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Google Reminds Developers They Can’t Update Apps Except With Google’s Update Mechanism, Stares Directly at Facebook

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Google updated the content policies section of the Google Play developer program today with a special note directed at any developer who attempts to update, modify, or replace an APK (app) within their own app or using an outside service. This new note, written under the “Dangerous Products” section, specifically says that no app from Google Play can be updated using any method other than the update mechanism in Google Play. With malware and security an ever-growing focus and area of concern, you can see why Google would be ready to enforce such a policy. 

Here is the note:

android dev change

Click to enlarge.

No developer or company was named in particular, but as we were discussing shortly after this note went out, Facebook immediately comes to mind. Everyone remember a month or so ago when the Facebook app was updating itself within the Facebook app, asking you to “Install a new build,” only not through Google Play? It scared a number of Android users, prompting the creation of threads all over the internet to try and figure out if it was safe or not. I personally can’t think of another app that has done this, however, I’m sure there are many and Facebook is not alone.

Keep it clean, developers.

  • Jasim

    Free downloarbs play store

  • http://twitter.com/daveguy nom de guerre

    WeChat did this & managed to get my contact book in the process. I was upset.

  • JoshGroff

    So NOVA’s beta feature will have to become a separate app in the store instead of a side download? Just making sure I understand the gravity of this change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholasruiz23 Nicholas Ruiz

    Dropbox has done this to me several times now, updating through the app instead of the Play Store.

  • AndroidUser

    Ive downloaded a lot of games that either update immediately when installed or many update every time I open. Since I’m stupid I trust these games, but would much rather see these updates come through Google play.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

    *Kanye shrug* All FB really has to do is post APKs of beta builds for DDL a la SwiftKey, et al. Google policy is overly restrictive and makes no sense. It’s just another front in Larry Page’s ridiculous ideological war on everyone else.

    • sirmeili

      Actually, it makes perfect sense. If Google is to give any kind of re-assurance that they are doing everything they can to provide safe and malware free apps on the Play store, they can’t allow an app to update itself outside the play store. If they allowed this, all I would have to do is put a malware free version on the play store then immediately ask the user to update to the “newest version!” via the app and you’re caught.

      There is nothing, however, stopping Facebook or anyone else from releasing a side-loaded version that offers this option (in app updating). Its one of those options that, as both a user and a developer, you get over other Mobile OSes.

      I really don’t see the point of this feature. You could easily just set up automatic updates in the play store and facebook, et al, could just push updates through there.

      • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

        You could easily just set up automatic updates in the play store and facebook, et al, could just push updates through there.

        Except in-app Facebook updates are for beta test features rolled out to a preselected fraction of users, probably determined via their Facebook userID. AFAIK, there’s no representation of the latter in the Play Store developer tools, nor is there a way to roll out an update exclusively to a predetermined group of users in the Play Store. Therefore, that method wouldn’t work.

        • sirmeili

          Then they follow the rules and release beta updates via a side-loaded app. I can’t see making an exception of the rules because it’s “Facebook”. The rules are there for a reason, they can follow them or go home. I still don’t see the problem with the rule that Google has in place that is meant to protect “you” the user.

          You want to take more risk, then at least they give you the option of using a side-loaded app. Does Apple or Windows phone allow in app updates? I wouldn’t be surprised to find that apple blocks them as well (I have no idea about Windows phone, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they block it as well).

    • http://www.deathbycone.com Jared Kotoff

      If you slideload an app then they can do whatever they want. So swiftkey’s betas are fine. Its only if its installed FORM the store that it must be updated FROM the store.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

    So apparently everyone has forgotten how we update apps without an app store? On the desktop, updates are delivered manually or in-app. What’s wrong with doing the same on mobile? What’s the big deal? Since when does everyone need some centralized authority to whitelist what they can/can’t run on their own device?

    BTW Facebook isn’t the only app that does this, so does Avast (an anti-virus app, no less). Many sideloaded apps, such as Firefox Nightly and the Amazon Appstore, also do the same.

    • TheCheapGamer

      It’s a safety feature.
      Google doesn’t care about sideloaded apps.

    • st0815

      If you want the Play Store to offer some measure of protection against malware, then Google can’t allow apps which they can’t even inspect. Essentially then the download in the Play Store would be nothing but a link to an external repository.

