Piracy is Good – just ask Google
A couple days ago Google started censoring the suggested search terms in their search engine.
Do you know how you can type a few letters and Google will guess at words you’re about to type? Google will no longer suggest words like bittorrent, rapidshare, utorrent, etc. This censorship inspired me to pull out my notes for this post.
I don’t have an actual quote, but I do believe that Google must like the idea of piracy. Otherwise they wouldn’t have designed Android to be so heavily dependent on it. One of the biggest differences between the design of Android and any other OS is how you get apps. With Windows or OSX, you can simply go to a developer’s website and then download and install the app. With Linux you can usually find an app in a half dozen different depositories; you just need to know where to look. But this is not true for Android.
Android is supposed to be an open platform, but in fact only certain parts are open. The Marketplace is the one key part that is closed source, and I think that was almost guaranteed to encourage piracy.
With Android, most apps are only available through the Android Market. For example, only one of the major reading apps is available outside the Marketplace (Aldiko). If I want to use the Kindle Android app on one of my tablets, I have to pirate it. The same applies for all the other reading apps I have.
Speaking of apps only being in the Android Market, I’ve now heard from 3 different developers who were surprised to learn that not everyone has Marketplace access. That is certainly not what Google told them. It had also never occurred to them to host a copy of their app; why bother? It’s in the Marketplace. (One dev even said Google talked her out of it.)
You can’t access the Android Market from a gadget without Google first inspecting and approving the gadget. Google have certain hardware requirements (which I won’t cover here). The fact of the matter is there’s a whole ecosystem of Android gadgets that wouldn’t be able to exist if not for piracy. And that’s becuase generally speaking, most Android tablets don’t have legit marketplace access. So how do they get apps?
There are 3 options. The first is to pirate a bit of Google software and install a hacked Android Market app. The second choice is to rely on sites like Freeware Lovers, one of the many repositories of pirated Android apps.And the third choice is to first install an app on a legit device, extract it with one of several apps (in violation of the license), and then re-install it on an unauthorized device.
You might recall that I’ve written a guide about Android apps (a PDF roundup, getting started with an Android tablet, etc). Almost every time I linked to an app, it was on a pirate site. What other choice did I have? There’s no place else to get the app.
Unlike any other major OS platform, Android cannot exist without piracy. If the piracy went away today, Android would be dead tomorrow. It’s that important. I’ll admit, I don’t think Google planned it that way. But it’s certainly what they’ve accomplished.
When you see Google responding to piracy, keep this in mind.