [0] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a... * [1] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a...


I don't think that Google's monopoly on the android setup is unwarranted. They both developed the OS software and host an app store where they decide what gets sold in this store - the same way that Apple does or Microsoft does on windows with its windows store.

> I should be able to install whatever app I want, without having to jailbreak my phone and deal with warranty nonsense from the manufacturer. Just like my computer, which I can also install whatever software I want on it.

I don't know too much about how the Apple/iPhone ecosystem works, but in both Android and in Windows you can generally download apps from locations other than the ones specifically sanctioned by Google/Microsoft without repercussions (android does have the setting you manually have to enable first before downloading external APK's). Google definitely does control an overwhelming share of the app download market, but that's because it has marketed itself well, it works well enough that users don't go looking for other stores, and there haven't been too many alternative stores that have sufficiently marketed themselves to general Android users (F-Droid is a cool concept, but the general Android user is more concerned with "getting an app that does x" than "getting an app that does x and the source code is available")


>Both the App Store and Google Play stores I think are basically illegal monopolies. I should be able to install whatever app I want, without having to jailbreak my phone and deal with warranty nonsense from the manufacturer. Just like my computer, which I can also install whatever software I want on it.

I'm on the fence about it. In the ideal world, yes. In the real world, you get the Windows problem where everyone ends up with 40 toolbars in Internet Explorer and bitch and whine their computer is slow.


"I should be able to install whatever app I want, without having to jailbreak my phone and deal with warranty nonsense from the manufacturer. Just like my computer, which I can also install whatever software I want on it."

I like to think of iOS less like a PC, and more like a Nintendo, with a curated ecosystem of software. (Maybe Android can be Sega :P)


Both are bad.


> Both the App Store and Google Play stores I think are basically illegal monopolies. I should be able to install whatever app I want, without having to jailbreak my phone and deal with warranty nonsense from the manufacturer. Just like my computer, which I can also install whatever software I want on it.

Is Google Play doing that now? It used to be that you just had to change an option in settings to "allow third-party software" or something and you could install anything you wanted. It was necessary for the Humble Bundle Android app, among other things. That was years ago, though.


A developer can install any apk using the adb tool from a command line. Jailbreaking the phone is not required.


ADB/command line is also not required unless you need to do more than simply install an app. You can open an apk directly on an Android device and be prompted to install it (provided you haven't associated apk files to be always opened with an app other than package installer)


I am not sure if they do regulations like this in our time. With At&t one could argue that this was a regulation that was dealing with a single country; with google & friends one can argue that this is a global thing and that export interests are at stake.

of course the law is supposed to deal with objective reality, and that considerations of context are not relevant here; however I am not sure that this is still true when things get tough.


I wonder if i just got shadowbanned on this discussion, or am i just talking nonsense. Well, never mind...


At least for Google, "safe and following best practices" is really a stronger guarantee than they offer of being in the play store. "has paid us $25 and hasn't yet been caught doing anything sketchy" is it, but I don't think they want to promise safety when they can't deliver.


How would you want them to regulate these app stores? Make it easier for apps to get approved? The reason iOS doesn't deal with as many privacy issues, and malicious apps is because Apple has a strict review process no?


At least for Android, there are alternative app stores, and I´ve used them (especially the Amazon one).


This suggests you do not understand what "monopoly" means.

Apple's iOS model is a feature, not a bug. If you are unhappy with the app rules there, or with Apple being the curator of what's available, then iOS isn't for you.


Apple is more like a government regulating a market. Going somewhere else is possible in theory, but in practice not really.


Apple is a minority of phone sales and market share everywhere in the world.

Going somewhere else isn't just possible in practice, but it's the default no matter where you are.


Not this again. (pardon my sarcasm, no intent to offend.)

There was a point in time when Microsoft was deeply embedding its really shitty and uber insecure Internet Explorer into Windows and causing all sorts of very severe problems problems. If that had continued, the world would have switched to free software. It was inevitable.

But the government stepped in and forced Microsoft to make a just marginally better product, and thus free software never really had its day.

If you want to have an open app store, just wait until Google and Apple become unbearable and people naturally start switching to a more open/free alternative. If you get the government to force Google and Apple to make better software, they will still have a duopoly in 10 or 20 years.

Software companies making shitty stuff, left alone, will die naturally. Capitalism is creative destruction, and all that.


It's true that Google, Apple, and Facebook are now getting the treatment that Microsoft got a long time ago.

But I'm not sure I agree that everyone would go free software if it didn't happen. If anything, I think another company would just come along and build something slightly less crappy but no more open. These days you don't even own the software anymore, it's just a subscription or SaaS.

> Software companies making shitty stuff, left alone, will die naturally.

You could say the same of many industries, and I don't think it's any more correct for software than it is for cars, phone providers, banks, or any number of hated industries. People make shitty stuff all the time, and it sells.


In the U.S., phone providers are protected by the government. You can't compete with them. The government has basically granted them fiefs.

I feel like cars are great. I don't know where the complaint is there. There is an enormous amount of variety in cars. It's really amazing. Definitely a triumph of capitalism.

I also don't really have a problem with banks. There seems to be plenty of options. People mostly just complain about Wells Fargo. It's easy to switch.

