How Should Android Fix Piracy?
Way before I got my first Android device, the Galaxy Nexus, I was a user of a 2nd Generation iPod Touch. For a long time, I would deal with whatever limitations iOS had on the hardware. Many people would say that I should have simply jailbroken the device, and they would be right; you can do so many things with a jailbroken iPod Touch. Yet, I never did, and my iPod Touch has remains 'stock' even after three-and-a-half years. Why did I choose not to? Simple: the temptation of Piracy.
Almost everyone I knew who jailbroke their iDevice did so for the reason that they could download a paid app for free. The people behind the jailbreaking movement would surely disagree with piracy, but let's face it: most people jailbreak so that they could pirate. That was why I chose to stay inside the walled garden: so that I would remain a legitimate paying customer of apps at all times.
But Android is far from being a walled garden. In fact, there is almost nothing stopping you from downloading something like 'Instapaper for Android' from the Pirate Bay and sideloading it to your Android device. It's kinda sad, really. Android built itself a reputation by minimizing the use of DRM for their app ecosystem, yet this is exactly what pirates are taking advantage of so that they wouldn't have to shell a single penny, and developers are suffering because of it. It's like seeing the Humble Indie Bundle being pirated in large numbers; it hurts, especially when you're the developer.
To be honest, I really don't know what Google can do to stop piracy from happening in the Android ecosystem. If they don't change anything, we will continue to get stories like this. If Google tries to impose some kind of DRM, or only permit apps to be distributed via Google Play, it would mean apps like Swype would no longer be available, and it would also stop apps like VLC from being distributed because of the GPL license (incompatible with DRM).
I really want to keep Android a place where DRM is not needed, but at the same time I don't want the pirates to win, especially against independent developers who are already struggling to make a living. Is it so hard to shell out a dollar for the apps you enjoy? Apparently it is, especially when it is so easy to get away with it.
I would like the Play Store to be as good a place to sell apps as the iTunes App Store, but how can we make this happen? The Play Store already has a lukewarm reputation as it is, and piracy is largely to blame. What do you think should be done?