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Google has forced developer of popular Android file manager Total Commander to block .apk installations.

Summary

 

Despite countless third-party apps available on the Play Store - and even Google's own "Files" and "Chrome" apps - having the ability to install apps via .apk files, Google has threatened the developer of Total Commander to remove his app completely from the Play Store. Google claims their policy forbids any Play Store app from downloading apps from third-party sources.

 

Quote from ghacks article:

Quote

Christian Ghisler, the developer of Total Commander, has revealed that Google sent him a warning that his app would be removed from the Play Store within 7 days unless he modified his app. What was the offense? The app was reportedly not compliant with the Device and Network Abuse policy.

The policy forbids apps from modifying, replacing or updating itself from any other source except the Play Store. It also restricts apps from downloading other apps from third-party sources. Google claimed that Total Commander was violating this policy. The developer blocked the installation of Total Commander, so it can't update itself via its own APK (when the user downloads it from elsewhere), but Google sent a second warning with the same wording. A third warning will remove the app from the Play Store altogether, as has happened to other developers.

 

Ghisler has not been able to appeal Google's decision.

 

My thoughts

I think this really adds to the monopolistic behavior we've seen from Google. If they actually enforced this on a big scale then they would effectively cut off any way of installing apps outside of the Play Store on a huge amount of devices. If all of the apps installed on a new phone are available on the Play Store and they all complied with this policy, then you would virtually have no way to access third-party app sources - even third-party app stores. You would probably need to either transfer an app without this restriction from a PC and launch the package manager through a terminal or maybe use something like curl to download the files in the terminal. (I'm not sure if Android has curl by default.)

 

I find it completely unrealistic though, that they would actually enforce this store-wide. And it's very hard to believe that they would cut the functionality out of their own browser.
But that only adds to how unfair this is to the developer. I would guess that he was targeted due to Total Commanders incredible support for advanced functions for root users and system modders.

 

Sources

https://www.ghacks.net/2022/05/19/google-forces-total-commander-removes-the-ability-to-install-apks/

https://www.androidpolice.com/total-commander-apk-installation-block/

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Is google trying to make dirt on themselves?

This just feels like another thing to add to the 'monopolistic practices' list

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It's like they just stopped caring about public opinion and started being up-front about their douchiness.

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21 minutes ago, CykelStativet said:

If they actually enforced this on a big scale then they would effectively cut off any way of installing apps outside of the Play Store on a huge amount of devices.

No.

21 minutes ago, CykelStativet said:

forbids any Play Store app from downloading apps from third-party sources.

This is probably a good thing imo, Having PLAY store apps downloading and installing APKs is a pretty big security risk. It doesn't seem to be them banning the use of apks at all.

If you use the default file manager, then it shouldn't be much of an issue either, considering that preinstalled apps aren't technically "from the app store".
I could be totally wrong about this tho, but this is what I understood.

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16 minutes ago, J-from-Nucleon said:

This is probably a good thing

I agree, mostly, that it is a good thing that they can't download apk's. That would be super scary in most cases. But not allowing them to call the package installer at all? That's just crazy.

But yeah, I really hope this is a massive blunder and will be rectified.

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Would this not be against both the DMA act and DSA act

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2 hours ago, J-from-Nucleon said:

This is probably a good thing imo, Having PLAY store apps downloading and installing APKs is a pretty big security risk. It doesn't seem to be them banning the use of apks at all.

I agree, that this policy makes sense. If you download an app from the Play Store it shouldn't update from somewhere else. One of the things the Play Store tries to offer users is vulnerability scanners, and other app review features that you'd lose if your app just went and grabbed some random apk for the update procedure. 

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I've said it before but it really feels like tech companies are pushing every customer limit they can before regulations catch up.

Possibly in hopes of grandfathering in all these situations since regulators have a long history of limp wristed consequences or microscopic fines against companies who clearly don't mind writing off the fines as cost of doing business.

 

As long as government officials are troglodytes, none of them will understand the regulations needed to take on big tech monopolies.

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12 hours ago, CykelStativet said:

My thoughts

[... snip]

Ok, ok, but ... i don't really understand... especially your conclusion that "other apps can install apks"...  that very well might be, but i don't really know any? 

 

And also that this would make it impossible to "install" apks...

 

feels like you're arguing 2 different things here (or the article,  whoever it is saying this)

 

Android has an apk installer, and you can download apks with any browser, certainly with chrome ... so there is like zero issue. 

 

 

You cannot and should not ever be able to download an apk from the "Google playstore" that has not been tested and approved by the "Google Playstore" ... thats the whole point of having a "Google playstore" ... people want at least theoretically safe apps... its not so hard to understand really.

 

7 hours ago, GhostRoadieBL said:

I've said it before but it really feels like tech companies are pushing every customer limit they can before regulations catch up

As per above,  this does not prevent 3rd party apks from being downloaded or installed. 