Every truly hated industry is shitty because they are a government fief and nobody can compete with them. In other words, regulatory capture/regulatory ownership. Besides phone providers, the one that comes to mind for me in the U.S. is healthcare. Also, TV providers (AT&T/Comcast)---absolutely government fiefdoms. You can't legally compete with them.

If you find an unregulated industry, people don't buy shit. There is competition and people buy good stuff. Clothing, for instance. And almost all consumer goods. Think about all the amazing gadgets and appliances that are available. Computer hardware (e.g. laptops, desktops).


> I feel like cars are great

This is myopic, to put it lightly.

Toyota own the three brands that are the least costly cars to maintain, followed by Honda. BMW’s cost, on average, three times as much to maintain.[1]

I own a VW because I’m an enthusiast, but I drive a Honda because I also need a reliable vehicle.

Some BMWs should be regulated out of existence. Rang Rovers too. I work directly opposite my mechanic and we often joke, when all four bays have BMWs or Rang Rovers in them you couldn’t make one good car if you scarified the other three.

These cars are absolute garbage. VW’s too. They all have terrible reputations.

I don’t mean to imply the specs aren’t good, some of these cars are smooth riding and handle well, but heaven forbid if anything breaks.

1. https://autowise.com/carmakers-with-the-highest-maintenance-...


If you don't want a BMW or a Range Rover, don't buy one.

People want those cars. They are willing to pay a mechanic to fix them because they like them. And you have the gall to say that they shouldn't be allowed to have them?

You are complaining about the choices we have---which are amazing, by the way, compared to 20 or 50 or 100 years ago---and your solution is to use the government to force people to have fewer choices?

Certain principles are required for the economy and society to function, and you are advocating for the opposite principles.


The existence of garbage brands with terrible reputations that rich people are willing to pay for doesn't mean cars as a whole aren't great. There are of course great brands like Toyota or Honda out there, which most consumers prefer en masse.


He wasn't talking about the cars, he was talking about the fact that BMW does not, in fact, have a monopoly. You can go buy a Toyota/Lexus instead.


I think the car industry is a racket because they frequently have lots of recalls that affect safety, but they often don't admit it freely. (like the Takata airbag incident) Same for requiring car dealerships, and negotiated pricing. Getting a car serviced for a recall then having to wait for months, possibly while not being able to drive your car can be a real problem.

Utilities like cable / internet aren't really protected by the government, in that there is supposed to be competition, but the companies rarely want to compete, so they tend to service different areas.

A lot of banks do a lot of the shady tactics that Wells Fargo does, like ordering deposits and withdrawals just to make sure you get hit with the maximum amount of overdraft fees.

I totally agree with you on healthcare. That is one of the biggest rackets in the US where price fixing is rampant, and price discovery is purposefully non-existent.

Oh, and just to throw one more in, the airlines!

> Every truly hated industry is shitty because they are a government fief and nobody can compete with them.

If you're a monopoly and the government doesn't step in, they are basically granting you a fief over that area.


If you look up the history of car dealerships: the whole dealership system is based on dealers lobbying the government to protect them. It's regulatory capture. The car makers hate the dealers.

There are 2 main kinds of telco in the U.S.: telephone line based ones and cable based ones. Historically, companies got each local municipality or country to give them a monopoly (literally) on one or the other. So yes, the telco industry is a pure monopoly play in the U.S.

Banks: I have no problem with what you are talking about in my personal experience, but you can always switch to a credit union. Basically all a credit union is in practice is a nice bank. That's their niche in the market summed up in 2 words.

> If you're a monopoly and the government doesn't step in, they are basically granting you a fief over that area.

Monopolies don't happen unless the government grants one (either explicitly or implicitly through regulatory capture). A monopoly is not just a giant company with a dominant marketshare. It's easy to compete with those.


Airlines are great. Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue offer good service at extremely low prices. Aviation travel prices in the US have gone down dramatically over the past several decades. Just don't fly United.


Utilities get special status because it doesn’t make sense to dig up the roads and lay n parallel competing power cables, sewers, water mains, etc. TV companies because the EM spectrum is limited. That makes it an apples-to-oranges comparison with banks, automakers and so on.


> These days you don't even own the software anymore, it's just a subscription or SaaS.

Only if you choose to use that type of "software". Literally none of the software I use is subscription or SaaS, because I make it a point to avoid those things.


Facebook is also a great example. That shit is so absolutely awful, and it's destroying people psychologically. People will eventually learn and get out of it. We will find a healthier alternative and adopt it organically.

But chances are the government will force Facebook to be just slightly less destructive, so that people never abandon it en mass, and never find a healthier alternative.

Facebook will kill itself if left to its own design. They are clearly committed to that path.


Facebook (as in, a social network) is already dead, it's just that nobody pulled the plug yet.

They have no people to expand to, no new opportunities to monetize the platform. All they can do is squeeze out every last penny they can from the existing user base.

What was the last memorable feature that was added? Stories in like 2015? Facebook (the company) has moved on (to Instagram and WhatsApp), users are less engaged, the content is slowly moving away. Nobody creates a new product and thinks "we gotta have a Facebook presence" anymore.


Features on the web site are largely irrelevant, though.

What was the last Google Search feature? These companies grow not by improving product, but by expanding their reach and squashing competitors.


