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Piracy is Good – just ask Google

January 28th, 2011 by · 6 Comments · opinion

A couple days ago Google started censoring the suggested search terms in their search engine.

Do you know how you can type a few letters and Google will guess at words you’re about to type? Google will no longer suggest words like bittorrent, rapidshare, utorrent, etc. This censorship inspired me to pull out my notes for this post.

I don’t have an actual quote, but I do believe that Google must like the idea of piracy. Otherwise they wouldn’t have designed Android to be so heavily dependent on it.One of the biggest differences between the design of Android and any other OS is how you get apps. With Windows or OSX, you can simply go to a developer’s website and then download and install the app. With Linux you can usually find an app in a half dozen different depositories; you just need to know where to look. But this is not true for Android.

Android is supposed to be an open platform, but in fact only certain parts are open. The Marketplace is the one key part that is closed source, and I think that was almost guaranteed to encourage piracy.

With Android, most apps are only available through the Android Market. For example, only one of the major reading apps is available outside the Marketplace (Aldiko). If I want to use the Kindle Android app on one of my tablets, I have to pirate it. The same applies for all the other reading apps I have.

Speaking of apps only being in the Android Market, I’ve now heard from 3 different developers who were surprised to learn that not everyone has Marketplace access. That is certainly not what Google told them. It had also never occurred to them to host a copy of their app;  why bother? It’s in the Marketplace. (One dev even said Google talked her out of it.)

You can’t access the Android Market from a gadget without Google first inspecting and approving the gadget. Google have certain hardware requirements (which I won’t cover here). The fact of the matter is there’s a whole ecosystem of Android gadgets that wouldn’t be able to exist if not for piracy. And that’s becuase generally speaking, most Android tablets don’t have legit marketplace access. So how do they get apps?

There are 3 options. The first is to pirate a bit of Google software and install a hacked Android Market app. The second choice is to rely on sites like Freeware Lovers, one of the many repositories of pirated Android apps.And the third choice is to first install an app on a legit device, extract it with one of several apps (in violation of the license), and then re-install it on an unauthorized device.

You might recall that I’ve written a guide about Android apps (a PDF roundup, getting started with an Android tablet, etc).  Almost every time I linked to an app, it was on a pirate site. What other choice did I have? There’s no place else to get the app.

Unlike any other major OS platform, Android cannot exist without piracy. If the piracy went away today, Android would be dead tomorrow. It’s that important.  I’ll admit, I don’t think Google planned it that way. But it’s certainly what they’ve accomplished.

When you see Google responding to piracy, keep this in mind.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Timothy Wilson

    Piracy – the unauthorized use of another’s production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright

    Why is an alternative install site or “Sideloading” considered piracy? It’s not even against a EULA, its simply a supported feature. Android in fact supports multiple app marketplaces, as amazon will be launching one soon.

    Sideloading a *free* app, like Kindle, isn’t piracy at all. Copying e-book files that I didn’t buy,*that* would be piracy. Copying Need for Speed, thats piracy.

    The Marketplace restrictions on some devices is because those devices don’t support even baseline functionality, and there was no way of filtering this out, which would cause end user confusion. It’s my understanding they are working on this, to support devices without a GPS or without a phone network.

    Someone like Steve Jobs would like you to believe that downloading an app onto an Iphone from anywhere but the apple blessed itunes store is a capital crime, but over in android land, this is thankfully not the case.

    • Nate the great

      Your definition of piracy leaves out one key element: distribution. Does the alternative install site have permission to host and distribute the app? If not, it’s piracy.

  • Andrei

    so that is how you pirate free software?

  • Smick

    This post opinion is puzzling. The problem with app store access is the carriers if anything. That kind of BS encourages people to root or open their phone.

    There are plenty of discouraging factors for devs who might host their own apps. Now they’d have to 1. have a website 2. get popular exposure on their own, 3. have a shopping cart , 4. provide side load support. 5. Issue refunds when requested. Would you rather do all that or spend your free time coding your next app?

    Based on that, it’s pretty easy to say, “meh I’ll just host in the app store”And Google certainly loves getting a cut of the sales so they’re gonna encourage it. But talking somebody out of it doesn’t mean forcing anyone.

    Everybody with an idea is trying to develop for phones. it’s a gold rush. Whereas a lot of utilities for Win / Mac are a labor of love. Hence the quality problem with app stores.

    Another issue is the existence of open app ‘stores’ like a Github, Google code or sourceforge type place where open and clean trustworthy free apps can be gotten easily. These places help get projects exposure and through popularity might come the donations for World Class open apps.

    These code repositories aren’t as big for Android yet, I guess because many apps are made by 1 person, not a gang of devs who need to create 4 branches of the code and find that Github is not only useful but maybe even necessary.

    So I’ve got an unlocked Android phone. Never pirated an app. Bought about 3 of them. Have about 20 free apps.

    You say “If I want to use the Kindle app for my android tablet I have to pirate it”

    You HAVE to pirate it? No, you chose to pirate it. You choose to go with Kindle, you choose to buy ebooks through them, you choose that route. You could be reading ebooks on a Kindle or phone. You could be reading gutenberg texts on your text viewer.

    Try this…the Kindle app isn’t developed for your tablet, none of the Android Marketplace is for tablets yet. An Amazon distributed Kindle app for tablet version rests with Amazon, not Google. Not only that but what has Google said numerous times? Android is NOT for tablets.

    That’s changing soon. We’re in the middle of the change. The openness of Android has allowed for Android tablets, but that is the choice of the Tablet devs, not Google’s. Tablet devs know full well that YMMV with apps designed for the phone. That’s why so many have tried to create their own GUI and apps, and Market, and many have done poor jobs. The Nook is an example of that. The first week it’s out, people hack it for Stock Android 2.2 and now 3.0. It’s not ready for prime time, but it’s happening. Those guys at XDA are doing some crazy good work.

    3 days into having the Android 3.0 SDK, guess what, the Amazons and the 1-man dev teams can now start learning about the tablet OS and developing apps for it. Then the marketplace is born. And fortunately tablets are less likely to be tied to a carrier than a phone so the Market could be more accessible to them.

    • Nate the great

      This is a long comment, so I can’t respond to everything.

      But you’re wrong in all of your assumptions about hosting apps. Devs don’t need a shopping cart, not if the app is free. And just being in the app store doesn’t guarantee exposure. Also, they have to provide side load support anyway because the customers are already doing it.

      And those open app stores are great, yes, but there are a lot of big name apps that I cannot get in the open stores so they don’t really matter.

      And as for the rest of your comment, I can see that we have a fundamental disagreement here. You say Android is open? No, it’s really not. Critical components are closed. Some apps aren’t developed for tablets? Well, no, they were developed for Android and my tablet runs Android. (tautology)

  • Kunal

    although its a very old post now and now when android and apps are optimized for tablets this might seem redundant. however, i’d like to comment upon the futile, unreasonable rage of the author. Google specifically mentioned that 2.x is not for tablets yet people go ahead and do it. You choose to pirate softwares and claim that google made u do it. U say that whole android ecosystem is based on piracy? How much of a fool you can be? Just because you know to type doesnt mean u sud b posting ur hallucinations on the internet. As for open source, certainly android is not ‘completly’ open but why wouldnt u like to control the core of sumthing u created as a business opportunity. Atleast u r nt in d apple jailhouse…

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