 

 

The dude, probably fully aware of that,  infringed on Googles rules for Playstore apps. 

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3 hours ago, Mark Kaine said:

Android has an apk installer, and you can download apks with any browser, certainly with chrome ... so there is like zero issue. 

Yes, there is an apk installer, but this entire article is about the fact that an app - a file manager even - is literally not allowed to call the installer. Imagine if this was true for every app available in the store.

 

And yes, you can download with your browser, but again; According to Google's policy any browser available in the store - which Chrome is - technically isn't allowed to download apks. In THEORY Google should remove the functionality from Chrome or remove Chrome from the store.

 

I am indeed taking my conspiracies to the extreme, but that is only to point out that they are enforcing policies selectively and unfairly. And to point out that they already have policies in place that would be very monopolistic IF they chose to actually enforce them store-wide.

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25 minutes ago, CykelStativet said:

Yes, there is an apk installer, but this entire article is about the fact that an app - a file manager even - is literally not allowed to call the installer. Imagine if this was true for every app available in the store.

ok, i get it this seems an edge case somehow  - but we really need to distinguish between downloading and installing here because its not the same thing.  

 

25 minutes ago, CykelStativet said:

According to Google's policy any browser available in the store - which Chrome is - technically isn't allowed to download apks

And this is i think where you are wrong... simply because that doesn't make sense... and why i said above you really need to distinguish between downloading and installing  - a browser can't just deny download of files nilly willy, especially on android because its kind of a selling point "hey, no walled garden here..." (its actually *the* selling point)

 

Now... im not saying google has or has not such a rule... but i kind of doubt it?  and pretty much any browser can download apks... Im not even sure it would technically make sense to not allow it,  people could just rename the files before downloading lol...

 

But yeah, I really want to see that "rule"? (as the whole of EU will btw...)

Never heard of something like this.

 

 

25 minutes ago, CykelStativet said:

I am indeed taking my conspiracies to the extreme, but that is only to point out that they are enforcing policies selectively and unfairly.

yeah, i agree it sounds like it... but again there are several distinctions to make, for example "automatic installation" of apks or similar would be a total no go... (which btw i think several apps kinda do with so called "updates" ... games etc for example... a nice "trick" to download whatever they want - not *entirely* sure but I doubt these often GB big updates come from Google servers...)

 

So Im just saying this kinda needs to be clarified what is actually happening in this case and "why" Google seemingly singles this app out.

 

To me it sounds kinda like automatic installs, but I could be wrong - as said this point is admittedly unclear to me. 

 

(also yeah, no downloading of apks is news to me and literally doesn't make sense when you have a built-in installer lol)

 

 

 

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32 minutes ago, CykelStativet said:

And yes, you can download with your browser, but again; According to Google's policy any browser available in the store - which Chrome is - technically isn't allowed to download apks. In THEORY Google should remove the functionality from Chrome or remove Chrome from the store

maybe you should try reading the policy they are referring to in the quote YOU posted.

 

Quote

An app distributed via Google Play may not modify, replace, or update itself using any method other than Google Play's update mechanism. Likewise, an app may not download executable code (e.g., dex, JAR, .so files) from a source other than Google Play. This restriction does not apply to code that runs in a virtual machine or an interpreter where either provides indirect access to Android APIs (such as JavaScript in a webview or browser). 

an APK is NOT executable code, it is a package that must be installed through the inbuilt package manager

Similarly you can still download a .dex file from your browser to your phone's storage (no idea why you would want to, but you can) but you cannot execute it on your phone (at lesat not without some very complex and very very obvious workarounds that a normal person would never accidentally do).

if what Google is saying is true, that this app was downloading and running .dex files directly without user permission, then that is actually extremely dangerous and i completely agree that it shouldn't be on the app store.

 

But this being android; if you really need it, you can obtain it from a third party store, or from the developer

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6 hours ago, Arika S said:

This restriction does not apply to code that runs in a virtual machine or an interpreter where either provides indirect access to Android APIs (such as JavaScript in a webview or browser). 

Aha! I knew it.  (well, suspected it)

 

6 hours ago, Arika S said:

Likewise, an app may not download executable code

But, seriously?  What about "game updates"? you know when you download a game from google play its often like a 20mb file, basically just an installer/launcher and then it downloads tons of GBs to your phone (the actual game)

 

Its been a while i played something on my phone (just not my thing I guess)  but Im fairly certain it'll say something along the lines of  "we're now connecting to our meow(tm) servers to install some nice cushy updates for you..."  and as said I doubt this is something google tested for viruses etc, its just something they don't really care about?  

Or is everything really stored and tested / verified by Google?

 

19 hours ago, darknessblade said:

Would this not be against both the DMA act and DSA act

yes. but that's also why its not happening and is mostly just a gross misinterpretation by this article.

 

 

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