Google Reverses Decision on Samsung Ad Blockers

Tim Maytom

adblock fast samsungGoogle appears to have reversed its earlier decision to ban ad blockers from its Google Play Store, restoring Adblock Fast, the app that partnered with Samsung for the launch of its new ad block-friendly browser.

At the start of last week, Samsung launched a new version of its own mobile browser that supported content and ad blocking plug-ins, bringing the option to eliminate ads in a default browser to a large number of Android users for the first time. AdBlock Fast partnered with Samsung for the release, although the company also made the API available to other developers.

Then, a few days later, the move seemed to be blocked by Google, who removed AdBlock Fast from its Play Store for interfering with the operation of other apps, despite Samsung's explicit approval of the software.

Other content blocking apps including Crystal delayed their own updates with the Samsung API for fear of also being removed, and for a time it seemed that Google had successfully prevented Android users from taking advantage of Samsung's decision, which was a clear echo of Apple's move with Safari last year.

Now, following an appeal by AdBlock Fast's developers, Rocketship, Google has re-approved and restore the app to its previous place on the Google Play Store. The move is a considerable change to Google's previous policy, which allowed dedicated ad-blocking browsers on the Play Store, but not apps that affected other browsers.

Section 4.4 of the Android Developer Distribution Agreement informs third-party developers that their programs cannot interfere with "the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third-party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator."

However, this rule has been inconsistently applied in the past, and with situations like the release of Samsung's API, where the third-party company intends for other apps to interfere with its services, it becomes a lot more complex. Google changing its mind in this instance may be a sign that it is starting to reconsider the wording of the agreement, and how it enforces it.