> Nobody creates a new product and thinks "we gotta have a Facebook presence" anymore.

That's largely because Facebook brings little value unless you're a paying customer.


I‘m not so sure about this. Is there any indication or prior example from business history for that claim?

The Apple App Store seems good enough for most normal people. They will even defend having no alternative means of installing software on their iPhones with „Security“.


I'm highly technical -- 30 years in dev -- and I prefer the curated, controlled environment of iOS for my phone because I have zero interest in sysadmining my telephone.

You put scare quotes around security, but Apple's approach really does result in a more stable and secure platform.


You are cherry picking. It might be more secure from drive by hackers but if any of Apples partners (NSA etc) want in you are carrying a big backdoor that by definition is devoid of security.


That's an "if", while Android is literally sponsored by a company that makes money on consumer surveillance, and apparently has a vibrant malware culture, so who's cherry picking again?


I'm not defending Android. I'm just pointing out the platform you consider more stable and secure is likely only so if you are concerned with certain threat vectors more than others.


The threat vector you ascribe to Apple here exists for Google and Android as well, though, so it's not really an advantage of Android's model over Apple's.


>the world would have switched to free software. It was inevitable

The world was in no way thinking about switching, that's just a libertarian pipe-dream.

As to why: the costs of the MS browser monopoly didn't hit either MS or the user, it accrued at website developers and MS's competitors. They had to jump through burning hoops to make their sites work both in IE and any other browser.

In fact, the easiest and cheapest way to develop a site was to go with MS's proprietary tech and essentially lock out Firefox, or any Linux (or Mac) browser. Opportunity costs were minimal as Windows enjoyed a >90% market share.

At the time the hammer came down on MS, things had in fact improved a bit due to web 2.0 and other browsers (ie. Firefox) leapfrogging MS. But it is extremely dishonest to claim the ruling somehow prevented OSS to gain market share, that flies right into the face of facts.


Let's get one thing straight: My comment was not "extremely dishonest."

It's opinionated, sure. It's my judgement of the situation.

Second: In my opinion, IE was becoming non-viable for end users for security reasons, and baking it into Windows was making the entire system non-viable. If you can't surf the Internet without contracting multiple virii, it's just not a viable product anymore. Especially for businesses and individuals who have bank accounts, credit cards, etc.


I think Google's sh*tty ways came to light long ago. And they are still doing it.

I'm one of the many, many people that got screwed by Google in a similar way with their Adsense program. A long time ago it was. Back then there were actually people who communicated with you about it, at least that was my experience. But it was still stupid.

I was running Adsense on a website and got a message that I was not in compliance with their policies. I emailed and got a reply that it was because I need to make sure the ads are clearly separated from the content. I replied with a link to their own guide on how to "blend" ads, which I thought I had followed pretty closely. A person replied and said "That's not what we meant". WTF.

Another time on a food blog I had an article with a title that included the words "Chocolate Fetish" and a photo of two fully clothed women pouring chocolate on each other. I got an email that I was in violation of their policies with a link to that page. I emailed back and asked why. A person replied and said it was adult content. Double WTF.

So yeah, it's been stupid for a long time. And now days it's just all automated stupidity. It's pretty obvious - don't trust your business or anything else to Google.


Wow, the "chocolate fetish" case really kicks it out of the park.

Half-serious question, did all those replies come from actual human beings?

Reading the original blog post of this story and other comments here, including yours, I get a vague feeling that the communications on google's part are being done either by some kind of a machine, or by humans that can act like a machine, albeit of rather limited capabilities.


I am quite sure the email replies I received were from actual humans. It's been a while, about 10 years ago I think. If those were machine generated responses they were way more advanced than anything I thought existed at that time. I weaned myself off of Adsense so I am not close to it anymore. But from what I can tell now days you don't get any response at all.

With that chocolate fetish thing my thought was that the people they were using for compliance monitoring must be teenage boys with overactive hormones who see adult content in just about everything. But maybe it was actually an algorithm that matched the word "fetish" with some skin tones in a photo (there were faces afterall) and flagged it. Who knows. Who cares.


> Know what Google is doing to its AdSense partners on a massive scale? They wait until your site has just under the earnings when they have to write you a check, then they terminate your AdSense account for “policy violations”.

This happened to me about 15 years ago when I started using AdSense. I literally had JUST crossed the payment threshold and got canned. What pisses me off the most is that they cancel the whole account and don't pay any money at all, despite making it clear that they can detect the supposedly "fraudulent" clicks from real ones, but they'll punish you by cancelling ALL your payments, rather than just whatever supposed fraud there was.

You know what my sin was? I looked at my site a few times. Didn't even click, just loaded it a few times to see how it looked with the ads.

And yes, the "we don't have to tell you want you did wrong" bullshit is also infuriating.


Two of the admins in our new WoW-guild got banned by Discord for inviting guild applicants (who had submitted forms asking to be invited) to our server.

After a few messages there is phone verification and then after continuing to send out the accounts were banned. Contacting support was just a big 'we confirm the terms of service breach and we so not reinstate accounts'.

Those accounts were in some cases the sole admins of discord communities, and the ToS breach can't have been of anything specified in the ToS, but just falls under 'anything we decide in addition'.