      If it’s not possible to make updates via Play Store you can ask users to enable other install sources. This way they can decide for themselves if they want to trust that source or not.

      BTW: the security model on mobile is pure gold in comparison to what we have on Windows desktops.

    • http://profiles.google.com/booboolala2000 Patrick Crumpler

      Who uses an antivirus app anyway? Teabagger?

      • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

        Yeah who uses condoms or contraceptives either? *shrug*

        • http://profiles.google.com/booboolala2000 Patrick Crumpler

          Not the same. Condoms don’t track your tricks. Antivirus is more along the lines of your mom putting you on restriction. Except in this case your mom knows everything about you. But she is you third party mom.

          • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

            Antivirus is more along the lines of your mom putting you on restriction. Except in this case your mom knows everything about you.

            Sounds a lot like the app store model to me: a centralized entity who knows which apps you use and controls which ones you can use.

          • http://profiles.google.com/booboolala2000 Patrick Crumpler

            If this were apple or windows that may be the case. As this is Android we are free to side load apps. I prefer mine from Google Play. I side load the occasional APK but nothing more than Google Wallet. Plus the online community is very good at waving flags for nefarious apps. Antivirus are just another data collector. Google does an awesome job at that already so I will stick with them.

  • Anoneyemou5e

    Does this affect Beta updates, like from within Apex launcher?

  • Steven Benner

    Did this mean Nova isn’t allowed to let users download the beta build from inside their app?

  • http://twitter.com/sqlrob Rob

    Coming soon from Facebook, “Facebook App Store”

  • RaptorOO7

    I look forward to the GS4 getting rooted so I CAN enjoy AdBlock Plus, the ads are annoying and I do side load apps that I know what they are.

    As for the point of this change in policy its wise of Google to make it clear and if Facebook is violating the terms of service they should just be booted until they fix it.

  • http://twitter.com/umiwonder CODEMAN

    Good. Also I never do auto updates. If its not broke dont fix it, unless there’s some new feature that is a must have.

    • Guest

      What updates are there other than feature-adding or security-related?

      • http://twitter.com/sqlrob Rob

        Feature removing.
        Adding bugs (see latest Kindle update that crashes for me)
        Ad adding

      • Nardo

        Ummm the Hotmail app that when updated, cripples itself and forces you to download and use the horrible Outlook app for one….

  • JoeDirt2217

    I just got an update notification directly from Facebook about an hour ago to install a new build.

    • https://www.facebook.com/aaron.williams.125 Champion1229

      At least yours didin’t get stuck downloading! The past two builds Facebook has pushed causes an ongoing notification that has the constantly progressing bar (like for app downloads but this one keeps going round and round)!

  • Bionic

    Here’s my reminder…………………………….X phone

    • PhoenixPath

      I think I’ve heard of that before. Can’t remember…what is it again?

    • Captain_Doug

      You’re like the radio overplaying a song. Stop ruining the X-phone.

    • Aaron

      If X doesn’t make an appearance at I/O, I will be joining the ranks of the haters. If you got proof then come with it already.

      • EC8CH

        I’d be surprised to see it I/O. I’m betting sometime after.

        • Corey Foltman

          seeing how Moto is “seperate” from Google. it shouldn’t be at I/O unless its Nexus.

        • Aaron

          Bionic has been talking x-phone forever but says he can’t release the details. Last time I asked him about it all he would say is Google I/O. So either he really has some inside info that will come out at I/O, or he has been circulating a baseless rumor. If it is the former, then he will be vindicated, and if it is the latter, then he will be ridiculed.

    • flosserelli

      What does Xphone have to do with this article? That’s right, absolutely nothing.
      I realize that you have a boner for Xphone and feel obligated to comment about it in every article…but seriously, you need to find something else to obsess about.

  • moelsen8

    that’s funny, my wife just got one of those notifications from facebook tonight for version 3.1.0.1. i thought that crap was over with, but was still wondering what became of it..

    • http://twitter.com/Big_Awesome Nick

      I just had it on my tablet too

  • Tim242

    I just installed AdBlock Plus. DL is much more enjoyable without the ridiculous large ads everywhere.

