Google, Pingjam: People call Apple 'controlling'?

A lot of people like to tell me Apple is "too controlling" -- but is Google worse? It might be -- read on to find out why:

Google, Pingjam: People call Apple 'controlling'

Open

Google's Android ecosystem likes to describe itself as "open", in the sense that developers and hardware makers and users can get inside the OS to make their own little changes. That's great if that's the kind of thing you like to do. Some people collect stamps.

But how open is Google really? Take a look at this post by Pingjam's Elnor Rozenrot to get a different perspective.

The story in brief: In collaboration with Google, Pingjam developed a monetization solution for developers. After two years the company had to close when Google chose to kick an astonishing 1,000 third-party apps that used Pingjam out of the Google Play store. Google never offered any warning or explanation.

Pingjam's attempts to find out more by asking developer support contacts at Google failed, instead the company was told these contacts had been instructed to "disengage" with the firm.

Rozenrot still doesn't know why Pingjam became Pingbanned, but speculates it may be connected with a Google move to introduce similar features within Android 4.4.

"To this date, I don’t know what made Google suddenly not like us. I don’t know whether we got kicked out because 24 hours before banning our apps Google launched an almost identical feature in Android 4.4 or if it’s something else. The messages we did receive stated conflicting reasons," writes Rozenrot.

Rozenrot claims Pingjam was developed in constant consultation with Google's developer relations, sales, marketing and technical teams, despite which the corporation closed it down.

Matters arising

There are several observations worth noting:

  • Google worked with Pingjam to develop the solution, then introduced a similar solution within Android 4.4.
  • Google never warned Pingjam or its developers -- even though it surely knew its own plans.
  • The decision to kick hundreds of apps most destroyed whatever business its developers had built with those apps.
  • If Google's decision is indeed based on the inclusion of similar features within Android 4.4, that OS is still not in the hands of the majority of users, so why close Pingjam down so abruptly?
  • Google's decision to tell those of its employees familiar with Pingjam to "disengage" seems incredibly insensitive when its actions impacted so many people.

It seems to me that while Apple is castigated as too "controlling" in what it does within its ecosystem, the Pingjam story ably illustrates that Google can be similarly controlling in its developer relations. The difference between the two is that while Apple will admit to controlling its environments, citing security and stability as two reasons for doing so; Google appears keen to make the world believe it is open even when it isn't. 

Of course it is possible there's a reasonable explanation for Google's actions (Reddit seems to think there might be). It would be good to know what it is. It would of course have been even better if Pingjam and those developers who used Pingjam had been made aware of those reasons before today.

If Google is kind enough to provide an additional statement to explain this matter, I will be happy to add its statement to this story.

If Rozenrot's post proves to be justified then in future I will never again want to hear people tell me "Google is open" or "Apple is too controlling". In light of Pingjam's story, such claims seem like hypocrisy. And you know what they tell hypocrites? "Don't be evil".

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