But there is no alternative service people want to use.


That's the price you pay when you rely on someone's free service. It doesn't matter what people "want" to use. Pony up the cash for your own voice chat server and then this won't be a problem.


exactly. people are noticing it with google but its all tech companies where your only point of contact is an email address. paypal, uber, facebook, steam, etc etc -- they all deny service to innocent people on a regular basis with no recourse for them. it reminds me of pre social justice movement. isnt it the business' right to deny service to anyone they want to? like all black people? actually, no.


Recently, my Amazon payments account was banned from doing anything out of the blue. I called the customer service and they said they would forward my issue ot the correct people and I would receive a response on what was going on.

A day later, I receive an automated email stating that they were "unable to confirm my account information" and that "I will not be able to transact in the future". I was given absolutely zero info on why they were unable to verify me or any corrective actions I could take to fix it.


Email Bezos, they have a secret support team of actual humans who can make decisions instead of working from a script, and this is how you access it.


I got banned from a default sub in reddit for the reason "I didn't see that in the article". I replied to the mods with an explanation and a direct quote from teh article, and... nothing. They perma-banned me, and then blocked my account from messaging.

My comment was correct,

but even if it wasn't, it wasn't against the rules,

and even it if was against the rules, their own guidelines say you get a warning first,

and even then, the sitewide rules say that mods should hear appeals. But nah, forget all that. I'm just gone.


Steam is actually good at supporting for now.


This seems unclear. Admins were banned from Discord for inviting people to your discord or were banned for inviting active members of your discord community to your WoW server?

Is the WoW server a bootleg? I'm not a WoW player so not sure what's out there, but I wouldn't be surprised if Discord-the-company was involved in something that might be considered anti-piracy actions.

The other question would be if they were doing something that would be detected as spamming, either for your discord community or the game. If the invites were sent via DM but were the only DM messaging between the admins and users they may well have tripped an automatic detection.


>But there is no alternative service people want to use.

I guess I'm lucky that almost all my friends vastly prefer TS3. Being on servers that aren't self-hosted at the mercy of random bans etc. always makes me uncomfortable.


> Our client was perfectly reputable, ran multi million dollar ad campaigns on television and radio, and was FDA approved.

I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but it sounds like your client is selling dietary supplements which Google has been (IMO rightfully) aggressively removing.


I won't argue your point. I think Google should remove those.

However it would be nice if Google at least made an attempt to explain to people why they are banking them. And an appeals process.

Right now this is basically the wild west with if sherif says it, it is reality. We need more of a due process.


Yeah, that's what I got out of it too. As soon as I hit "FDA approved" I had to pause and consider that maybe Google isn't the bad guy here.


"FDA Approved" isn't a boogeyman term. It means the supplement was in fact reviewed/approved by the FDA, whereas dubious substances come with statements that their claims have not been FDA approved.

Why the aversion to "FDA Approved"?


The FDA approves that ingredients are “safe” to consume but the label is often used to imply the FDA has approved the ingredient for whatever health claim the manufacturer has attached to the supplement.

It is a boogeyman term not because of what it actually means but how it is leveraged to say something it doesn’t mean.


> The FDA approves that ingredients are “safe” to consume

Only for food and drug ingredients. The FDA has no such process for supplements. They FDA only evaluates supplement products after public health concerns arise from a product already on the market.

"FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.

If the dietary supplement contains a NEW ingredient, manufacturers must notify FDA about that ingredient prior to marketing. However, the notification will only be reviewed by FDA (not approved)"

https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-...


Take a look at the bottle and description here:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Daily-Multivitamin-Mineral-Probi...

The FDA says they cannot be used this way but they are.


> The FDA says they cannot be used this way but they are.

1. Where does the FDA say that you can't say "Made in an FDA inspected facility"?

"Made in an FDA inspected facility" is not "Made in an FDA approved facility" nor is it "Inspected by the FDA" and it's definitely not "Approved by the FDA".

2. "Someone is doing something unscrupulous on Amazon.com" Gosh. Say it ain't so.


> It means the supplement was in fact reviewed/approved by the FDA

The FDA does not "approve" supplements, period.

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/it-really-fda...

"FDA doesn’t approve dietary supplements." (from ^)

FDA approval means, specifically, that "the agency has determined that the benefits of the product outweigh the known risks for the intended use." (from ^)

And the FDA makes no such determination for dietary supplements. (from ^)


Touche, wrong word choice ("supplement") on my part.

Taking GP at their word, whatever it was was FDA approved. If the FDA doesn't approve supplements, then whatever GP represented couldn't have been a supplement, which gets back to my original question:

Why is "FDA approved" being treated here as a boogeyman by the parent?


> Why is "FDA approved" being treated here as a boogeyman by the parent?

Only because they assume that the original commenter said something untrue. The original commenter never said anything about supplements.


It is difficult to imagine what would be marketed over the internet like this that requires FDA approval and isn't at least a bit slimy. If there's something obvious thing that fits in that category that isn't, no one has mentioned it yet.


> It is difficult to imagine what would be marketed over the internet like this that requires FDA approval and isn't at least a bit slimy

Except that actually getting FDA approval suggests to me that it isn't slimy at all.


That depends, does marketing anti-depressants on TV count as slimy? I would say it does.


