FairEmail Developer Pulls Out Of Play Store
Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Is being a developer of Android apps a good idea? Not according to a recent case reported on XDA Developers, where the developer of a popular open source email client has decided enough is enough, and is ceasing development and removing all his applications from Google Play.

Marcel Bokhorst, the developer of the FairEmail application and also of the NetGuard firewall, said that the core problem was three-fold - the fact that there's no sensible way to appeal to Google about bad reviews or alleged violations of Play store policies; the demands placed by users while wanting to get everything for free; and finally, himself as an old and grumpy developer, who he says maybe should be retired.

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FairEmail has been a popular email client on Android. It gained popularity through being free to use, fully featured, open source, and privacy-oriented. You could set up multiple email accounts and have a unified address box, and the app supported conversation threading and two-way synchronization. 

Describing the problems that had led to his decision, Bokhorst said:

"According to Google FairEmail is spyware because it uploads the contact list. My guess is this is because of the usage of favicons, which will use the domain name of email addresses to fetch info. This feature has been removed from the Play store version now."

He said Google won't say exactly what the problem is, and points out that while this is in violation of EU regulations, he hasn't a lot of options, asking:

"what can I do? Complain via the EU, wait five years for action while the app is being removed from the Play store?"

When Bokhorst submitted a new version to Google, with the favicons and domain block lists removed, the response was still that the app was spyware. In view of the fact that around 99% of users download the app from the Play store, Bokhorst's conclusion was that keeping the app going just isn't worth it:

"The few euros I receive in return for what's being offered and the fun of developing things are no compensation for the thousands of questions I answer every month, for unfair Play store reviews and for stress about unclear Google requirements."
 
The thread ended with the announcement that Bokhorst has removed all his apps from the Play store and will stop supporting and maintaining his apps. In his view, Google won.
 
The wider question this raises is whether it's worth it for any developer to put themself in the same situation. This was a case where a developer had created a popular free app, and found himself on the wrong end of a big corporation. The same could be true of any developer now or in the future.
 

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More Information

XDA Developers

FairEmail Website

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 May 2022 )