Google yanks Adblock Plus from Google Play, surprising nobody

Google is in the habit of making a lot of people very upset lately, it seems.

And here it goes again. The company has just removed the popular Adblock Plus app from Google Play, along with other ad-blocking apps.

According to Google, Adblock Plus “interferes with or accesses another service or product in an unauthorized manner,” which Google says is a violation of section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement.


Above: AdBlock Plus is one of the most popular extensions for Chrome.

Sounds complicated, but it really isn’t: Google makes its cash off ads, and Adblock Plus blocks ads. Frankly it’s a surprise it’s taken Google this long to make a move.

Predictably, Adblock Plus isn’t happy with the turn of events and says Google is putting its own revenue considerations before Internet freedom and consumer choice.

“We realize that advertising revenue is important to Google, but understand that Adblock Plus does not automatically block all ads; we simply allow users the choice whether to block ads or whitelist them,” Adblock Plus co-founder Till Faida said in a statement. (We’ll have more from Faida on Thursday morning.)

Google’s move comes a few weeks after the search/advertising/smartphone giant decided to block AdBlock Plus from working on devices running Android 4.2.2. Removing Adblock Plus, then, is a natural extension of that decision.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment on its latest move, but in the meantime, take a gander at the full email sent to the Adblock Plus team.

From: Google Play Support <>
Date: Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 5:58 PM
Subject: Notification from Google Play

This is a notification that your application, Adblock Plus, with package ID, has been removed from the Google Play Store.

REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement.

After a regular review we have determined that your app interferes with or accesses another service or product in an unauthorized manner. This violates the provision of your agreement with Google referred to above.

All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and/or the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and transaction fees) from you.

If your developer account is still in good standing, you may revise and upload a new instance of the application that is compliant with the developer terms. Before uploading any new applications, please review the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy.

If you feel we have made this determination in error, you can visit this Google Play Help Center article for additional information regarding this removal.

The Google Play Team

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I read with interest Fredrik Matheson’s comments and wanted to provide some clarification.

Thinglink – thinglink is markedly different that Knowtate. Thinglink enables users to create online ‘things’ and provides mechanisms for people to find each other’s ‘things’. Knowtate creates a way for users to interact with physical objects in the real world. Both the target and method are different.

Fredrik appropriately points out that QR codes and RFID can also be used to allow users to interact with physical objects. He accurately points out that the special hardware device requirements create a major blocker to adoption – the economic justification for handset manufacturers / carriers to enable these targeted hardware extensions is unclear.

There are other critical differences that make Knowtate a much more viable market solution than either QR Codes or RFID. Both RFID and QR Codes have limitations on the types of objects and use cases they can service. Knowtate does not have these limitations.

RFID and scanner-based QR Codes can only be used in close proximity situations – you have to get the device close enough to read it. Further, there are technical challenges to manage RFID communications when there are many items with RFID tags (which one did they want?). Managing these conflicts requires complicated signal error handling. The easy way to solve this is to force the device and the tag to be very close together but this further decreases the use cases that can be addressed by RFID.

It is true that photo-processed QR Codes can be used in more distant applications than RFID / scanner-based QR Codes. However, photo-processed QR Codes have difficulty if there is more than one QR Code in the photo (which one did the user want?). Lighting, angle, and QR Code degradation also create recognition problems. Finally, the photo-processed QR Code user experience is convoluted – the user takes a picture, sends it for processing and then receives an SMS with a URL to go do something. This type of user experience will only work in specific situations (mass transit applications in Asia, for instance).

Another key limitation for both RFID and QR Codes is that they require the users and object to be relatively stationary. It would be difficult or impossible to use RFID or QR Code on a billboard from a moving car, or a QR code on a moving bus.

Knowtate’s patented solution addresses all of the above issues. A user can connect to any Knowtation as long as they can see it – up close or far away, stationary or moving. There are no difficult technical communication problems to solve (signal corruption, image issues). Knowtate does not require expensive handset upgrades and can operate with network-based location accuracy (Knowtate can work with non-GPS phones when we can receive network-based location for them). Additionally, because Knowtate’s short 1 – 3 digit indexes can be easily spoken, Knowtate can support voice-centric, hands-free interactions. The user experience couldn’t be cleaner … simply enter a 1 to 3 digit number and directly interact with the desired object.

Because of the network effect, the solution that brings the most users and objects together brings the most value. Knowtate can address more objects because it avoids the limitations of either RFID or QR Codes. Knowtate can engage the most users because it does not require expensive hardware upgrades that have difficult economics for the carriers.

As for 'who wants more info', there are a few thoughts. First, the early market data is positive … our beta test user engagement exceeded 40% and QR Code adoption in specific uses is positive. Second, we learned with the Web that people may not ask for easier access to information but they will use it if it is simple and effective (imagine a website with no hyperlinks on it …). Third, the ‘money’ wants it to happen - companies pay a lot of money to put objects and ads in the world and have been trying to find ways to allow people to connect for years (phones numbers or URLs). The simplicity of Knowtate's solution makes it possible for interested mobile users to quickly and easily connect to that content, either to promptly interact or follow-up later when it is more convenient.

Ken D’Amico
Knowtate, Inc.

Fredrik Matheson
Fredrik Matheson

Ouch. They want to raise USD 6.5 million for sticker-making software and an online index?

The idea in itself isn't bad. I explored this in a master's thesis in 2004-2005 and created a system that lets you create an alias for a location, area, physical item, or even a page in a book, and then link this alias to an indexing system that's accessible via the web.

We didn't create a commercial version of the system because in practice it just a nifty thing, not a game-changer. Thinglink ( does the same thing, btw.

QR codes are pretty darn cool. You can fit a large amount of information inside a QR code; not just a URI, but a recipe, poem or directions if you wish. Unfortunately, QR codes and Semacodes (and all 2D codes of their ilk) require custom software to be read, so it's a chicken-and-egg situation that only gets off the ground in certain markets.

Knowtate's system promises to be simple to use by virtue of requiring just a few keystrokes to enter the 3-digit ID, and then using the magic of GPS (or other location-sensing technologies) to present you with the right note. This means that the information remains inaccessible for those who lack the appropriate device, which then makes it pretty hard to make this platform take off.

RFID chips seek to do much of the same, with less involvement required of the user. You'll need that special device, of course, but the interaction is far simpler than what a QRcode, a thinglink, a Knowtation or a Loqus (what we built) can provide.

Last, but not least, all of these systems assume that we are simply thirsting for more, more, more information at all times and all places. And that's a proposition I don't buy.


what about mobile to mobile, connecting your mobile number to your virtual profile/digital exhaust?

Fredrik Matheson
Fredrik Matheson

Thanks for a thorough and thoiughtful answer, Ken. Thanks to our "conversation" those reading afterwards will have a better grasp of how your solution works.

Best of luck to you!