Being in the vaccine industry.. we take that term to mean reduced stress, back to normal life, and dollar signs.. :P


> > was FDA approved

> it sounds like your client is selling dietary supplements

The FDA doesn't "approve" dietary supplements, so either the person you're replying to is lying, ill informed (which I suspect), or it's not supplements.


FDA approves certain substances for specific uses. One loophole that dietary supplement companies will use to stamp the FDA approval on themselves is to include one such substance, even if the specific use isn't what their product is being used for.

Another loophole that these dietary supplement companies use is the "FDA Inspected" stamp.


> One loophole that dietary supplement companies will use to stamp the FDA approval on themselves is...

Can you link to a supplement that claims to be FDA approved as opposed to claiming that some included component has been approved for something unrelated, which is not the same thing?

> Another loophole that these dietary supplement companies use is the "FDA Inspected" stamp.

That's not a loophole. That's just preying on ignorance and inattentiveness.


It took me 20 seconds to find one example on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Forge-Excellence-Supplement-Metabolis...

It is a loophole in that they can list "FDA something" on their product and prey on consumers who do not know any better.


> It took me 20 seconds to find one example on Amazon:

That product in fact does NOT say that it is FDA approved, nor does it say that any of its ingredients are FDA approved. So it is not an example of "stamp the FDA approval on themselves".

> It is a loophole in that they can list "FDA something"

They are making a statement of 100% fact. Their facility was inspected by the FDA. Outlawing saying so would violate the constitution. Notably they are not saying that the product is approved by the FDA.


The title of the product is "Forge Excellence - Extra Virgin, Pure, Unrefined Coconut Oil Dietary Supplement - GMO Free & FDA Approved"

This is so obvious that I think you're intentionally missing this just to be argumentative.


I agree with you, but if we give the OP the benefit of the doubt, Google (among others like Amazon and Apple) do often ban innocent bystanders when trying to clean up legit problems. The larger issue with Google in particular is that they have next to zero customer support or appeals process. This stems out of their culture (hubris?) of the algorithm above all else.


This adsense behavior isn't even new- they did this to me in 2005! My website had a trickle of ads, just enough to pay for my college books each year. When I went to cash out Google decided it was click fraud and stole my money, with absolutely no recourse.

They're an awful company with horrible customer support. It's frustrating too, because my startup has investors who keep trying to get us to switch to GCP, but I don't think any responsible company would ever make themselves dependent on Google.


Whoa! I actually had pretty much the same experience about 11-ish years ago, in 2008. I completely forgot about that until seeing your comment here; wow, wow, wow!


Same experience for me around 2004/5. Low traffic site, when it was enough to cash out they shut down the account.


And you have to wonder how Google makes their billions.


This happened more than 10 years ago to me too. Actually, my Adsense account is still in a strange way inaccessible while I'm using all other Google services like Gmail.

I tried in all ways to get an explanation why my account was locked down and what I could do to resolve it: without any success.

The whole situation is just depressing because there is literally no way to discuss it in a reasonable manner other than automated canned answers or being ignored.

It was actually for me a mind changing event because it illustrated how the whole "internet is freedom" idea was a really stupid logical construct.


Yes there is! At least for Americans. I can not understand why these practices have not lead by now to a class action suit?


You can't form a class, and you don't have grounds to get anywhere in a lawsuit. You agreed to seek binding arbitration for any disputes relating to adsense when you signed up.


License agreements and terms of use forbid class action lawsuits.


At some point, if essentially everyone is forbidding class action and requiring arbitration clauses, do we just not have rights anymore? At some point a judge will have to recognize that the abuse has gone too far and decide it's unenforceable because companies should not have the power to unilaterally "license" our rights out of existence.


Same here.

Still bitter about it.


I never been to silicon valley, so my knowledge about it is extremely limited. But last couple of years, I am hearing so many stories from big tech companies - from google to facebook to snapchat to uber - that I wonder if there is a big culture issue in valley based companies.


"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Lord Acton

source: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/absolute-power-corrupts-...


Once upon a time, C++ was a new language. (Bear with me here.) A lot of small companies popped up with libraries. Then C++ became popular and those companies went out of business because they couldn't afford to provide customer support to their new customers.

Many current tech companies are in the same position. They physically cannot afford to pay for actual support. Instead, they rely on algorithms and things like this article; if it becomes popular enough, it will get handled. The alternative is covert support via Bezos' personal address, for example.


There absolutely is, but they don't want to see it so they never will. (And I mean actually want to see it, no matter where that introspection goes. Not just telling themselves they're the kind of people that would want to see it.)

People that have worked in software at non-fashionable companies outside the region can usually see it, but when people move to the bubble (geographically or mentally) they often get assimilated.

It's hard to talk about, except in person. Online they can swarm any conversation, and they're from the west coast which means they're experts at passive-aggressively tearing people apart.


The way I've put it before, is that a culture issue (in something of a soup of them) is that "people" aren't an "interesting technology" that will, for instance, make HN headlines or provide interesting things for technologists to work on or brag about, so SV companies don't really invest in "people" to solve problems. SV companies under-value important labor roles like customer service, and instead over-value automation and algorithms.

