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Google Folds to Antitrust Pressure

May 31, 2021

Most tech companies hate open source software and Google is not an exception. Those same companies also want to look like they actually love open source in order to boost their public image. When it comes to mobile operating systems, the naive view might sound like “bad, bad Apple with their shady iOS and good guys Google with open source Android”. Yes, Android is open source and open source is better than closed source, but it doesn’t mean that Google really welcomes open source software. It tolerates it, but it intentionally makes it hard for users to get open source software.

Why would Google complicate your life if you chose to use open source software? Well, Google’s main business is tracking us and making money off any private data it can harvest. Open source software lets us escape Google’s surveillance empire. The thing is: Android isn’t really open source. Most of Android devices on the market have nothing to do with open source software. You simply can’t opt out of closed source malware such us Google Play Services and Google Play Store.

I don’t think we’ll see Android phones without Google Play Services any time soon, but it looks like Google is starting to fear that US courts will expose its anti-competitive practices within Google Play Store. Android doesn’t force you to use that store, it just tries to make your life miserable if you choose any another app store, F-Droid being one of those alternatives. How can it do that? Well, for starters, it doesn’t allow any app store except the one made by Google to keep your apps up to date. It also floods you with dangerous-looking warnings, attempting to portrait more open and privacy-respecting app stores as a security threat. These patterns are dark and nasty, but Google got away with using them for a long time.

Luckily for Android users, it’s not only Apple who started to feel a lot of antitrust pressure, and Google now tries to remove its nasty tricks before it’s forced to do that by law. Starting with Android 12, all alternative app stores will be much easier to use. They will be able to update apps automatically, same way as Google Play Store updates its apps. It looks like we’re one tiny step closer to de-Googling Android, and now it’s time to pressure Google to make both Play Store and Play Services removable. Luckily for Android users, it’s not only Apple who started to feel a lot of antitrust pressure, and Google now tries to remove its nasty tricks before it’s forced to do that by law. Starting with Android 12, all the alternative app stores will be much easier to use. They will be able to update apps automatically, same way as Google Play Store updates its apps. It looks like we’re one tiny step closer to de-Googling Android, and now it’s time to pressure Google to make both Play Store and Play Services removable.