Just days after it shot to the top of the Play Store, Android's newest ad blocker has been removed for violating developer guidelines. Called Adblock Fast, the plug-in from startup Rocketship Apps worked within Samsung's mobile browser thanks to a partnership with the phone maker, which opened an API this week allowing third-party developers to build content blocking features for the preinstalled Samsung Internet app.
According to Rocketship developer Brian Kennish, Google says Adblock Fast violates section 4.4 of of its Developer Distribution Agreement, which disallows apps or plugins offered through the Play Store from "interfering" or "disrupting" devices, networks, or services of third parties. Google confirmed to The Verge that it did remove Adblock Fast, but would not clarify why the content blocker was removed despite Samsung's open participation. Kennish provided this message from a representative at Google:
Hi Developers at Rocketship Apps,
I reviewed Adblock Fast, com.rocketshipapps.adblockfast, and found that it violates section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement. This particular app has been disabled as a policy strike.
Just as a reminder, you’ve agreed to follow the Google Play Developer Program Policies and additional enforcement could occur if there are further policy issues with your apps.
If you’ve reviewed the policies and feel this rejection may have been in error, please reach out to our policy support team. One of my colleagues will get back to you within 2 business days.
I appreciate your support of Google Play!
Since the removal of Adblock Fast, two other Android ad blocking plug-ins working with Samsung's browser have sprouted up: Crystal, the popular iOS ad blocker, and the well-known Adblock Plus. It's unclear if Google simply hasn't caught on to the competitors, or if Rocketship did something specifically to violate the Play Store guidelines in a way Crystal and Adblock Plus have not. Adblock Plus tried in 2013 to put out an Android ad blocker only to run into a similar issue, and the company was only recently allowed to distribute its app again, but only by bundling it within the company's own browser.
Ultimately, it appears Google will not allow any third-party app to block ads on another company's product, despite any participation between the two. Firefox allows ad blockers to be installed on its Android browser as plug-ins, but only through the browser itself. Samsung could similarly distribute Adblock Fast through its own preloaded app store on Galaxy devices. The company declined to comment for this story.
Google may not like ad blockers interfering with its business
Of course, Samsung is Google's biggest Android partner, adding a layer of tension to the dispute. Samsung is essentially asking its own partners to violate Play Store guidelines to support a feature Google may find harmful to its business of displaying and serving advertising. It's an especially thorny issue for Google, which has more recently made moves to stave off the decline of the mobile web in favor of apps, where the company cannot earn ad revenue as it does on mobile and web browsers through its dominant search engine.