A common argument is that people don't "scale" quite like automation and algorithms do, but we have millennia in expertise in labor markets (humanity survived quite a while without algorithms pretending to be customer service) that we could do much better, if so much of SV wasn't about avoiding and/or entirely shirking labor costs for "shinier" technology solutions.


I think apart from the scale, they view labor as a risk, rather than an asset. The ironic part to me is they're hiring "genius" level talent to create these dummy level algorithms.


That's certainly a part of the irony in how much they'd prefer to hire white collar SV labor than blue collar labor anywhere else. For the average salary of just one PhD in "data sciences" in SV cost of living you could often hire an entire floor of a call/support/service center in some Midwest state. (Though few of those consider labor an asset either, that's a more systemic problem in how the current zeitgeist of capitalism views the entire labor market, unfortunately.)


Of course they wait until a payout to do a deeper analysis. Most sites that sign up are spam and fraud that never earn much. So a payout threshold is a natural way of gating the spending of resources to weed out fraud and junk.


Meanwhile they collect money from the advertisers.

Does Google credit the advertisers when they cancel click-bait websites/apps?

I know Google has a refund process that ad buyers can try to use if they have evidence of fraud.

However, does Google pro-actively do refunds when they cancel fraud sites/apps?


The email they send when you're terminated claims they refund the advertisers


Although if your app is removed from Google Play, they'll happily still display AdMob ads in your app while telling you that you can't collect the earnings because your app was removed from Google Play.


Until then they are happy to get paid by advertisers to show ads on spam sites?


Payout thresholds for Adsense are quite low. But it's right, in these cases they'd have to reimburse the advertisers. They could keep their share for investigation and running the ads but at least the amount that was due to be paid out should be reimbursed.


> They wait until your site has just under the earnings when they have to write you a check, then they terminate your AdSense account for “policy violations”.

Absolutely the same story happened with me.


I would want any company that is abusing their power to face consequences. However, it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out that some of these companies complaining about getting banned are legitimately doing something wrong and their only cards to play are hoping for a political reaction, rather than suing Google in court and being exposed for why they were actually banned.


No idea why this comment is getting downvoted. It's like an arms race out there, where every trick in the book is being used to manipulate people and capture their attention.

Few years back I had an option to work on a recommendation system for a large video hosting service used by most media companies. They allowed me to spend two weeks with their engineering and sales teams. It was scary to say the least. The number of companies and layers of infrastructure all just mindlessly optimizing for ad clicks, watching viewers being bought and sold in real time like some kind of mad fish market, targeting of specific groups purely because they are hooked to the content rather than a valid target for the ad etc etc etc. I got out of there as fast as I could.

There is a category of dumb people in the world, who don't have the capacity to understand how dumb they are, nor does humanity yet posses the skills to enlighten them in a timely and effective manner.

Historically this group's stupidity has had localized effects. Today thanks to a global network they are hooked into, the effects of their mindlessness is amplified to levels no one has ever imagined.

At the beginning they do what they are told to do or what people around them are doing. And if they get very good at it and you tell them to stop because its causing issues, they wont. They cant. There is nothing sophisticated, that can be done about them other than cutting access to the network. This will take decades to fix.

When people sit around wondering (and coming up with all kinds of reasons which further obscure things) why they see random, inexplicable events happening all over the world, ask them to take a peak behind the curtain, at the mindless mega machine that is the ad serving ecosystem.


Agreed, this is all a form of weaponized AI being used by the private sector to influence, optimize, and profit. Using AI for these purposes is perfectly fine. But there needs to be a realization of the impact so that guidelines, checks, and balances can be put in place. There can be unintended consequences of these things that the AI doesn't care about since its playing for high-score in the game of attention, views, and profit.


The reason it is being downvoted it is because it is using lazy debating techniques.

Saying that "well but probably there are people that had it coming" does not add anything to the discussion. In fact it diminishes the quality.

The article on the comments are talking about examples of people the affirm having being treated wrongly. If there are other cases of people that have been punished correctly or these cases are lying, then some sort of proof, at least implying that, would be in order.


Sure. But it wouldn't surprise me one bit either if there was an active policy on the part of Google that optimized for profits at the expense of the rest of the world either.

See, if a company can do something for years then the least thing you can do is explain why they've been banned, 'policy violation' is such a great fig-leaf for a lot of trickery that it should be a requirement to spell out exactly what the violation was unless the account was only a few days old and did not have a history of good behavior right up to that point.

If Google wants to hide behind the mantra that they do not wish to tell the world what rules they have to avoid giving spammers an edge then they should improve their enforcement; not to send away the bulk of the complainants without a way to improve or some kind of dialogue.


It's possible that they banned someone by pure incompetence. I've definitely had my fair share of companies provide terrible service by probably just following some automated system as they are told. However, it is also very unlikely that there is a grand conspiracy on their part to ban people to simply maximize profits.

They do provide a pretty lengthy legal contract and terms to developers, which are partially outlined in this article. I think they just realize that the ball is in their court, and if the company wants to sue them then that is when they present the evidence.

I agree that it would be helpful for people that legitimately don't know and may have made some minor mistake to get more information to correct it, and prefer businesses be transparent when implementing their policies, but from a purely legal perspective it makes sense why Google doesn't do this.


