Alphabet Inc’s Google pulled AdBlock Fast, an ad blocking app made for Samsung (KRX) phones, from the Google Play store yesterday. The app was released just a few days ago and quickly rose to the top of the Google Play charts. App developer Rocketship Apps said it received an email from Google saying the app was pulled because it violates Google Play policies by interfering with other services and apps.
Adblock Fast uses Samsung code to block ads in Samsung’s mobile browser. Samsung recently opened an API that allows third-party developers to build content blocking features for its pre-installed internet browser.
Rocketship Apps Developer Brian Kennish said: “We haven’t been able to get an official response from a human there (just autoresponders). The only app Adblock Fast interacted with in any way was the Samsung Internet browser and only using Samsung’s API (that we helped them define). I wonder how many Google engineers would call using an API, ‘interfering’.”
Google is said to view this as a unique case because two apps are needed in order for ads to be blocked.
The Guardian reports that Adblock Fast has notched up 50,000 downloads since Monday. The developer’s home page now has a box where users can enter their email address to receive an alert when the app returns to Google Play.
Google tries to hang on to ad revenue
Samsung sells more smartphones around the world than any other firm, leading many people to suspect Google’s move is retaliation against Samsung for threatening its lucrative ad business. The bulk of Google’s revenue comes from ads, and losing such a vast audience could cause a huge dent in profits. Last year, their internet services business brought in $74.5bn in revenue.
However, some insiders suggest that the problem is not so much that Samsung is trying to block the ads but rather how it is going about doing it. Adblock Plus, which also blocks ads, is still available in Google Play, but it only blocks ads within its own browser software and not on third party services.
Google: Don’t be evil?
With Samsung being Google’s biggest Android partner, it is a situation that will have to be dealt with rather delicately.
Google has not made any comments on the move, but a rep told VentureBeat: “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers.”
Meanwhile, Apple started letting apps block ads in its Safari web browser last year. iOS9 has support for content blockers built into it, and Samsung is simply following suit.
The prospect of losing valuable opportunities to serve ads in mobile browsers is of great concern to Google. The firm is doing its best to reverse a recent shift by users away from mobile web toward apps, where Google’s search engine cannot earn any ad revenue.
Last summer, Google added search ads to the Google Play store.