Android developer plans alternative app store for banned apps

by Phil Hornshaw

While Google’s Android Market is more open than, say, Apple’s iTunes App Store, it’s not free of some regulation from its parent company. Apps that infringe on copyright or that mess with features reserved for mobile carriers, as well as those that receive significant public outcry, often get the boot.

But there are already several alternative app stores to the Android Market, and that means that banned apps don’t necessarily have to die. In fact, one Android developer means to keep them alive – whether that’s a good idea or not – by starting an app store specifically for apps banned from the Android Market, according to a story from TechCrunch.

That developer is Kousik Dutta, and he's decided to build the alt app store after getting hundreds of positive responses when he posted the idea online earlier this month. The store will feature all manner of banned fair, ranging from emulator apps of video games from classic systems that have been removed from the Android Market for copyright issues, to unauthorized tethering apps that stepped on the toes of services offered by cellular carriers. TechCrunch also mentions apps such as one-button device rooting apps, Visual Voicemail apps and custom-built versions of the Android operating system.

Dutta is a well-known member of Android’s hacking circles, and has an established reputation working on rooting Android devices and building custom versions of the Android operating system for devices. Rooting, for the uninitiated, refers to the idea of breaking the software controls on a device in order to gain total control over it. On the iPhone, the process is called jailbreaking, but the outcome is the same: you remove the software controls installed by Google and the mobile carriers, allowing you to add any software or apps to the device that you want.

The banned app store will be open to users of Cyanogenmod, a version of Android available to rooted device users that strips out carrier control and customization, as TechCrunch reports. Dutta is among the developers who works on Cyanogenmod, and the community that uses it is greater than 1 million strong.

Dutta’s idea is an interesting one, but there’s a reason Google pulls many of these apps despite its constant rhetoric about being open: pressure. Lawyers, copyright law and patent claims surround these banned apps and lots of money gets used to leverage Google into removing them by the parties involved. Google probably pulls many apps because it doesn’t want to step on toes and alienate its partners, but at the same time, there are undoubtedly legal ramifications as well. It stands to reason that Dutta would have to face these issues too.

But then again, there are likely plenty of banned apps that will be free of such issues, which carriers and other companies won’t like but also won’t really be able to stop. And that could make Dutta’s banned app store very interesting, if it does get completed.