> optimized for profits at the expense of the rest of the world

This is literally what each and every company does - P&G could sell me the toothpaste cheaper, but guess what, they want my money. Very rarely a business deal - money exchanging hands - is "fair" to everybody involved. What would you expect, somebody stop trying everything to make money because of the "greater good"?


Ironically you are giving Google to much credit. There is no real way to improve enforcement. At this insane scale, and with the extreme level of sophistication from scammers, and the privacy expectation from users it‘s almost impossible to do more than they are. Someone else said it further up. They can‘t just let employees snoop around in personably identifying data. Nor would you want that, right?

The fact is, as bad as Google is sometimes about user privacy and „borg behavior“. Their adversaries (malvertising, spammers, clickfarms, bot-armies, state actors) are so committed to manipulating humans for money and/or influence, that they must be hindered wherever possible. It‘s the war for attention. And it‘s only going to get more intense.


The problem here is the assumption that scaling up is inherently good and okay, and not being able to enforce good behavior at a certain scale is just an unfortunate and unavoidable result.

If enforcement can't be managed at that scale, things of that scale should be shut down. Platforms are not an inherent good.


I don’t know. Take YouTube. For all its faults, it has enabled countless people to make a living, or helped artists get noticed. I personally feel having the option for everyone to publish content without prohibitive cost or other barriers is a massive achievement.

Sure you could go back to selfhosting. But monetization and, more importantly, discovery will not work that way.

Or we go back to the days of yesteryear with vetted and sanitized gatekeepers (also beholden to advertisers) in place.

So yeah. Until there is a empathetic, nuanced AGI/ASI in charge of policing content there’s not gonna be a good solution. That might take longer than a while.


If good and ordinary users are going to be collateral damage then that war is already lost.


The problem isn't Google punishing actors they deem "bad".

Many of the banned probably did something most of us (and they) deem "shady".

The problem is Google's complete lack of transparency and super reliance on automation.

Google's defense is that they do not want to give out even one bit of information so theoretically some bad actors could assemble a composite model on how Google banning algorithm works.

Ok, but how about giving some sort of reasonable response and some sort of reasonable appeals process?

We are rapidly heading to "Computer's Don't Argue" society: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computers_Don%27t_Argue


Court costs and lawyer fees are expensive, Google the monopoly can afford the best lawyers... So this is crying for a class action lawsuit with the best lawyers. When all is said and done it will be a slap on the wrist compared to Google's revenue. So unless the courts hand out huge punitive judgment it would not do much. And even if they do the parties effected will see a small fraction of their loss. Corporate psychopathy at its best or worst.


It sounds to me like the issue isn't so much with Google then, but that you don't believe the legal system is fair (which I generally agree), but that is a different issue entirely.


The legal system has its own objectives, for instance dissuading people from even coming to the courts, they often enough don't coincide with the objectives of the little man.

Psychopaths and corporations game the system as they have no morality. There isn't all that much the system can do about powerful forces gaming it. For instance car companies calculated that the cost of paying for injury lawsuits was less than recalling defective cars that were killing people. This is gaming the system.

It would be interesting if the courts started finding corporations having psychological disorders and punishing them for it by for instance replacing their upper leadership if found to have certain tendencies which were socially unacceptable.


There's a scientific field I never heard of: Corporation Psychology


What would that lawsuit allege? Under contract law, companies have a right to terminate their dealings with others, for any or no reason. Maybe it would be good if there was a law restricting that for these platforms, but as far as I know, there isn't. So I don't see how a lawsuit could be successful.


The claim could be something related to interfering with their business.

"GOOG agreed to provide my company a service that we have reasonably relied on"..."GOOG struck my app for no cause causing my business damage..." and so on.

Though, in-real-life, people who use google services have probably agreed to terms to bar any such claim.


In many countries a ToS is not legally binding, as its not considered a legal contract.


...but its entirely legal (and reasonable) for a business to stop doing business with an entity simply because they feel like it. No matter if they entity was relying on the service or not. It happens all the time.


Except contracts may state otherwise and a court might decide that the "I no longer want to do business" clause is invalid or not applicable. And except in my countries you certainly can't just stop doing business with someone, including a few European ones. Double if the other end is a private customer.


I'm not a lawyer, but it feels like an abuse of monopoly power (Antitrust laws)

Google sounds like they are using their control of the Android store to prevent an application being published that competes with their Google Maps Mobile App, which also offers similar public transport tracking and time-table information


I think you'd need to show some evidence that public transport apps (or apps competing with Google's, in general) are particularly targeted.


> However, it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out that some of these companies complaining about getting banned are legitimately doing something wrong

The issue is that they're not being told what they did wrong, which instantly puts Google in the wrong as far as in concerned.


> how badly a company can treat its customers

App developers are not customers; they're indentured peasants.


> The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to look at how badly a company can treat its customers and still get away with it.

I’m not saying your wrong in this case, but that’s not a very reliable measure. Companies that have the best product can treat their customers like shit. Companies that have the lowest prices can treat their customers like shit. Any company that has a strong competitive offering that’s not based on service can treat their customers like shit.


Is having 3rd party code on your pages really worth "a few pennies a day" to a lot of people? I'd rather keep a clean site.