    • enob

      DL has ads? Good to know.

    • https://www.facebook.com/aaron.williams.125 Champion1229

      Gotta love AdBlock! But one of my biggest pet-peeves is when I’m tethering from my phone (with AdBlock libraries installed) and then trying to access Hulu!

      • DarkStarr

        Add *hulu* to the whitelist. Magic man. Your welcome.

    • Bionic

      i told your man to start cawk blocking you until you believe in x phone

      • Tim242

        Well at least I know the reason. D@mn you!

    • Dylan Patel

      You do realize these guys can’t make any money if you block adds right?

      • Tim242

        I don’t have issues with ads. I take issue when it’s hard to find articles between the ads. Obnoxious is obnoxious.

      • http://ubuntu-su.blogspot.com/ Kleverson Royther

        There is a tight line between an ad in your apps and an app in your ads.

      • http://www.shadowhime.net/ Ryan

        True, but revenue from ads varies greatly from month to month from what I hear from other places. I block ads regardless, I hate seeing them and don’t care if I’m one of hundreds of thousands of users they don’t make a nickel from. I don’t even click the ads anyway which is how the revenue is generated anyway. If people want to block ads, let them do so, not like its hurting anything much anyway.

        • michael arazan

          Not To Mention Flash Ads Just Eat Up Processor Usage and Slows Everything Down and gpu too. Flash Ads are the Biggest Nuisance

          Picture Ads don’t bother me though.

        • Cory Larson

          Some ads work with “impressions” or views. You need not click.

      • r00t4rd3d

        If I am the type of person who blocks website ads I am also the type of person who doesnt buy garbage from website ads.

        • ikt123

          It’s not bad on whether you buy stuff from ads, it’s based on the amount of views.

      • DroidFTW

        Plenty of websites make tons of money without distracting ads covering every available square inch. There is more than one model for selling ads on your website, droidlife chose the most annoying model possible.

      • Tim242

        Besides, they don’t know that the ads have been blocked.

    • whocares

      Didn’t Google took down all the ad blocking apps from Play store?

      • yashwantreddy

        There’s always an Apk file floating around.

      • Tim242

        Yep, but it can be downloaded from the dev’s website.

    • stonedoubt

      Want a cookie? You may well have just said “I love your blog but I hate that you try and make money from it”. douche

      • Tim242

        36 people agree with me, 5 don’t. If you bothered to read further, you’d see that I don’t have a problem with ads. However, they chose a bad model. It’s hard to read headlines, with the huge obnoxious ads ALL OVER THE PAGE. I’m trying to read this blog on a phone. Douche? What are you, 12?

        • http://Twitter.com/ContestsAccount bigrob60

          Exactly. I didn’t care at all when they were all over the sides of the page. But now that they are in between the articles it’s just annoying. Serious question-Do the add companies know that their add was blocked? If not, then it doesn’t matter if we block them b/c D-L would be getting paid on impressions alone.

          • Tim242

            I don’t believe they could know that it was blocked. The square that appears is clickable the same as the ad. I hadn’t thought about that. Good catch.

  • XBIRDIE98

    I know that various developer/power user-oriented apps might be affected by this, such as those from TeslaCoil software which allow the user to request non-Play Store updates. (That’s probably going to have to be removed…)

    • Geoff Johnson

      They can probably post a separate version which can be side-loaded which still has that feature.

      • moelsen8

        or do like chrome – two apps on the play store, one mainstream, one beta.

        • Geoff Johnson

          That wouldn’t help as they would still have to abide by the new rules

          • moelsen8

            right – they use a beta app in the app store for testing new versions and leave the main one alone in that regard. both updated through play store.

          • Geoff Johnson

            Ah, gotcha

    • MyStroPro

      I can’t imagine that they couldn’t push beta updates through some other means.

      • XBIRDIE98

        Indeed – the forum betas will probably continue. :)

        • https://www.facebook.com/aaron.williams.125 Champion1229

          Would this affect even simpler apps like DropBox? I was just looking today and theres a checkbox in the settings of DropBox for beta updates which im guessing would be done in-app.

          • Martin Nilsson

            Yeah, Dropbox pushes beta versions in-app. A great solution I for one would like to keep. As an option, not like Facebook tried.