That's a question more people should probably ask themselves. I screwed around with various ads, affiliate links, and so forth at one point. I fairly quickly came to the conclusion that the small amount I was bringing in wasn't worth having the ads/code/etc. on my site.

I might feel differently if it were a site focused on a particular topic, ads might be relevant to the audience, and the income were material. But, as it was, it just seemed better to keep it non-commercial.



Note the lack of appeal, opportunity for recourse.

Fair and impartial courts is one of the prerequisites for open, efficient markets.

--

Trust busting of Big Tech should focus on eliminating the self dealing, conflicts of interest, anti-competitive behavior, and fraud.

I don't care if Google & YouTube are together or apart. Ditto Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp.

I do care that one entity controls an entire ad network, using it to better compete against their own customers, and to squelch competition.


> The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to look at how badly a company can treat its customers and still get away with it.

+100 This has been my feeling ever since I first started using the android SDK. Google put the developer very low on the priority list, but, at the same time, the end user is also very low on the list.

The only people high on the list appear to be Google shareholders and the Google employees who work on android.


I sort of understand why search is a near-monopoly: it's free, and there's somewhat of a network effect and a self-reinforcing credibility thing. But what are the barriers for competition to AdSense? Why isn't some other company offering an alternative, like the same thing at a higher price with better support?


The value is that they have so much search traffic and page views; aka surfaces to display those ads on.


> The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to look at how badly a company can treat its customers and still get away with it. My company has a half dozen stories like this about Google in the last year alone.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to apply to my local general contractors, painters, landscapers, electricians, etc.


> The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to look at how badly a company can treat its customers...

Incorrect. The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to identify the number of competitors in that space. Google has at least one meaningful competitor to Android -- Apple -- so it can't be a monopoly.

Anticompetitive behavior would be illegal, except this isn't anticompetitive, since there is a meaningful competitor, Apple, and Google isn't locking this developer into Google's platform -- in fact it's the opposite. This is just merely bad behavior -- also one that could be corrected by the markets.

It's worth noting there was a time where Microsoft was the big bad monopolist, and everyone was clamoring for the government to break them up. In the end, it was deep competition from Apple and Google that knocked them off their throne, not some big FTC antitrust lawsuit.


While you are technically right that it is not a monopoly, it is an oligopoly, a term which implies it is likely to have the same issues as a monopoly while still having an insufficient number of competitors.

The problem compounds when Google and apple are both horizontal and vertical oligopolies.

If I complain that adwords scammed me (in a court of law), they could retaliate by terminating my GCE instances and gmail accounts.


> If I complain that adwords scammed me (in a court of law), they could retaliate by terminating my GCE instances and gmail accounts.

That's different, Google search AFAIK is a monopoly. And an oligopoly by definition are not monopoly. If Google and Apple conspired together to prevent competition, that would be illegal.

But AFAICT, the remedy for the developer is to simply not develop on Android. You're not making a strong enough case here for what would appear to be an argument for government intervention.


“Number of competitors in that space” is not unrelated to “and still get away with it.” If this (monopolistic) behaviour could be corrected by competition, why hasn’t competition with Apple corrected it?


You can't have it both ways. A monopoly cannot exist if there is meaningful competition. Last I checked, Apple was still the #1 smart phone manufacturer.

Anti-competitive behavior would be if Google bought up all the manufacturers in China say. And kicking off a developer off the play store doesn't do anything to Apple as far as I can tell.


> The easiest way to identify a monopoly is to look at how badly a company can treat its customers and still get away with it.

The only way of identifying a monopoly is to see if they have (very close to) 100% market share.

What you're talking about is a company with market power. Incidentally, this is also what the FTC regulates. Being a monopoly is 100% legal as long as you don't abuse your market position. And you can abuse your market position without being a monopoly.

Maybe you think that's pedantic, but I think it's an important distinction. Google is not a monopoly - they have significant competition in every market they're in. But they are still very abusive in wielding their power.


I do not think a market share of 90% in most markets is ‘significant competition’, especially when the markup on any non-google phone can easily be 1000%


If you created a startup that grew to take 10% of a global market, would you consider your business to be insignificant?

> especially when the markup on any non-google phone can easily be 1000%.

I'm not really sure I understand. The newest Google pixel and iPhone are similarly priced. Unless by "Google phone" you mean Android, in which case yes apple lacks choice on the low end but 10x is still a bit of an exaggeration.

iOS also has >20% market share globally, while we are arguing about numbers. This gets back to my "significant competition" remark. Are you arguing that Apple is insignificant?


10x is not at all an exaggeration. The cheapest iPhone is $750, and there are dozens of Android phones that cost less than $75. Not good ones, but millions of people do buy them, and for those people Google is effectively a monopoly.


I’m arguing that one competitor is not significant competition.

This competitor is also in a completely different market segment.

Is there anything but Google (for this purpose I count anything with Google Play) in the <$400 market?


Which competitor do you have in mind? Users cannot install Android on Apple devices and vice versa, your app repository is decided at the moment you buy the device, and I don't see any other competing Play Store. Not to mention - have you ever tried to disable Google Play Services in your Android phone?


Has this happened to more of your clients?


Maybe their new mission statement is "just be evil".


Has your company filed a complaint in the current DOJ investigation of Google?

All that it takes for the rise of evil is for good men to do nothing and all that.


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